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Technology

Selfish Society 462

The tech culture is becoming a elitist society with no coherent political values, poorly prepared to deal with real politicians, who pass real laws like the DMCA. "How could they take my Napster away?" lamented one recent e-mailer. A new book by journalist Paulina Borsook takes an even sharper look at techno-narcissism and hostility. The tech culture, she says, is at times self-centered and selfish.

In Borsook's Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through The Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech, published by Public Affairs, Borsook takes aim at the Social Darwinism of the tech culture, at its lack of empathy for human beings -- especially the technologically primitive and impaired. In this world she finds much hostility and paranoia, a world of "testosterone-poisoned guys with chips on their shoulders and too much time on their hands." Ouch.

She has a point, and it's hard to write for Slashdot and not wince at the above description. This is a narcissistic civilization with a mean streak, fat and lazy and arrogant from years of uninterrupted opportunity, innovation and peace, thriving from years of neglect by unknowing and entrenched institutions. Values and political systems are often forged in turmoil and difficulty, but people who've grown up in and around technology have seen an almost unbroken stretch of growth, innovation and prosperity. Jefferson wrote that in times of peace and prosperity, there is little need for politics. Not surprisingly, this techno-civilization has little interest in the political systems that still dominate society, so it radically underestimates their power and has an inflated sense of its own.

Having known only one reality, the young and techno-savvy can't quite imagine any other. But the political systems that dominate society have a keen interest in them, as a host of new laws, regulations and legal initiatives are already demonstrating, from the FBI's mail-sniffing program "Carnivore" to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

As a social grouping -- despite the handful of protestors who made their way to Seattle and struggle to form public interest groups online and off -- this culture has by and large rolled over for greedy megacorporations in exchange for full employment and technological capital. That makes it a vulnerable society too, unprepared for the assaults just around the corner. "How could they take my Napster away?" as that e-mail wailed. "Who did it? Where did they come from?"

As a culture, it mistakes mechanical skills -- like programming an operating system -- with technological knowledge and power. It tolerates an alarming amount of hostility and abuse, both of which make any political communications -- at least those in public -- nearly impossible.

If it has any common ideology, it honors innovation, economics and freedom -- the freedom to speak openly and to be prosperous. In fact, prosperity and the acquisition of technology have become this society's hallmark; it doesn't really have any other principles.

The techno-young correctly grasp that many of the country's seminal institutions -- politics, journalism, education -- have failed them and the larger society. But nobody seems to have given much thought to what might replace them, or to how they might defend themselves against increasingly encroachments from the off-line world.

Since this particularly gifted society created its social revolution quite apart from politics, education, even most adults, it has no sense of history and little memory, which creates another point of vulnerability; to be ignorant of the past is to be defenseless against the future. The techno-world eschews even the most marginal understanding of the tortured history of technology, the awareness that periods of technological advancement are always followed by periods of fear and retrenchment.

From the Greeks to the the Enlightenment philosophers to Thomas Jefferson to Albert Einstein, some of the world's greatest thinkers have argued that to have knowledge is to struggle to understand the relationship between what you know and what you do. If they're right, we're in trouble. We have no common agenda. We stand for nothing. We take actions based on tiny nodes of specialized information. Granted an unprecented opportunity to speak, we have not bothered to learn how to listen. Our freedom to speak out becomes illusory when most of us are shouting into a void, because nobody really cares what we say. Meanwhile, the real social and political agendas are being set by older people with little knowledge of technology, working out of l9th century institutions corrupted by corporate money.

That leaves the average citizen -- the prime user of technology -- caught in an intolerable position, between a technological elite moving rapidly past them on the one hand, and an ignorant power structure making foolish laws and uncomprehending responses on the other. As a society, we have no means of grasping the bigger picture, the purpose being the things we do, the moral rationale for the way we live and work.

In 1159, a philosopher-noble named John of Salisbury helped revive the then- dormant notion of individualism. He challenged his society to achieve self-scrutiny and understanding. "Who," he asked, "is more contemptible than he who scorns knowledge of himself?"

It's a great question. Liberalism and conservatism have been discredited, Libertarianism seems rigid and stagnant. In fact, conventional political ideologies seem far too narrow and inflexible for these times. Individualism seemed the right idea for John of Salisbury's time, and it might be even more relevant to ours, given that it fits the Net ethos like a glove, from the hackers to the cypherpunks to the open source progrmmers. And it's the only possible antidote to life in country evolving steady towards a corporate rather than democratic republic.

Technology has become the world's most interesting and ascending social force. No ideology -- with the possible exception of corporatism -- is stronger or spreading more rapidly. The frequently idealistic generation that designed the Internet -a diverse collection of engineers, cyber-gurus, philosophers, programmers,nerds, geeks, communalists and free-thinkers -- is yielding power and influence to the inhabitants of the Second Generation Internet, the first generation to grow up with networked computing. This new techno-generation takes for granted startling realities -- the ready availability of much of the archived information and entertainment in the world.

This techno-elite, taking sophisticated knowledge of technology for granted, has lost touch with the vast numbers of people in the world -- the elderly, the poor, foreign-born -- who don't share their skills and confidence. "Anybody can get an encrypted e-mail program," JOEB7 e-mailed me last week. "Why all the whining about privacy?"

JOEB7 doesn't seem to know that the vast majority of people have never even heard of encrypted e-mail programs, let alone used them. Such people dominate the most powerful and vital subculture in the world, but have no coherent political values beyond a nearly universal contempt for the one in place.

We think the individual's primary responsibility is to speak freely and become prosperous. Neither of those are small or inconsequential things, but as a cultural or social philosophy, they ring hollow. They promote cynicism, hostility, alienation, superiority, and most of all, they leave this culture vulnerable to better organized and powerful elites -- media, Congress, corporations. This may be inevitable, but it's worrisome.

We hear political truth daily -- we are vaguely conscious of threats to privacy, the looming menace of genetic and other technologies, poorly made, unnecessary and overpriced technology, challenges to the environment, human dignity, etc. -- but don't much want to deal with them. People worried about these issues are derided -- in this techno-culture as crackpots and extremists. We either laugh at them or dismiss them.

Democracy and freedom aren't about prosperity. You can be poor and quite free. Democracy is about the legitimacy of the individual, whose voice and vote should count for more than any other single interest or group. Technology can either be the vehicle through which those voices are re-democratized, or it can provide the tools through which corporatism can generate even more money.

This is an intensely political choice -- a decision -- even if many of the people most involved have no idea they are making it every day of their lives.


This book is available at FatBrain.

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The Selfish Society

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why do people who comment on the technology industry insist on putting unnecessary and unrealistic "burdens" on the people who are involved with building it? When I started out in college a few years ago as a computer science student nobody talked about us being "moral representatives" for the technologically underprivileged. We were simply students learning how to program computers just like mechanics who learn how to fix cars. We all hoped that someday we would get good paying jobs because it was a difficult task and not many people possessed the skill or the discipline to do it. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Why can't all of the journalists, and programmers, who have for some reason decided that we are now responsible for the fate of civilization go away and leave that responsibility to philosophers, clergy members, and politicians and let me get back to doing what I have been trained to do:

    Write computer programs to store and manipulate data so that businesses can operate more efficiently and effectively.

    Don't get me wrong, I believe that we all should maintain a strong interest in what happens with our political landscape as well as operate in society as good, decent citizens, but no more than any other person who didn't happen to choose programming as his/her career path.

  • >> It's especially hard not to when you used to be ostracized in school and now you're the shit.

    I think that's the whole point. Majority of geeks were ostracized in school. The society threw us away, mistreated us and put us through hardships. We were show and learned how society treats those who are different. Now we're all grown up, now we ARE the shit. And what happens? The same society that turned THEIR backs on us when we were young is NOW complaining that we don't give a RATS ASS about THEM. Who is more arrogant here?

    Let me get this strait.. I am wrong for feeling apathetic towards someone who beat the crap out of me 10 years ago. Mabey it IS wrong to feel that way, but it's what this society molded me into.

    This is why geeks stay together. It isn't arrogance. It is because we as geeks share a common set of ideals and experiances. We can relate to each other much better then to the rest of society... because that society ignored us until we all of a sudden became important. And now we're being called arrogant and apathetic. I don't know about you but when I was in school the popular/mainstream people won't gime me the time of day. Now they're complaining that they are left out. What else can I say?

    Ex-Nt-User

  • I was being an ass in that post on purpose. And I infact do agree with your post. I was trying to point out that the people who are now complaining about "being left out/behind" are the same ones that did it to us geeks earlier. I don't believe we should all shaun them now in revenge, but it is human nature to do so. I just think the majority of those complaining are being quite hypocritical.

    -Ex-Nt-User
  • by Amphigory ( 2375 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @04:42AM (#888868) Homepage
    Every time I just about give up on you, you post something with some content.

    What, however, is your conclusion? Anyone who reads CNN knows that privacy is in danger, that the hacker ethic is under more concerted attack than it has ever been. What do we do about it? Your article implies, without ever stating, "nothing".

    Is that really your conclusion? In that case, why write about it? Where's the solution? That's what the technology elite are looking for.

    --

  • Having (attempted) to work through the '89-'91 recession and having lived as a kid through the '72-'74 and '81-'83 recessions I must assume these kids just aren't prepared for the eventual economic kick in the ass.

    Yes, it's true that most young technology savvy kids assume that the now (supposedly) wonderful economy is somehow dependent on their brains and success, but it isn't so. Nor will technology workers be responsible when the next recession hits, these are cyclical effects more dependent on Federal Reserve policy and exchange rates than anything else.

    Yes, it's true that computers have increased efficiency for most businesses by automating much office paperwork and accounting away. But these gains in efficiency will go only so far until we hit the next wall of automation. At that point I expect to see GDP growth fall back, and possibly even a recession to hit. We're well due for one soon... GET PREPARED!

    And, maybe after going through this and possibly losing your house, a marriage from the stress, or some other setback, you kids might begin to understand that those with hot skills from twenty years back are no more or less intelligent than you. That you've lived young through todays market gains is more a matter of luck than a sign of (social) evolutionary success. And maybe after you've had to care for a dying parent (and seen for yourself how poor Medicare/Medicaid is for our citizens), or stepped into a city school to meet your child's frazzled out teacher because (s)he has a class size of nearly 40 pupils, or walked along one of the many bridges which are literally crumbling from lack of repairs... maybe then you'll realize that these gains are illusion for the vast majority of American citizens.

