ACTA: an Exercise in Totalitarianism

Bansky ACTAOn the heels of SOPA and PIPA, two widely criticised US law proposals – comes an international agreement called ACTA, the “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”. Quotes are in this case most appropriate as ACTA is an extremely far reaching general agreement with massive consequences for privacy, freedom of speech, due process, the Internet and global health – among other things. ACTA confirms once again that a massive legal and lobbying campaign is in progress and the world’s biggest corporate publishers and content producers are behind it. They are fighting tooth and nail against allowing the world to drag them into the 21st century, a century of unprecedented free flow of information with the Internet and the electronics revolution as its main engines. The similarity to the outcries of Hollywood when video recorders took off is striking, but because of today’s pervasiveness of digital technology and its general purpose nature, the conflict is becoming much more serious and bitter.

There are many reasons to throw ACTA out the window Continue reading “ACTA: an Exercise in Totalitarianism”


The Rotten Apple

It is not often that a company oscillates between global success and utter failure the way Apple Inc. did: if for no other reason, than because it was recently the richest company in the world and that position was not shared by many companies. While originally a producer of desktop and laptop computers, the Apple fortune has been built on top of the iPod, iPad and iPhone. This article is both about the company and its products: the company’s principles are what matter because they determine its impact on society, but it is mostly the products that reveal the company’s principles.

In a way it makes sense to mention how products are built before discussing how they work. A lot of work on Apple’s products is being done in various factories in China, most prominently, Foxconn‘s. The problem begins with 60-hour work weeks for $100 per month, half of which workers have to pay Foxconn back because they pay for accommodation and food at the factory. The problem is aggravated by child labour and finally culminates with Continue reading “The Rotten Apple”

Banks: 1, Society: 0

When squinting hard enough, society can be seen as the result of a trade-off in which a part of individual freedom is given up so that people could enjoy medicine, culture, transportation, entertainment, safety and all the other wonders society provides. Society, as all complex living systems, adapts to changing circumstances and available knowledge and could be said to evolve. Fundamentally, though, there is a positive feedback loop within society which causes it to veer violently off course, degrading overall quality of life in general and individual freedom in particular. This happens because in most modern societies (and I use the term “modern” in a rather pejorative manner), he who has more, gets more. In other words, all other things being equal, a rich individual can thrive and decide the fate of millions and a poor individual can die from poor quality drinking water.

This problem is all the more serious because there is no obvious point at which this process stops. Continue reading “Banks: 1, Society: 0”