I f there were a Nobel prize for hypocrisy, then its first recipient ought to be Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook boss. On 23 August, all his 1.7 billion users were greeted by this message: "Celebrating 25 years of connecting people. The web opened up to the world 25 years ago today! We thank Sir Tim Berners-Lee and other internet pioneers for making the world more open and connected."
Aw, isn't that nice? From one "pioneer" to another. What a pity, then, that it is a combination of bullshit and hypocrisy. [...]
It's not the inaccuracy that grates, however, but the hypocrisy. Zuckerberg thanks Berners-Lee for "making the world more open and connected". So do I. What Zuck conveniently omits to mention, though, is that he is embarked upon a commercial project whose sole aim is to make the world more "connected" but less open. Facebook is what we used to call a "walled garden" and now call a silo: a controlled space in which people are allowed to do things that will amuse them while enabling Facebook to monetise their data trails. One network to rule them all. If you wanted a vision of the opposite of the open web, then Facebook is it.
The thing that makes the web distinctive is also what made the internet special, namely that it was designed as an open platform. It was designed to facilitate "permissionless innovation". If you had a good idea that could be realised using data packets, and possessed the programming skills to write the necessary software, then the internet -- and the web -- would do it for you, no questions asked. And you didn't need much in the way of financial resources -- or to ask anyone for permission -- in order to realise your dream.
An open platform is one on which anyone can build whatever they like. It's what enabled a young Harvard sophomore, name of Zuckerberg, to take an idea lifted from two nice-but-dim oarsmen, translate it into computer code and launch it on an unsuspecting world. And in the process create an empire of 1.7 billion subjects with apparently limitless revenues. That's what permissionless innovation is like.
The open web enabled Zuckerberg to do this. But -- guess what? -- the Facebook founder has no intention of allowing anyone to build anything on his platform that does not have his express approval. Having profited mightily from the openness of the web, in other words, he has kicked away the ladder that elevated him to his current eminence. And the whole thrust of his company's strategy is to persuade billions of future users that Facebook is the only bit of the internet they really need.
If you work for Facebook, quit. It is morally indefensible for you to use your skills to make that company more powerful. By working there, you are making the world an objectively worse place. I'm sure you can find a job working for a company that you don't have to apologize for all the time.
It seems that the SF Bay Guardian Best of the Bay contest is back, and is apparently run by 48 Hills now? Ok. How about you go vote for us? We are insecure people and need the validation. So many categories! Might we recommend:
First mixed in World War II, it is made from pineapple juice and the 180-proof grain alcohol fuel used in United States Navy torpedo motors. Various poisonous additives were mixed into the fuel alcohol by Navy authorities to render the alcohol undrinkable, and various methods were employed by the U.S. sailors to separate the alcohol from the poison. Aside from the expected alcohol intoxication and subsequent hangover, the effects of drinking torpedo juice sometimes included mild or severe reactions to the poison, and the drink's reputation developed an early element of risk.
In the first part of the Pacific War, U.S. torpedoes were powered by a miniature steam engine burning 180- or higher-proof ethyl alcohol as fuel. The ethyl alcohol was denatured by the addition of 5 -- 10% "pink lady", a blend of dye, methanol and possibly other ingredients. Methanol causes blindness when ingested, and cannot be made non-poisonous. The methanol was said to be (largely) removed by filtering the fuel mix through a compressed loaf of bread.
Later, a small amount of Croton oil was added to the neutral grain spirits which powered U.S. torpedoes. Drinking alcohol with the oil additive caused painful cramps, internal bleeding and a violent emptying of the bowels. It was intended as a replacement for methanol which had caused blindness in some sailors. To avoid the Croton oil, sailors devised crude stills to slowly separate the alcohol from the poison, as alcohol evaporated at a lower temperature than Croton oil.
Let's say you had a device that used sugar for fuel. And you found that your employees were putting some of that sugar in their coffee instead. Would you:
Implement better inventory control; or
Cut the sugar with rat poison?
And if you chose B -- and you were not the government of a country descended from religious fundamentalists and run by moralistic prohibitionists -- how many consecutive life sentences do you think you would serve in prison for attempted murder?
Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.
Although mostly forgotten today, the "chemist's war of Prohibition" remains one of the strangest and most deadly decisions in American law-enforcement history. As one of its most outspoken opponents, Charles Norris, the chief medical examiner of New York City during the 1920s, liked to say, it was "our national experiment in extermination." [...]
Industrial alcohol is basically grain alcohol with some unpleasant chemicals mixed in to render it undrinkable. The U.S. government started requiring this "denaturing" process in 1906 for manufacturers who wanted to avoid the taxes levied on potable spirits. [...] By mid-1927, the new denaturing formulas included some notable poisons -- kerosene and brucine (closely related to strychnine), gasoline, benzene, cadmium, iodine, zinc, mercury salts, nicotine, ether, formaldehyde, chloroform, camphor, carbolic acid, quinine, and acetone. The Treasury Department also demanded more methyl alcohol be added -- up to 10 percent of total product. It was the last that proved most deadly.
We lived in this brief, multi-decade state of grace, that ran roughly from the demise of the cassette tape to about three years ago, when you could be out and about in the world and be blissfully unaware of the shitty musical taste of passing strangers. Pedestrians, bicyclists, commuters on public transit: they were all aware of this amazing invention called "headphones". Sure, there was the occasional gangsta in a car impressing all the ladies with the phlegmatic buzzing snare of his door panels, but mostly you could go days without hearing something terrible squirted out of the tinniest excuses for speakers in the world.
What went wrong?
Now, every junkie and every fixie hipster is assaulting the world with battery powered external speakers, and headphones are apparently no longer a thing that exists. Did the manufacturers of these things even consider the evil they were unleashing?
In summary, your music sucks, and your speakers suck too.