    That your skills are in demand today isn't proof they will be in demand tomorrow. That you're successful today doesn't mean lean times ahead are avoided for certain. That you're healthy today doesn't mean your health will remain (in fact, given enough time it's certain to fade). PREPARE YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY! And consider the many citizens of America who had to grow up with substandard education, poor health care, and dilapidated surroundings; that could be you but for circumstance.

    We used to have a reasonable social safety net for those children who, by no fault of their own, grew up poor. After the Republican 80's and Demopublican '90s, we have none of that left. I voted for Clinton in '92 for one reason: National Health Coverage. With the Democrats and Republican platforms mirror images sans abortion, I simply can't vote for either party any longer. For these reasons, this year I'm voting Ralph Nader [votenader.com] for President.
  • ... during college to cover my expenses away from home, 1992, and when applying for a sales job at Radio Shack I was up against 6-8 compsci/engineering grads for 2 positions :p

    I simply can't vote for either party any longer. For these reasons, this year I'm voting Ralph Nader for President.

    I am also disheartened by the lack of true choices in modern American politics. What's even more dangerous and troubling IMHO is the pervasive lack of trust in our representation. In a Democracy, having your politicians ranked lower in public trust than your lawyers (I wouldn't doubt it) is scary, corrosive, and self-destructive. Would putting a man like Nader (many of whose positions I disagree with substantially, but whose integrity I respect) provide a swift enough kick in the ass to this country to get it talking on a mature level about real issues?

    America seems to me, at this point, to be in a very childish phase. It wants things but won't pay for them, it wants rights but no responsibilities. Can an environment like this even support a mature debate on civics and the role of government in society?

    Something many Americans don't realize is that in many Western countries (Sweden in particular) the citizenry has basically decided to incorporate the government into society as their advocate, trusting them to do so. In the US, you don't get the sense of the government as the citizen's advocate, except in very rare occasions (NTSB, FDA, GAO come to mind).

    I've been told many times over my life "America: love it or leave it". I'm thinking these days, perhaps I may end up doing both.. A country like the Netherlands, where they've a history of tolerance and freedom and a large percentage of English-fluency, seems like an ideal candidate.. Every time I go back there (Amsterdam, Den Haag) it seems more and more attractive.. Lots of IT jobs, relatively inexpensive housing (compared to NY/SF), great food/culture/people..

    Is America too big to fix?

    Your Working Boy,
  • I think Borsook hits close to the mark ... but not quite. On the *surface* I would say that it is very easy for the IT community to be perceived as selfish and arogant. Just looking at some of the posts that have already been posted since this article went up is indication of that.

    On the *surface*, the 'public' sees rants and raves from IT people on newgroups and places like Slashdot. The 'public' see IT people, many of them very young, making relatively huge salaries with apparently little effort (how hard is it to sit in a chair all day typing :-).

    From this perspective, the IT community can appear to be selfish and spoilt. And when exposed to this attitude, the IT community feels hard done by and bites back often with rants and raves (as we have seen in the postings) which only fuels the public perception again.

    However, being part of the IT community I would have to say that the majority of IT people that I know aren't like this at all. Sure they are quite a few IT people who are arogant and selfish and I would go as far as to say that perhaps there is *slighty* more of this type of people than normalin the IT area, but not to the point where I would tar and feather the whole community with that tag.

    I think a lot of people fail to see the hidden aspects of IT. That being:

    • many IT people do a lot of self-education in their own time that the public never sees. For those that state that IT people have cushy jobs with high pay for so little effort don't know what it is like to self-educate yourself perpetually. Yes we have been lucky to exist in a period of high growth, but at the same time we have put in a lot of unseen effort to be skilled enough to take advantage of the oportunities and this has nothing to do with being arrogant or narcissistic .
    • the general anonymity of newsgroups and discussion sites tend to bring out the more extreme points of view (who wants to elaborate a point if it involves spending 30 minutes typing out the explanation - just get straight to the point) which the public sees as the IT community in general.

    From my experience, these are two points which have a heavy influence on what the public think of IT people and are two of the reasons why the public may have misconceptions of what we are like as a group.

  • by dustpuppy ( 5260 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @05:36AM (#888880)
    Sorry about the inflamatory subject line :-)

    One of the reasons that tech culture seems "selfish" and "arrogant" to others is that the people that run it and work in it have worked HARD to get what they have

    While I'd be the last person to disagree that IT people generally work very hard, I think you are missing the point of the article. I used to have the exact same attitude that you expressed in your post. Here is the line of thinking that I had:

    Goddamn, I have been installing/compiling/scripting etc for years in my own time to learn everything I know and that's why I got a kickarse job earning decent amounts of cash - dammit - I worked hard to get the money that I do. And besides, I work real long hours etc etc

    And you know what? I was exactly right - I had worked harder than most people and so in that respect I deserved the money that I was getting.

    But, I was still selfish and arogant. I only found out after a friend pointed out the reason why. The reason is:

    I have been lucky because my situation/family/background/financial situation enabled me to have the opportunity to use computers. Some people aren't so lucky. Some people may have been able to afford a computer but without having any guidance or inspiration, they have been shown what their potential could have achieved using computers. I originally trained to be an engineer but switched to computer science after I realised that this is what I truly liked. Some people can't afford to do this.

    There are a lot of reasons why people never find out about their options when it comes to IT.

    For you and me, we were fortunate that we found out or were shown these opportunities. It has nothing to do with how smart we are - sure we get brownie points for seizing the opportunity when it came by - but for a twist of fate, we could have been an unlucky one who didn't get a chance at that opportunity.

    If we don't recognise this, then we deserve to be labelled selfish and arogant ... because that is what we will be

  • Ayn Rand was, I would assume, estranged from her family. I know she had no children. If you view the family, including your children, as a community, then most people - who would happily sacrifice themselves for the children - would see the poverty of the objectivist line, from a darwinist as well as a moral-intuitionist perspective.
  • Borsook doesn't really tackle the paradox that "libertarians elebrate the cult of the individual" but Open Source celebrates the collective.

    Except that it's not really a paradox. Open Source(tm), at least from the quasi-official position taken by Eric Raymond, is purely (and perhaps excessively) individualistic. The Open Source programmer programs for the adulation of his peers or to "scratch an itch", both essentially individual and arguably selfish motivations.

    (Oh, and dear God, BTW, this isn't an Open Source vs. Free Software flame, just an observation, so put the lighter back in your pocket.)

    Free Software, on the other hand, is built on collectivism. From Richard Stallman's quasi-official position, the Free Software programmer programs to share and eschews the notion of intellectual property, which is an essentially collectivist position.

    Open Source ideology is basically a rehash of Reagan's "trickle down economics", whereby the unapologetically selfish pursuit of personal advancement generates fringe benefits for other people, in this case software. In fairness to the OSS community, unlike Reaganomics, the OSS version of trickle-down sometimes works (Perl, Apache) and sometimes not (Mozilla).

    The real question, which is unlikely to be answered thanks to the political smoke surrounding it, is what the real strengths and weaknesses of the three models (Open Source, Free, Closed Source) are. Each has produced predominately different kinds of software and each has failed spectacularly at other kinds.
  • I find it truly ironic that the criticism of this post, in which Jon discusses someone else's claim that geek culture is ugly and selfish, consists largely of ugly, selfish responses.

    Ironic, but not surprising.

    --
  • Actually, as long as these toys make people money, we're fine.

    boo.com had some cool technology, but that didn't save it from a sadly well-deserved oblivion. It failed that crucial test, and that made it history.

    D

    ----
  • It's not all luck. I'd say at least 95% of the population doesn't have the brains needed to do what we do well. 99% doesn't have the brains or the interest.

    Nowadays, those with the brains are extremely likely to be exposed to computers. True, that wasn't so 20 years ago, but now it is.

    Heck, my boss asks me for advice on his marketing campaigns, not just on computer-related stuff. That's because I have a brain and we relate well to each other. I could have probably had a career in advertising or marketing and been darn good at it (and quite well off, just as I am now) if things had been just a little different.

    Now, arrogance is annoying in and of itself. Ask anyone at my work - I'm genial, courteous and always try to be helpful. Arrogance is not a good thing, since it pushes you away from people. But feeling embarassed for doing well isn't a good thing either. Ideally, smart people of all types should strike a happy medium, which I personally think I have.

    But one other thing does deserve mention. Selfishness and a desire for freedom go hand in hand. If we are not selfish, if we bow down to the collective will, we are surely not free. This is the contradiction Communism tried to fight, and this is why it failed miserably.

    D

    ----
  • Though usually I enjoy Kats articles I must admit he does seem somewhat clueless here. However I'd argue that to be a geek is an inclusive philosophy. There are many shared traits that define geeks, such as creativity, intelligence, low interest in non-geek society, desire for freedom, etc that you'll find most of in most geeks. You have many different overlapping camps, commercial vrs completly open vrs open but forced to stay open, simplicity (GUI) vrs flexibility (CLI), etc.

    I think this generation of geek will largely be freedom fighters as we have grown up with the Internet and free (as in speach) software. We are less concerned about the financial side of geekdom but more likely to profit from it. We are more political and agressive because we are born of a time when the things we have came to enjoy and count amoung our rights as human beings are being attacked by corporations, politicians, and religious nuts. When this generation reaches the age to have political clout massive changes will be very likely. By that time some of our youthful hopes will have been smashed which will keep society from as massive of shifts but they will still be big. The technology that flows from this generation will further this out of need. The Internet, genetics, and nanotech will invade every aspect of our lifes and it'll be up to these techsavvy youth to keep shortsighted nay-sayers from misguiding these technologies and causing damage. Imagine the worlds of Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, and Distraction -- that is just a small peek at the ways society may change in the hands of these geeks. Nobody can say what the world will be like but nothing will ever be the same.
  • I can't speak for every techie out there, but as for myself, I'm VERY politically oriented. I registered to vote right after I turned 18. I've voted in every election since then(Both national and local). I've collected signatures for certain causes I believe in.

    Not only did I study it, but I actually took a class on the US Constitution. I want to know how things work, and why they work the way that they do. I think that what holds back "geeks" from being a political force is that we all have such wide ranging beliefs on social and fiscal issues.

    I happen to be a Republican. One of those right wing guys that Peter Jennings likes to talk badly about. I know many geeks who are further to the right than I am, I also know just as many that are to the left of even Ralph Nader.

    What is there to tie us together? Nothing, that I can see.

    The gun rights people have something that ties them together. The abortion rights people have their common bond. The environmentalists have their agenda. You name any special interest's group and they have something that they ALL believe in.

    What do we all believe in? We can't even agree on Napster.

    LK
  • I have attached the following definitions.

    republic
    n. Abbr. rep., Rep., Repub.

    1.
    a.A political order whose head of state is not a monarch and in modern times is usually a president.

    b.A nation that has such a political order.

    2.
    a.A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them.
    b.A nation that has such a political order.

    democracy
    n., pl. democracies.

    1.Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.

    2.A political or social unit that has such a government.

    3.The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.

    4.Majority rule.

    5.The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.

    It seems to me that the term democracy has fewer similarities to our current government than republic. Defintion 2a of Republic hits our form of government right on the head. We elect officials who make decisions on our behalf. In a democracy, the people make all such decisions and then the representatives carry out the decisions of the people (every issue before congress would have to be first decided in state elections. The representatives would then vote according to the outcome of their state elections.) What we do is contrary to this. We elect an official that we feel will vote along similar lines to ourselves, but the people do not have control of the representative's vote (not directly), thus a senator could cast a vote in congress that goes completely against his/her constituent's wishes.

    Majority does not rule in the United States, and thank God for it. A true democracy would result in the minority citizen's being trampled under the majority's feet. Our representative (republic) form of government insures that minority opinions have at least some weight.
  • - How could they take my napster away?
    - Because you had not implemented it distributed enought.

    May the "real world" with companies and greed never win. But they will, they certainly will...
    --The knowledge that you are an idiot, is what distinguishes you from one.
  • The review seems to misfiring on a number of points, while being valid on some others, not unlike Cyberselfish itself. The reviewer seems to believe that Borsook is directly attacking libertarianism. She's not. She's attacking what she calls "technolibertarianism" in particular, which is a less reasoned and more emotional mindset than that of a libertarian like the reviewer.

    To that end, I can't say that I'm particularly convinced by the reviewer's defense against Borsook's two big arguments, which he delineates clearly in his review: "First, high-tech people have no right to attack government since their industry would not have existed without government funding. Second, successful businesses are successful because they operate in a world where governments keep schools going, food and drugs pure, banks honest, and the like."

    His defense against both are ideological, pretty much "Libertarians don't believe that, we believe in spontaneous order." I think that the reviewer is accurate when he says "...[libertarians'] strongly expressed belief in a philosophy she only half-understands but associates with stinginess disturbs her."

    It may be more accurate to say that Borsook only half-understands the strongly expressed belief in libertarianism, because she's never seen it work, and the closest examples to a libertarian system she can find are disasters (post-communist Russia, etc.), and most of the libertarians she meets are misogynist, or antisocial, or emotionally stunted, or selfish.

    Or maybe she is wrong. It's your call.

  • Yes, I read it. Obviously, I can't give an objective review, but I can give you two things:
    1. my review [slashdot.org], submitted to Slashdot a week ago, and
    2. a comprehensive listing of reviews [cyberselfish.com] on Paulina Borsook's own site; both the positive and negative and in-between.
    With these reviews you may be able to get a better picture of the book. You can even read a review [mises.org] that mirrors the style of the book.
  • Somehow I'm a little confused by the idea that the tech industry was in its early days in the 1980's.

    Then again, that's the kind of "there is no history" attitude that Borsook discusses.

    I suspect I'm just misinterpreting you; did you really mean to say what you said?
  • I'd just like to point out that links to that review have been posted about 10 times already.
    (Some of the links were posted after you copied it.)
    http://slashdot.org/com ments.pl?sid=00/07/24/202207&cid=194 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/com ments.pl?sid=00/07/24/202207&cid=163 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/comm ents.pl?sid=00/07/24/202207&cid=87 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/com ments.pl?sid=00/07/24/202207&cid=124 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/com ments.pl?sid=00/07/24/202207&cid=208 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/com ments.pl?sid=00/07/24/202207&cid=119 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/com ments.pl?sid=00/07/24/202207&cid=141 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/com ments.pl?sid=00/07/24/202207&cid=384 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/com ments.pl?sid=00/07/24/202207&cid=396 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/com ments.pl?sid=00/07/24/202207&cid=442 [slashdot.org]
    http://slashdot.org/com ments.pl?sid=00/07/24/202207&cid=443 [slashdot.org]

    Reason does allow for personal, non-commercial reproduction. However, since Slashdot is a commercial venture, I'd say that copying it onto Slashdot does violate their copyright. However, since Reason would have to rely on the government in an attempt to enforce its copyright, I guess you're safe.
  • by The Cunctator ( 15267 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @05:01AM (#888917) Homepage
    I'm kind of annoyed; I submitted this review a week ago, but it was ignored (or was it?). You can judge if it deserved to be posted. Noting that I wrote this to be a /. book review instead of a response to Jon Katz, here it is:

    author: Pulina Borsook
    publisher: PublicAffairs
    ISBN: 1891620789
    pages: 256
    rating: 8/10
    summary: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech

    I heard about Cyberselfish [cyberselfish.com] when driving around Vermont Memorial Day weekend from used bookstore to used bookstore. The NPR station was broadcasting an interview with Cyberselfish author Paulina Borsook, a writer who worked for Wired [wiredmag.com] during its glory years. I was put off by the book's wretched title, but engrossed by the subject: the powerful undercurrent of libertarianism that flows through high-tech circles. I have been astounded but not amazed at the deeply adolescent and peevish libertarian attitudes that so many techies cling to, from gun worship to fear of governmental Internet regulation. Listening to Borsook speak intelligently and cogently about technolibertarianism made me want her book very much.

    This month I garnered a copy of Cyberselfish, and I'm still appalled with the title (which comes from an eponymous essay [mojones.com] for Mother Jones [motherjones.com] she wrote in July 1996, when such cyberlanguage wasn't so cybertrite). Cyberselfish is a book-length essay, in fact a somewhat thinly edited series of linked essays. There's a rush of immediacy and wit; for a random example, "Polyamory [dmoz.org] is the preferred term of art; it's gender-neutral, where polygamy and polyandry are not, and allows for all persuasions of partner choice (gay/straight/bi/it depends)." With the freshness and informality comes flaws. There is too much repeated material in the book. It's clear that essays written at different times have been cobbled together. Reading the book straight through is like reading some multivolume series straight through, in which the characters and history are rehashed at the beginning of each book.

    Cyberselfish looks at a few specific examples of technolibertarianism in depth: Bionomics [bionomics.org], cypherpunks, Wired magazine, and Silicon Valley's impressive lack of philanthropy. Each time Borsook exposes the compassionless, fearful, posturing, politically myopic core, without dismissing the good aspects of the high-tech culture and individuals. For example, she thinks fighting for privacy rights is good, but obsessing about it and descending into rabid, paranoid ranting on alt.cypherpunks is scary. She moves smoothly from the historical to the academic to the personal, deliberately exposing her own frailities and biases while she examines those of others.

    To give a deeper example of the content of Cyberselfish, Bionomics is the use of biological (and particularly Darwinian) metaphors to describe economic processes, as popularized by Michael Rothschild (Bionomics: Economy as Ecosystem [bionomics.org]) and then the The Bionomics Institute (TBI). Borsook convincingly points out through both empirical observation and reasoned analysis that Bionomics boils down to economic libertarianism, where government involvement is wrong and the most cut-throat, efficient and entrepeneurial businesses are the best. Ecological metaphors are used in Bionomics only when they're useful and sexy: The ecosystem of Hawaii was used as a metaphor for the fragility of protected industries. Under Bionomics logic, Hawaii's beautiful, lush, peaceful ecosystem is to be derided. Bionomics uses metaphors to draw syllogistic conclusions. Doing that can be powerfully convincing but amounts to hand-waving and emotional appeals. Borsook cuts through the smoke and mirrors.

    After a few years, the Bionomics Institute conferences were (literally) taken over by the Cato Institute [cato.org], the premier libertarian think tank in the nation. The annual Bionomics conterences began in 1993. The 1997 conference was the Cato/Bionomics Conference; 1998, the "Annual Cato Institute/Forbes ASAP Conference on Technology and Society." TBI morphed into software-startup Maxager [maxager.com], which intends to offer Bionomical tools to companies. Borsook wonders what meaning can be ascribed to the success or the failure of the company. If Maxager fails, is it because it wasn't Bionomically good enough, or just because of the many uncontrollable factors that cause the vast majority of startups to fail? If it succeeds, does it validate Bionomics, or just the good connections the founder has with Silicon Valley venture capitalists?

    The other chapters are just as interesting. Cyberselfish sharply describes all the archetypes of the technolibertarians, from the neo-hippie polyandric Burning Man [burningman.org] attendee to the Lexus-driving, 100-hour-a-week, plugged-in entrepeneur with a sprawling bungalow in Santa Clara county [santa-clara.ca.us].

    One of the most crystalline passages in the book describes Eric Raymond [tuxedo.org]'s leaking of the Halloween Document [opensource.org], written by Microsoft program manager Vinod Valloppillil [vinod.com]. The two clearly have vast ideological differences, the open-source cowboy and the Evil Empire functionary, but they're both hard-core libertarians, an entirely unreported fact. In Borsook's words, "It was rather like discovering that both a liberal and a conservative senator had both acquired their law degrees from Yale [yale.edu]: no news here."

    As I said before, the book is somewhat haphazardly put together, and nearly every sentence is to some degree contentious; even someone who agrees with her basic position will find reason to quibble. Cyberselfish doesn't come near to answering all the questions it raises. Borsook doesn't really tackle the paradox that "libertarians celebrate the cult of the individual" but Open Source celebrates the collective. What does it mean to be an Open Source libertarian?

    I personally think it's somewhat unfair to attack those flaws, as they're inexorably part of Cyberselfish's loose, immediate, opinionated, and conversational style. It's kind of like how Slashdot's open forums allow for a review like this and the inevitable "hot grits" responses.

  • "We are ... a busy, enterprising, and commercial nation. The habits attached to this character must ... inevitably lead us under the specious names of utility, practical knowledge, and so forth, to look at all things through the medium of the market, and to estimate the worth of all pursuits and attainments by their marketable value."

    These words, which so well fit America in the new millenium, were penned by Coleridge in the prefatory years before the Victorian age. It was an age where, despite the great feats of engineering that marked the Industrial Age, there was a persistent "anti-intellectualism," an "association of learning with idle gentlemen or lazy academics who contribute[d] nothing to the needs of the world." (Houghton's "The Victorian Frame of Mind," which also supplied the above Coleridge quotation.) The father of the great British politician Gladstone, like many other wealthy men of the time, considered education destructive to the commercial impulse (thankfully, the future Prime Minister was not the inheritor of his father's business enterprises).

    As strange as it may seem, the culture of networked computing that exists today is also highly anti-intellectual, dedicated to the acquisition of venture capital and stock options, engineering "feats" like Napster, to short "news" items culled without context, three-sentence Slashdot commentaries, and, need I say it, the wink-and-a-nod innuendo of columnists like Drudge. Our interest in science is limited to the practical, or possibly practical, experiments reported in Slashdot, Discover, or The New Scientist; advances in the "impractical" sciences languish in obscurity, since they offer no practical benefits or methods of securing venture capital. And humanities and the liberal arts, of course, are, at best, beside the point and at worst a distraction; technology, as Wired, Napster, and countless others have drummed into our ears, must drive society, rather than the other way 'round.

    With a few -- very few -- exceptions (Knuth leaps to mind), programmers are journeymen and skilled labor, not logicians, mathematicians and scientists of any note. We certainly -- bereft of any education or experience in politics, history, theology and philosophy -- are not qualified to set the course our societies must sail. Without any mooring in traditional political thought, and possessed of success in a world that has afforded great economic benefit to our class, most of us gravitate to the smug selfishness of Ayn Rand, proclaiming a vaguely libertarian credo demanding less regulation, fewer taxes, more individual freedom, fewer individual responsibilities. This, in turn, leads to a society in which financial success is the litmus test for personal freedom and comfort.

    The "off-line" society Katz talks about is trying to walk a tightrope between stifling engineering research -- which is undesirable -- and allowing technology to dictate our societal goals and means -- which is unsupportable. It has not "failed [us] and the larger society," but it is unwilling to abdicate its power and positions in favor of unchecked engineering and corporate control; this is a society that places law and legislation above individual ethical judgements and intuition, a society that demands accountability from its institutions that the commerce of engineering does not, and cannot, grant freely (vide both Microsoft and Napster). It is a society that represents the fifty percent of Americans who don't own computers as well as the ten percent that spends its entire workweek on the 'Net. And it is a society that we must work within, for if we try to circumvent its strictures, we will be punished.

    We, as engineers, must come to realize that society is not software, speech is not a printf() statement, and development does not always mean progress. If we, as a group, cannot learn to work with those who are charged with ensuring the progress and safety of society, then the best we can hope for is a gradual expansion of statutory and case law to encompass changes in technology, leading eventually to the checking of the remarkable, and probably unsustainable, freedom of technology we enjoy today.

    The worst possibility is that we might win.

  • You have parents who do not wish to put any effort into rasing children. Instead they want to make an issue out of matereal on the TV, Radio, Internet and in movies.
    They have even attempted to censore libarys...

    On the other end you have TV, Radio and the Internet that wishes to put out matereal with no moral values what so ever.

    TV, Radio and movies must conform to the market and this reality alone keeps quality up.

    The Internet being raw data will contain all the knowladge of mankind, all the myths rummors and out right lies. It basicly contains all information and disinformation around the world.

    The users of the Internet expect it to be there. The idea that information may be removed or blocked to enable a parent to be lazy is really repugnent.

    Yes it's selfish.. call it selfish to want the Internet to function as designed. Call it selfish to demand other people act responsably.

    Napster... Call it selfish to demand that music groups like Matalica go after the acuall criminals rather than Napster.

    Let's sue Napster becouse music pirates use Napster. Let's sue a knife maker becouse a kid commited suiside with it. Let's sue Elmers glue...

    Yes there is a bit of "Selfishness" in technology.. We expect information at our fingertips.
    Why isn't Windows source at my fingertips? Becouse Microsoft (who owns it) never relased the code.
    Why isn't BlahBlahBlah Encylopedia at my fingertips? Becouse they want to sell it on CD.
    Why isn't nude pictures of my next door nabor at my fingertips? Becouse my next door nabor dosn't want them available.
    Why arn't Matalica songs at my finger tips? Becouse thats Matalics property...

    Why is "MY" souce code not at everyones fingertips.
    Becouse my code makes someones life a little harder.

    Information dose not want for anything.. let alone to be free. It dose not matter one bit if it's inslaved by it's author.
    But once free... it should remain free... unless the author chouses otherwise...
  • >Playing both sides, Jon?

    I like Katz but he has been caving to knee jerk writings.
    This is a bad thing for an opinionist or ranter like Katz...

    I'll defend Napster as a tool. Even if the tool was made for criminal efforts it should never become a crime to make a tool.
    This puts inventers in the position of defending against allgations of criminal intent when there is no intent (criminal or otherwise) as many inventions are pure whim at first.

    But Matalica had every right to hunt down music pirates with all the legal zeal they can muster...
    It matters not one iota what the tool was made for or how it is used.
    It matters that Timmy is a theaf. Not that Timmy used Napster. He could have used IRC and gotten identical results.
  • by Bowie J. Poag ( 16898 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @08:02AM (#888928) Homepage
    Approximately 600-800 articles were rejected to make room for today's retarded butt-nugget of wisdom from Jon Katz..They dont care anymore. Its pretty obvious that they dont have to. Time to look for a new news page, imho. Slashdot just isnt cutting it.

    Duh, Slashdot rules.
    Bowie J. Poag
  • by blaine ( 16929 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @10:01AM (#888929)
    I will sort of paraphrase the person who started this thread:

    Most IT people are willing to help new people in the IT world out. I personally help people all of the time. I'm the secretary of the local Linux Association, and I am even willing to go over peoples houses and help them work out problems. I am even considering looking around and finding a school system that is in need of computer help and seeing if I can teach night classes (for free, mind you) to the students. I know this is something that I would have personally DIED for while in High School (the ability to actually learn something about the subject). I had to self teach myself, but I'd love to have the chance to help out others into the field.

    That said, most IT people are NOT willing to handhold people who feel they are somehow 'entitled' to technology, but have no willingness to learn anything about it. I'm talking about the people who have NO ability to retain knowledge. It isn't because they CAN'T. It is because they WON'T. They ask a question, you tell them, and then 20 minutes later they ask the same thing.

    THESE are the people who bitch about the 'technocratic elite'. They can't understand why they can't get into IT, and why we get angry with them. They assume we must all be spoiled rich brats who can't take the time to help them, when in fact the opposite is true. They are spoiled brats who can't do anything for themselves.

    Self reliance is something that is highly regarded in IT. It goes hand in hand with initiative and motivation. Also extremely important is the ability to know when you should work something out yourself, and when you should ask another person for help.

    These people have none of these skills.

    Once again, I'm all for helping out the underpriveledged. But let's look at the people bitching about this. They sure as hell aren't underpriveledged. They are just too lazy and lacking in motivation to get off their asses and do something.
  • by blaine ( 16929 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @07:04AM (#888930)
    I don't know where this myth that all technologically minded people are rich came from. But I'm going to tell you that it is complete and utter bullshit.

    I don't really know anybody in technology who started off rich. Why? Because the people who started off ultra rich and were handed everything throughout life do not have the motivation necessary to get anywhere in this industry.

    The one thing you need to be able to make it in technology is a serious work ethic. If you have this, you will succeed. If you do not, you will fail.

    The Facts:

    Most of the people I know and work with in IT came from lower- to middle-class families. In fact, a large percentage came from damn near poverty. They had no money to buy computers, and used public facilities until they could scrounge enough parts dumpster diving to put together something workable. If they were lucky, they were able to find a school system giving away older systems that they could screw around with. Up until college, they were completely self taught.

    The people who are making it in IT are working their asses off to do so. They are learning new things constantly. And they accept the fact that if they don't know something, they don't claim they do.

    This is why so many people fail at IT, and bitch and moan about the 'technocratic elite'. As the original poster pointed out, they can't seem to fathom an industry that you cannot bullshit your way through. If all you have is some certifications you bought and no experience, and can't do jack shit, the people you work with are going to know this VERY VERY SOON. And guess what? They will (rightfully) feel that you don't belong here. Because you don't.

    Not only is IT a meritocracy, it is full of people who don't care about padding criticism to make it less harsh. This is the way it works. If I think somebody doesn't know what they're doing, I tell them so, and if they know anything about the industry, THEY DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. The people who fail are those who take it far too personally. I know that if I fuck something up, I am going to be told that it was my fault. You need to realize that the same holds true for everybody.

    It comes down to what the original poster said: you don't know what you are doing, you can't make it in IT. The only way to know what you're doing is to WORK FOR IT. For most, this is a new concept, and one they don't want to accept. Guess what? Too bad. I don't care. Just shit, or get off the pot.
  • It would be interesting to compare how techno-political interactions happen with you folks to the South, with our situation up here in Canada. After all, our capital (Ottawa) also happens to be the primary hub of tech activity - our "Silicon Valley North".
  • I will agree that tech culture has to grow and understand its place in the world. My culture, our culture, is a relatively new creation/aglommeration.

    Worst of all, technies face a lot of bad press - that they are selfish, they are antisocial, they are narcissic, they are whiny, etc. To me, it sounds like sour grapes from people who are non-technical, looking at this accidental group of power-holders and projecting their worst fears and traits onto them. Technological people are *PEOPLE*, they didn't appear out of nowhere, so if people have problems with them, they best look at the culture they SHARE with them first.

    Articles like this do call attention to the fact that technology is more and more important in politics and society. The days we programmers and engineers can sit in our labs and have fun and keep things running is over - our world is now THE world.

    Unfortunately, articles like this also do nothign more than to perpetuate the stereotypes.
    • It gives credit to a controversial book that, from what I've seen, gets it wrong.
    • It complains without proposing solutions (it calls for other people to propose solutions).
    • It involves territorial language and statements (more testosterone poisioning anyone?)
    • It talks about technologists SEPARATE FROM CULTURE. As if we're a new nation, as if we didn't have parents, pastors, friends, etc.


    Complaining about it does nothing - the squeaky wheel gets replaced just as often as it gets the grease. Acting as if technologists are some new species/nation does nothing more than to treat us out of context.

    It's ALL our world. Problems are ALL our problems. Let's stop complaining and stop complaining about complaining. Let's address real human issues from freedom to having enough to eat, but let's not divide ourselves up any more, and let's not turn on each other.
  • To summarize the way I think in my own head, right or wrong.....
    There is a line I think many of us draw, mentally, between what is 'commercial' or 'business' and what is 'peronal' or 'free'.

    Traditionally, if I want to give a bowl of rice to my neighbor, or give cookies to my whole neighborhood, I can. We do things for each other, help each other out. This works fine and dandy until we get into...
    things we can make duplicates of; IP.
    See, in the old days.. if I wanted to buy a plow, even a patented plow, I could. if I wanted to then go to my metal shop and *make* a plow and *give* it to my neighbor, nobody really had a problem with that. Sure... patent law says maybe I can't.. but who would care. Nobody.

    Now things are different.

    The bottom line of this unclear, badly written message is this: regardless of what the law says, or what the politicos say.....there is a line between 'business' and 'people'. Business law is businsess law, but *nothing* should be able to get in the way of the goodwill of the people.

    Music? Bah. If people want to *give* things to each other, let th em. If the music industry falters and we have no more good bands.. *oh well!*. Too bad for us I guess.
  • OK, this was obviously a troll, but I have nothing better to do so I'll bite.

    While it is quite true that our society used to work fine without the aid of computers, it is impossible to claim that there is no benefit to be had from computers and technology. It's quite simply the difference between working and working better. This is what causes all technological revolutions, not just the advent of computer technology. There was a time when everyone lived in caves and hunted things with big clubs. Just ask OOG about it ;-) . Anyway, when some of these cavemen discovered fire and tried to harness it, there were probably others who claimed that everything was just fine without it. From our perspective that position would seem absurd, but we have the benefit of hindsight. We know that fire was only the beginning and we can see what it led to.

    Now, you can certainly claim that computers will never have the same kind of impact that fire had. Maybe you're right. Maybe you're wrong. Maybe they already have. Do you have any idea how much of our society has benefitted from computer technology? It's hard to think of anything which hasn't. Your grocery store can keep track of inventory better and handle customer transactions faster. Your car can run more efficiently. Your long distance phone calls are cheaper and clearer. Virtually anything in manufacturing can be made better and cheaper with the help of computer models. I'm listing more mundane things to try to show you how much influence computers have really had in everyday life, but there are other things which would have been outright impossible without computer technology. Think of the benefits to scientific research that have resulted from computers. The genetic research. Better weather prediction. Improved efficiency in agriculture. Not to mention advances in pure mathematics and other less concrete fields.

    And let's not forget the Internet. I'm not one to claim that it has or will totally change society, but it is certainly an impressive force. We can now connect minds that are worlds apart. We can truly be connected with the rest of the world. Even here on /. we see a bunch of US citizens who are normally completely ignorant of the rest of the world (no offense to anyone, I'm a US citizen myself) arguing about certain laws passed in Australia and Britain. We also have an unprecedented level of freedom of speech, although there are certainly some forces at work trying to take that away. However, the benefits of true freedom of speech is not something to take for granted, as is being made all the more apparent.

    My point is that computers are not in anyway limited to the desktops that we use to read /. and play Diablo. Those tasks may be seen as an utter waste, and maybe they are. However, there's something to be said for recreation. As society has progress people have been allowed increasingly larger amounts of time and more options for recreation. The use of computers for this purpose is just another example of how our lives are being improved.

    While some certainly do think that computers are "cool" (and I'm one of them!), that is not the reason they have become so useful to society. If there was no benefit to be had from computer technology we would never have developed it to the point where people can talk about how "cool" it is in the first place. All our lives have been improved by computers, even you've never touched one (which is obviously not the case seeing how you were able to post a message to /.). You should be thankful for what you have. There are many poor nations out there that have missed out on the benefits of computers (and a lot of other things!). You should be thankful for all that you have, instead of whining about it.
  • And libertarianism is exactly what the article is about.

    Sure, it would be wonderful if we could all live together in peace and harmony in the happy land of candy, but life isn't like that. People aren't fair. And libertarianism just gives them a beautiful veneer to hide behind.

    We need a strong government not just to protect us from the active criminals, but to look out for the rights of those citizens who can't do so themselves.

    The libertarian ideal doesn't give a crap about the people starving in third world countries. It doesn't even concern itself with the poor schmuck down the street who can't get himself a job. Sure, nobody may have hurt him or stolen from him, but they sure as hell didn't help him.

    But according to your philosophy, that's alright. Nobody needs to help those people. And the reality of it is that there's certainly not enough charity to go around. Look at what capitalism did to the US during the industril revolution and then apply that to all aspects of society. That's libertarianism at work.
  • by RebornData ( 25811 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @06:19AM (#888945)
    I'm hoping this is a troll, because it's the perfect example of the attitude the author (forget Katz) is apparently criticizing.

    Are you really so narrowminded as to think that anyone who isn't technically savvy is an idiot? Do you have any idea how differently people's brains work? I know plenty of hardworking, smart, dedicated people who just don't have what it takes to be a computer wizard. That's because they're wired differently, not because they're lazy, or need to be coddled, or not valuable to society. I believe in a meritocracy to some extent, but basing it on a single set of skills would result in a society so unbalanced it would be miserable to live in and quickly self-destruct. What if your much-vaunted meritocracy were based on musical ability? Or visual artistry? Or carpentry skills? Or empathy? How would you fare if the elite decided that anyone who couldn't bang out a decent shakespearean sonnet in 30 minutes wasn't worth "coddling"?

    Get a clue, and go spend some time in the real world. Meet some people who aren't computer gurus and talk with them about what they're good at before you judge them to be idiots.
  • by StaticLimit ( 26017 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @04:54AM (#888947) Homepage
    Two words:
    It's Not

    Why don't geeks seem to be able to influence politics? Because politics is not tech-centric. Geeks are defined primarily by their views on technology and are often anti-social. Politics in it's current state is defined largely by candidates views on social issues. And as George W. (and to an only slightly lesser extent Al Gore) demonstrate, election politics is a shallow popularity contest between two liars who know the right buzzwords and scare tactics to turn on the single-issue voters. (despite my cynicism, I DO have strong opinions on social issues as well as tech issues, and will not be voting for GWBasi^H^H^Hush)

    Geeks have a variety of views on social issues. I'm a very liberal Democrat, but I know a lot of Republican geeks. And while geeking away at our programming jobs, there's no conflict because the issues that separate the candidates are not technology issues. Sure, plenty of tech bosses have strong opinions on the direction of national economic policy (really, they're interested in avoiding taxes on their loot), but the masses of geeks will never form a useful political block with the current state of politics in America.

    - StaticLimit
  • by PigleT ( 28894 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @04:38AM (#888955) Homepage
    The war of politics v technology is simple:
    * "go ahead, sniff my mail"
    * "ok, we can"
    * "beat my encryption"
    * "anything going over these wires is susceptible to legally enforced decryption"
    * "asshole".

    But what really annoys me is that in the process of setting up legislation, they just sponge off all the hackers who set these things up for everyone to use. The government does not rule the 'net; it is subservient, it lives in its own little ".gov.uk" box just like any other net-connected entity.

    Mr Straw, if you're watching: you're a patronising idiot, yeah?
    ~Tim
    --
    .|` Clouds cross the black moonlight,
  • by dkh2 ( 29130 ) <dkh2@WhyDo M y T i tsItch.com> on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @05:41AM (#888956) Homepage
    I've noticed these tendencies:
    • Shrimp and Lobster do not tend to congregate at the same functions. In fact, there seems to be a sort of elitism among the larger, more sought after Maine lobsters.
    • Among the bivalves, there is also a very broad range of sociability.
      • The more common varieties of clam (cherrystone, littleneck) are shunned by the more aristocratic scallops.
      • Even among scallops the flamboyant flame scallop seems to hold itself above all others
    • Crabs have an elaborate societal structure all their own with divisions even between hard shell and soft shell stages of the same species.

    Wait a minute, I misread the heading. I was discussing Shellfish Society. In the immortal words if Emily Latella,... "Nevermind."

  • I have been lucky because my situation/family/background/financial situation enabled me to have the opportunity to use computers. Some people aren't so lucky. Some people may have been able to afford a computer but without having any guidance or inspiration, they have been shown what their potential could have achieved using computers.

    While this is of course, entirely helpful, it doesn't have any dependency on one's computer skills, or vice versa.

    I come from a lower-class background. While this means I end up behind a lot of people who were coding assembler at 6 because their families could afford SOTA computers in the early 80s, it didn't entirely prevent me from getting into the computer field and being fairly good in it. (I had other resources, mostly friends and family members who did have computers, eventually loaning me a then-clunky C64 in '93.)

    On the other hand, I did work relatively hard -- in grade and high school -- to get where I am now; without high marks and class rank in high school, I wouldn't have been able to get into a decent college without selling drugs or selling my body (or something). And that's where I got the resources I needed to really play around with and learn computers.

    All this aside, here's what I think you missed: Most people still don't want to know about computers. There may be antitheses to this rule (California, Cambridge, Scandinavia, etc.), but for the wide majority of the populace, its true. If it weren't for the 'Internet revolution', there would be hardly anyone who cared about knowing computers, and it would still be 1980 in terms of computer use.

    For those who have the inclination, and the social support (and I envy the young geeks who can build large social groups around technology interests today), computers are an accessible skill. But, regardless of economic background, if the social support isn't there, the interest in computers probably is not either.

    Some of us bucked the norm and found satisfaction in computer interests, but most people don't buck the norm, and simply go along with the crowd. And if that crowd isn't (really) into computers, they won't care about whatever options there are in IT, at least not for many years.

    If what you say about the significance of "being shown the possibilities" were true, then "Intro to Computers" classes would be creating CS majors left and right. But they aren't.

    There are some people working where I do, that I went to grade school with. Back then I was fooling with computers here and there, and for them, it was a laughable thing to do. Now they are trying to find their "options" in the IT field. Right now that option is to work downstairs -- making about half what I make upstairs.

    Now, I don't think I'm arrogant about it, but I do chuckle to myself when I think of the scorn I went through in order for that situation to happen. I'm glad I was able to experience it.

    The point is, although economic limitations will definitely hinder you, as they have me, they wont prevent you. But if you let yourself have disdain for the computer field (or culture, for what there is of one), then you prevent yourself, and I don't pity you.

    There's plenty of scorn going around. Whether that scorn comes from those who laugh at what you know, or from those who laugh at what you don't know... if you ask me, both are part of the computer learning experience. If I'm exuding a little scorn, it can't be all that bad.

    --
  • what's the deal with your homepage? I remember seeing that one night and totally freaking out.

    After watching some of the Republican convention last night, there's no way in hell I'm voting of GWB. I mean really, is "education" a platform? Seems more like a smokescreen to me.

    Much of the boon for tech-jobs also will be eaten up over the next 5-10 years through simple social progress. 20 years ago it was only the very rich/dedicated folks who had home machines (Which is almost a pre-requisite for raising a computer geek), now pretty much anyone can get one. (if you can't afford $20/mo., stop smoking) This wide availability will remove or at least smooth the huge knowledge gap between compu-geeks and the rest of society. This tends to make those skills less valuable, as they are better understood, not as mysterious, and therfore more common. And all of that is still under the aforementioned recession worries.

    --
  • In this world
    she finds much hostility and paranoia, a world of "testosterone-poisoned guys with chips on their shoulders and too much time on their hands." Ouch.


    There is an angle about the relationship between technies and non-techies the article misses, which is the exploitation of geeks, and the general tolerance for immaturity and downright rudeness when dealing with them. There is a symmetry in the alienation of geeks and their objectification by nontechnical managers and users. They aren't even treated as furniture -- that's the software. The tech support and developers are more like the crates the furniture came in. We aren't expected to have feelings, much less aspirations of our own or points of view.

    Geeks value knowledge; the problem is ignorant users. I don't like the perjorative term "ignorant", and reserve that for only some people. A child is not ignorant, rather innocent and needing education. For most people, I prefer to think of them "innocent" of technology -- they don't understand it, it's not their primary job to understand it. Geeks are incredibly generous when it comes to sharing knowledge(thus the great free open source support). The tough part with the innocent users is that they aren't always ready to learn -- they're focused on immediate results. Wise geeks take their cues from them and look for "teachable moments" rather than routinely force feeding them through the firehose.

    Then there are the truly ignorant folk, who tend to see all human interactions as a power game. A disparity in knowledge is therefore not an opportunity to learn or an unfortunate situation that can't be addressed right away. It is an outright disparity in the power game. They have to "cut you down to size" so they don't feel small. When I tell nontechnical folks this, they don't believe it could possibly be an issue, but I'll bet every geek who has ever worked dealing with nontechnical people has experienced it. When dealing with the ignorant, I console myself that they truly are small, and not because of their technical shortcomings.

    The irony of this problematic relationship between users and geeks is that if you like to help people, being a geek is a wonderful thing. So many people need help with technology.

    I do believe that even for geeks, who don't need the kind of daily social interaction that say, salesmean thrive on, true happiness is ultimately dependent upon being useful to other people. It's a tremendous rush when somebody gets excited because something you created puts power in their hands. It's very satisfying when somebody comes to you desperate and worried and you send them away happy and contented.

    It's also a great position to take a stand against the kind of organizational stupidity that grinds people down. I remember once helping the CEO's secretary by showing her how to adjust the volume of the beep on her computer. Whenever the boss (who was the most ignorant twerp imaginable) started to hear her computer beep, he'd come out of his office and look over her shoulder, because he thought she must be making too many mistakes. I was also in a position to influence against and in some cases subtly undermine attempts to use technology to dehumanize people or treat them in ways that were subtly or non-so-subtly disrespectful. This is why I truly loath programmers who work on crap like keystroke logging software.

    In the end, you can't expect being a geek to win you the outright friendship of most non-geeks; not that it matters; while I like most people, nearly all of my real friends are geeks. It takes a special person to befriend a geek unless you're that way yourself. On the other hand, if you are a helpful and reasonably approachable geek you can win the deep respect and sincere admiration of almost everybody. I remember the last MIS job I had, when I left there was a huge party and almost everyone in the buidling turned out. Some of the managers gave speeches of appreciation (even the ones I'd been something of a gadfly to) and the users had very warm and appreciative things to say.

  • >It's not "some people", it's all people. Everybody is born with the "hero nature" (to use your phrase), most just don't/can't come to terms with that.

    Inability to come to terms with it is, effectively if not essentially, the same as not having it. And it's a good thing, too, because the only alternative most people can imagine to being a sheep is being a wolf, and a surfeit of wolves can be rather...unhealthy.

    I don't trust everyone to be a "true invididual" as you put it. Too many people's expression of individuality is to be a selfish jerk.
  • And today's winner for most deserving of the title "Anonymous Coward" is...well, we don't know. ;-) But here's what s/he spewed:

    >Geeks are paid for their knowledge, not physical labor abilities. Physical labor is for people who don't have any real skills

    I wasn't talking just about manual labor. Even what we call "manual labor" can often involve more than meet the eye. It takes more training and practice to become a qualified pipefitter or carpenter than it does to sit in an office and create new JavaScript toys, and believe me you'll notice the difference if you hire someone who's still learning. A halfway decent tool and die person is harder to find than a good compiler writer. I'd rather write filesystems than be a cop or a firefighter or a social worker or K-12 teacher - all hard jobs with great social value, and the people who do them make peanuts compared to us.

    Lots of people are paid for their knowledge and their hard work and for tolerating danger or physical discomfort, but programmers are just paid for knowledge - and all too many programmers don't even have that.

    >I don't appreciate your racist comments towards whites either

    I've been hanging around /. for years, and that's still the most idiotic thing I've ever read here. I haven't said anything racist about whites; I merely observed that programming is a mostly white profession. In actual fact, as a white male I'm pretty quick to take offense at reverse racism/sexism, and have been ever since the time when I was denied a job for which I'd been recommended on the basis of my race and gender (University of Michigan, 1984). You're just the perfect example of everything that's wrong with the spoiled little turds who call themselves geeks nowadays.

    • Overwhelmingly white??? Has this guy ever been in a computer science program

    Yes.

    • or seen programmers?

    Yes. I've been programming professionally for over a decade now, which I'd guess is a decade longer than someone posting from Central Michigan U. :-P

    In my group there are nine full-time people, all white, plus one co-op who is Asian. In the associated QA group there are two white, one Asian and one Indian. Of the whole set, there is only one woman, plus our doc writer is a woman. Sadly, this is all pretty much par for the course in real-life software engineering. The whole industry tends to be white and male, even more so in development than in other areas (such as QA, IS, doc or management), and most of all in kernel development. I've worked with hundreds of developers, one of them black and none of them Hispanic. It's sad. But don't take my word for it. Don't accept any "anecdotal evidence" (an oxymoron, BTW) including your own. There are scientific surveys out there showing the same patterns.

    Sure, there are exceptions. One group I work with is full of people from India and Pakistan. Another is full of Chinese. These cliques - for want of a better term - are a well-known phenomenon in hiring; people hire others who are like themselves, minorities perhaps even more so than plain-vanilla whites because they (the minorities) feel embattled. And well they should, because by far the largest clique is the white guys. These little spots of diversity are still just spots, against a vast white background.

    • Drinking and screwing? I don't know what to say. I wish?

    OK, perhaps that's not quite accurate. Often the drinking is quite real, but the screwing is more a matter of imagination and reality. Combine that with a smattering of drugs and an obsession about music and you have your average college student. Replace some of the above with random abuse of the college's computer systems to play games, to download mp3s or porn or open-source software (all equally unrelated to coursework), or to further personal profit-making enterprises, and you have the average geek in college. What's noticeably lacking in any of this is adequate focus on actual coursework. For most people, college is no more than a very nice break before you start having to work for a living. Ask anyone who works in the real world, even in a cushy job like programming, whether they envy the "working conditions" in college. The workload and deadlines in college may seem pretty demanding to you, but they're nothing compared with the real world, and nobody in a real job gets as much vacation time.

  • by Salamander ( 33735 ) <jeff AT pl DOT atyp DOT us> on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @08:44AM (#888969) Homepage Journal
    >I've read a lot of posts on slashdot and elsewhere from pompous Rand naysayers, who almost always seem compelled to throw in gratuitous ad hominems

    Oh yes, like your characterization of anyone who doesn't worship Rand as "leeches" and "parasites" is really helpful.

    >These posts usually amount to one or two anecdotal references to "people I knew in college."

    There's a reason. It's an immature philosophy, favored by immature people, and for that reason it truly is more often encountered in college than in post-college "real life".

    >I've read only a few that even attempted a real argument

    If you define "real argument" as "something expressed in Rand's terms, using Rand's axioms" that's no surprise.

    >If you think Bill Gates is anything like one of Rand's heroes then you've missed the point of all her work.

    This is a favorite of Randites. This one guy I used to know always used to say "Read Virtue of Selfishness"...until I did. Then he'd say "Oh, VoS doesn't really describe it well, read Fountainhead"...until I did. Then it was "For the full treatment you have to read Shrugged"...until I did. I even passed his little quiz to show that I really had read and understood it, and I still disagreed with him. "If you disagree with it you didn't get the point" only works so many times.

    >Gates is anything like any of Rand's characters, he's a Peter Keating or Gail Wynand

    I didn't say he's an exact match, but he's more like than unlike. There are plenty of tycoons whose fortunes are entirely derived from mergers and takeovers and other high-finance games; they're the true second-handers. At least Gates and MS owe their success to something vaguely resembling a creative/inventive endeavour. Even MS's monopolistic practices are no worse than the blackmail of the "heroes" in Shrugged when they managed to achieve a monopoly regarding certain essential items. The only thing Bill apparently lacks is some quasi-mystical "hero nature" that is easy to pick up in a book but astonishingly useless as a guide for real-life social policy.

    Rand's writing - including her alleged non-fiction - is full of this crypto-Nietzschean attitude, which some might perceive as almost racist. Some people are apparently born with the "hero nature" and should be allowed to do whatever they want without inconveniences like governments, while the rest are mere sheep (or leeches) who should be glad to live off the leavings and discards of the super-race. One is left wondering how we distinguish the true titans from the pretenders. Is there a test? A genetic assay, perhaps? If we can rely on this natural talent to reveal itself, why do we not already live in a Randian paradise? The Randites, of course, do not have an answer except for their certainty that they themselves are among the Chosen Few.

    • >the people that run it and work in it have worked HARD to get what they have



    Most of the people in the computer industry have no freaking idea what hard work is. Programmers are an overwhelmingly white, male bunch raised in comfy suburbs, from whence they went to college on someone else's dime, spent four years drinking and screwing, then straight into an industry that dumps options and benefits on even the most half-assed of them as though they were gods. Most programmers have never had to perform any kind of manual labor at all, ever, and if they ever felt like they were poor it's only because they were playing little independence games with parents who would be ready to bail them out if things ever got truly rough.


    I'm a software engineer, and I currently do very well thankyouverymuch. There are people who've had it a lot rougher than me, but I can at least claim to've spent time outside the "reality distortion bubble" in which programming is done and I never forget what it was like. I am constantly amazed and dismayed at how many programmers act like the salaries and working conditions in this industry are normal. Here's a clue, folks. The median household - not personal - income is considerably lower than the median starting salary for a software engineer coming out of college, who is probably single and generally has zero years of real-world experience. Most people don't get stock options. Most people don't even get flex time. They get their own cube if they're lucky, and dream of some day having their own office. Anyone with the tiniest shred of intellectual honesty would admit that we in this industry are unbelievably fortunate and privileged by any sane standard.


    Work hard, my ass. I've worked far harder than most people around me to get where I am, and it's still nowhere near as hard as regular folks have to work to get even half as much. Get real.

  • by Salamander ( 33735 ) <jeff AT pl DOT atyp DOT us> on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @06:33AM (#888971) Homepage Journal
    I used to know a lot of people in college who were fanatical about Ayn Rand. Then they grew up. I've yet to meet a Randite who thought they were anything short of exceptional. Every last one cherished the fantasy that they were a Roark or a Galt, that their lack of stunning success in life was because they were surrounded by "leeches", and that under the right circumstances their utter superiority would become manifest and incontrovertible. It's a seductive daydream, particularly to nerds who have raised escapism to an art form, but it's no more than that.

    Real live humans are much more diverse and complex than Rand's caricatures, and the difference really does matter. The simplistic half-solutions offered by Rand share a fatal flaw with earlier simplistic solutions inspired (ironically) by Marx, which is that they work only for cartoon characters. Bill Gates is the closest real-life approximation to a Rand "hero", and I don't think we need more of him.
  • Yes, I read Animal Farm. Orwell was deeply suspicious of anyone who claimed privilege. You know, politicians AND corporate executives. The greatest tool for freedom is freedom itself, not the dictatorship of the masses. I've seen the masses, at Wal-Mart, and frankly I don't want them voting on what I should do. Is that elitist? No. Elitism is *me* trying to tell *them* what to do. I want a world where nobody tells anybody what to do. I want a world where people *ask* first. What's wrong with that?
    -russ nelson, registered Libertarian

  • But Mark, all of your examples are either false, or instances where the government has granted a monopoly. Windows has its copyright, CSS has its copyright. I can go buy indie or import CD's at my local record store.

    You're right about the masses, though. Now, do you really want these people using the violence inherent in a system of government?? I sure don't!
    -russ
  • This society is more than ever geared towards savage competition - "Overclocked Darwinism"
    Corporations have the power of money.
    Government have the power of law (and money, to a lesser extent)
    Geeks/Nerds have the power of tech knowledge
    etc...
    This being said, each of the above uses its power to get ahead ... OR LOSE THE GAME. We have no choice. We must strive or die off.

    Also, let's not confuse realism with cynicism. I don't believe I have the power to change society. Therefore I choose to benefit 'my clan', THAT I have control over. I agree, this is where the problem lies; we stopped believing in the usefulness of society.
    ---

  • You apparently don't have a clue.

    The point is not the number of hours worked, but how hard they work during them. I certainly hope you have today off, because otherwise you're just another slacker.

    Yes, you may have a job that allows you to do this for whatever the reason may be. However, as a general rule in our culture, workers are lazy. You're being paid to do work, not just show up at work. "Oh, you're having a bad day? In that case, go ahead, mope at your desk doing nothing on my dollar." Pft.

    Why are Cuban-Americans so successful? They got off their asses and moved to the USA. They have ambition, and to further it, they work hard. Not many of them flee the country in a boat, then proceed to lie on their couch watching tv all day.

    ------

  • What a great review -- informative and clear rather than rabble-rousing.
  • It is noteworthy that review [reason.com] neatly shoots down the assertion from which the screed draws its title:

    In fact, even the "data" Borsook cites don't support her contention. She notes that the regional United Way goal in Silicon Valley has not increased during the '90s and that, although San Jose has double the average U.S. per capita income, local charities do not receive twice the national average in donations. (She doesn't say how much they do receive and doesn't cite any sources for the data.)

    Additionally, she notes a survey by the Community Foundation Silicon Valley (CFSV) of area residents across all income lines that indicates they give to charities at a level similar to the national giving rate (about 2 percent of annual income). What's more, in Silicon Valley, "the percentages of those giving in each income bracket are somewhat above national averages."

    Such data are her main evidence for the oft-bruited assertion that the high-tech world is uniquely stingy. Borsook simply assumes that Silicon Valley can be equated with the entire high-tech sector and that United Way is a reasonable proxy for all charity. And if you look at the CFSV report that she mentions, you find that 83 percent of Silicon Valley households donate to charity, compared to 69 percent nationally, and that Silicon Valley adults volunteer at a rate exactly equal to the national average (49 percent). But 40 percent of Silicon Valley charitable giving goes outside the immediate area, which might help explain the local United Way situation.


    /.
  • American culture has always held this ideology, this is nothing new or exclusive to the "selfish society" of the computer elite. And it's nothing new that those in power want to keep and hold the power and look down upon those who don't have power.

    And it's nothing new that those in power smear those who resist their dictates as "selfish", "unpatriotic", "unmutual", or whatever buzzword seems most likely to be effective.

    One of the all-time great scams was the discovery by some tribal chief that he could invent a bunch of arbitrary "obligations" (kill who I tell you to kill, give me a portion of your food, pray the same way I do, etc) and equate them to one's natural obligations (honestly support oneself and one's family, keep one's given word, etc). Thus, the former were draped in the moral authority of the latter, and so government was invented.
    /.

  • The solution to the problem of bad politics is not a "geek" special interest group. It does not lie in gathering influence to protect our interests. If we do that, then we're no better than the RIAA or the tobacco industry.

    The solution is to promote a society in which *everyone*, not just corporations or lobby groups, takes an interest in politics. If each and every individual(or at least a commanding majority) watched the actions of their elected representatives and made their voice heard, there would be no need for endless lawsuits to overturn unjust laws. There would be no midnight-hour amendments to unrelated laws, because the first politician to do so would drown in angry mail from a hundred million people. This is what democracy requires to function--an active citizen oversight process.
  • Thank you.

    I started working my way up in this loose conglomerate called geekdom _because_ it was a meritocracy (though the -cracy part is questionable -- what do we rule?). My liberal arts education at a prestigious university showed me conclusively that art is dead. So, if I can't achieve success through merit in the dead field of art to which I was originally called, I'll look for a field in which merit is appreciated.

    My skills are appreciated in geekdom, whereas in liberal arts they were viewed as threatening and disruptive. I don't know about you JonKatz, but I'd rather put my efforts into a field where they are appreciated. It's unfortunate that much of society is more concerned with polite appearances than with merit, but someone's got to run things. You don't want your highways designed by nice people who lack clues but give good meeting.

  • I peronsally see this article as proof of what Katz is trying to say, that the social graces of the "normal world" do not seem to exist in the techno-culture.

    Bingo! That's because techno-culture isn't the normal world - you're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. I got a kick in the ass from the "normal world" when I was 5 or so and realized that 95% of the people on this planet don't give two shits about learning anything. The sheer time investment it has taken me to get where I am - the thousands and thousands of hours in front of computers and reading books in my early teens will of course affect how I percieve the world and the culture I live in. There's lots of other people who feel the same, and I suspect for similar reasons.

    What Katz is trying to do is make it seem like the techno-culture needs to encompass the slack-asses of the world. I respect intelligence and skill - at something. If you haven't got either, I'm not going to respect you. That's just the way it goes in my world.

    One of the things I believe is that everyone has something they're good at, and they should do that, or they're not going to be happy. Spend your time doing something you like, work to be the best at it, and you'll get respect from the "techno-culture" because they respect that. Nothing pisses me off more than the sterotypical blonde bimbette without two clues in her head. Or, not to be sexist, Rocco, her male counterpart. Not to whore for karma, but I suggest Katz, you, and anyone else having difficulty read A Portrait of J. Random Hacker [netmeg.net].

    Isn't this a little harsh? The natural gift of intelligence is scarcly different than the gift of athleticism or being attractive.

    Oh, the irony. I didn't see any of the "beautiful people" sharing their social networks - I still don't. Do what you like and do it well. I could be a lot more harsh - harsh was public school - but I've mellowed in my old age.

  • You, I, most of /. live in the probably the single most privileged culture on earth -- ever -- and yet you claim it's a meritocracy. How many women write code with you? How many minorities? How many, to refer to Katz, elderly, the poor, foreign-born do you work with?

    On my team (4 people) there's one fellow who grew up and was educated in Nigeria. You are right however - but, the question is flawed. The minimum qualifications for what I do are a post secondary degree - and if you do this kind of work, you're not poor (well, I won't be poor. Still gotta eat KD every now and then to pay off student loans). You still have the problem that not everyone has the intelligence to do this job, should we hire anyone who walks in off the street, because they want a tech job? Of course not. But that's where this arguement leads. Life ain't fair. IMHO, in *Canada*, there's enough opportunity for anyone who wants to sacrifice to get ahead. If they're *lucky* enough to have parents who *encourage* reading and math when they're little. If not - it's NOT MY PROBLEM. If these people need to lead a life of crime, we have prisons. That's the american model. It's not as bad in Canada, but only because we're a little more socialist than you guys. And got the taxes to prove it.

    Katz's point (while strangely symptomatic of the generational narcissism he faults us for) is much more general (and subtle) than 'we owe the world 'x';' and I have little or no patience for those who whine 'I was treated badly in junior high.' At least have the courage to help those who were like you (you generally, not you xtal).

    Who's whining? I'm happy with my world, as I've stated many times. It seems from the replies I get that you poke around, you hit lots of raw nerves. What do you propose we do, then? Remove those nasty qualifications from jobs? Let gutter bums preform brain surgury? Why not lobby your congress for more taxes to subsidise post secondary education for all those poor kids? That's one of the things we have here in Canada.

    Technology is thus what Foucault referred to in The Order of Things as a discousre of power.

    Now, you have a good point. If you want to talk about real power - real power comes from the barrel of a gun. The right for the state to take your life - Government is a monopoly on violence. Violence, or the threat thereof, is what our socieities were built on.

    Your mastery of technology means nothing if the elderly, poor, and foreign-born break into your home and destroy your computers and burn down your house.

    That's why roughly 47% of my income is taxed (in Canada), to maintain reasonably good standards of living for those people. You will note that a good percentage of that buys guns, chemical weapons, and military forces (SWAT, Police, Militia (Canadian Reserve), etc, to guarantee that if someone takes what's mine, the government will enforce their monopoly on violence and lock their bitch asses in jail. Didn't take long for that right to get exercised in LA. If society breaks down, and I don't get killed in the process, we'll cross that road then.

    That is to say: look beyond the code to see the effect that your excercise of technological prowess has upon the world at large.

    What, stop coding and go live in a field? There's a divide in our society that's centered around intelligence, it sucks for equality, but it's there. Am I to be faulted for that? Not everyone is economically equal in a capitialist society. They can't be. These arguements smack of much more socialism than I'm willing to put up with.

    Maybe society will switch and value living on farms more. Then I'll be screwed (maybe). Till then.

  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @04:46AM (#888997)

    This techno-elite, taking sophisticated knowledge of technology for granted, has lost touch with the vast numbers of people in the world -- the elderly, the poor, foreign-born -- who don't share their skills and confidence.

    One of the reasons that tech culture seems "selfish" and "arrogant" to others is that the people that run it and work in it have worked HARD to get what they have. Posers, idiots, and other creatures are thrown to the side, because difficult as though it may be to grasp, this culture is a meritocracy. You get what you work for. If you don't know squat, this is easily demonstrable (even by others, to you). This concept is completely foriegn to most people, especially those that have been coddled through life.

    You want to be good with tech? You have to be smart and dedicated. If you're not, tough noogies. There aren't armies of geeks wanting to come to your door and baby your email when it doesn't work. The problem is that, of course, everyone is not smart and dedicated. This isn't my problem.

    You will find some of the richest in this industry - Gates, being the prime example - are more than happy to give money to worthy causes. Like libraries and feeding starving people. Not coddling idiots.

    This sentiment runs deep, I suspect, because most of us got the shaft from "popular culture" when we were young (myself included). Well, the tides are turning, and no, I won't hand things to you on a silver platter. Go bust your ass and then come and talk to me. I'm happy with my world.

    As a culture, it mistakes mechanical skills -- like programming an operating system -- with technological knowledge and power. It tolerates an alarming amount of hostility and abuse, both of which make any political communications -- at least those in public -- nearly impossible.

    What kind of non-sensical babble is this? The ability to manipulate information processing machines to do what you want (programming) IS power. It's just not a power that's equally distributed. It's a power some of us might have even been born with. "Political communications" - is that what this drivel is? Make sense, man!

    Arrgh. I can't deal with this anymore. Get a clue, Katz.

  • Damn right. The father of a friend of mind, unfortunately grew up rather poor. His father wouldn't even LET him go to college. But he is brilliant. He works for low pay as a machinist now, but this guy is a mechanical genius. He takes apart and puts together cars. He *invents* new machines to create all sorts of metal objects. I'm sure he would have made a great engineer. Unfortunately he was not as lucky as any of us sitting on our asses and typing on slashdot complaining how "hard" we have it. Some people would kill to work 80 hrs/wk for ~40-50k.
  • "The scary thing is that "American culture" is taking over."

    Or perhaps "American Aculture". I can hardly see McDonalds and Backstreet Boys as "culture". More like facades for profit making.
  • by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @05:53AM (#889000)
    We are becoming a more materialistic, superficial world (or at least nation). I've noted that America (US), is basically acultural. It is a melting pot of cultures that annihilate. Nobody really has underlying common bonds with neighbors, other people in general, etc. I'm an atheist, but there certainly is something to be said for the framework and goals religion, and culture, bring. So here we are in acultural America, where the only Gods are fortune and fame. We geeks sit here and complain that sitting on our asses all day for $X0k is somehow not fulfilling. Others buy a Gargantuan, to one-up their neighbor's Expedition. The only thing we have in common, is really the pursuit of material. Post-modern is an overused word, but we are clearly a very nihilistic society. It's no wonder that kids don't know how to deal with emotions and self-esteem, and do crazy things that we in turn blame on every aspect of society. It's not just geeks, and their hyperactive gadget obsession, it's everybody.
  • Because Katz isn't a geek, and yet seeks to write about them in perpetuity, he continually convinces himself that there is an overall geek outlook.

    There is an overall geek philosophy. Technology and innovation are valued above more conservative standards. When a millimeter-sized camera is announced, the geek will react first in appreciation (Neat. Cool. How does it work? Must get one.), then with caution (But what about privacy?), and finally with acceptance (Everyone will have one, but just wait until the micron-sized ones are released!).

    The non-geek will react differently. First with detached appreciation (Look what those wacky scientists/engineers created.), then with caution (If I can monitor my son/daughter, does this mean they can watch me at work?), and finally with legislation (Digital Camera Protection Act).

    The difference is that a geek believes that technical progress is its own reward. The non-geek wants to understand how technology impacts the social framework.

  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @07:35AM (#889006) Homepage
    Because it is invariably by those who are themselves, or who are trying to manipulate me through guilt.

    Yes, I do owe something to others. Mostly my parents who saved and made opportunities for me. That was their choice, and I honor it by repeating it for my children. I also owe a great intellectual debt to those scientists, inventors and engineers who preceded me. They have already been rewarded for their work, and I honor them by continuing it.

    But otherwise, forget it. Others certainly are less fortunate. But am I to somehow make them moreso? How? Why? What do I owe them? Many of them take a great deal of money from me via taxes.

    The point Mr Katz made is valid, however. If we do not learn mass communications [pandering] and power politics, we will be dominated by those who do.

    This is a democracy, not a meritocracy. So if some sleazy lawyer contributes money to the re-election fund of a similarly sleazy politician, do not be surprised at sleazy laws.

  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @08:35AM (#889008)
    What's disturbing is the trivia that geeks vehemently fight over. The GeForce people are against the Voodoo tribe. Quake 3 vs. Unreal Tournament. Dreamcast vs. PlayStation 2. Athlon vs. Pentium. RedHat vs. Debian. Emacs vs. vi. KDE vs. Gnome. These aren't treated as points of diversity, but as raging, personal offenses. You never see people fighting over brands of TV or coffee, so why tech stuff? Why are we so confrontational?

    What's funny about most of these issues is that they're viewed as important battles to be won, and yet, aside from being superficial, they're mired in misunderstanding. Some people hate KDE because they firmly believe that only techies should be able to use computers, not realizing that most of the ease-of-use criticisms are coming from within the tech community. There are also people who argue about superiority of Linux over Windows, yet those persons' idea of using a computer is surfing for pr0n and MP3s. And there are people who insist that Nvidia is the only graphics show in town, yet they don't realize that game makers are barely supporting a fraction of what any card could do, because of driver instabilities and the too-high pace of change.
  • by The Queen ( 56621 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @06:35AM (#889010) Homepage
    You know, I thank the stars that I was able to dork around with computers and teach myself Photoshop and HTML and that I can hack JavaScript enough to make my customers happy. I worked to get where I am but I also realize that luck has always been a factor. So you are right, some folks aren't that lucky. SO WHAT. Life sucks for some people, it's always been that way. America is moving at breakneck speed trying to homogenize opportunities for its citizens, far more than the rest of the world. But someone will always be on the bottom. You eat fast food? Your office have a janitor? You can't turn every sad case into a techno-jillionaire, that's not the way Life works. There will always be people who don't get a 'fair shake' or who live in shitty conditions and die without ever realizing their potential.
    The REAL issue here is that most of us geeks aren't paying attention to politics enough to protect what we've built. And if it comes to pass that we have our precious online freedoms legislated out from under us then that's our tough luck and we have no one to blame but ourselves. Selfish? Nah. Arrogant? Absolutely. We've worked hard to earn the right to be.

    The Divine Creatrix in a Mortal Shell that stays Crunchy in Milk
  • This reminds me of a couple years back when I used to work for a local ISP as a tech. One of my duties was answering calls from customers having trouble with their connection. You'd be suprised how many people scream "MY INTERNET IS NOT WORKING!" which begs the question -- is it really YOUR internet? Not exactly... I wanted to bitch so many customers out for that; I got pretty tired of hearing it. =)

    So really, I don't think that this "my this, my that" thing has much to do with "tech culture" in general. I would not have considered those people on the phone part of the "tech culture" by any means. They just wanted to get on the internet and try to search for the latest gardening tips. I think it's something else in (American?) society that is causing this syndrome...

  • by ostiguy ( 63618 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @04:42AM (#889016)
    political values when they are such a diverse group?

    There are christian geeks, satanic geeks, moon worshipping geeks. Religious diffrences result in different viewpoints on online censorship. On copyright, some want abolishment while others point to copyright as being the basis for the GPL. Geeks have wildly diffrent views on freedom (BSD vs. GPL).

    Because Katz isn't a geek, and yet seeks to write about them in perpetuity, he continually convinces himself that there is an overall geek outlook. At best, there is a general tendency towards libertarianism in the computer realm. Jon, the geeks are not going to rise up in unison and stop the "corporatist" usurpers, or whatever your current threat is.

    matt
  • by dboyles ( 65512 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @04:39AM (#889021) Homepage
    I think it's unfortunate that the public should have to "deal" with "real politicians." Elected officials were put in office to represent the voice of the people. Perhaps the problem is that some people don't know how to voice their opinions in a constructive way, but I think an equally significant problem is that politicians haven't yet learned how to listen to what they call the "internet generation." The increasing commercialization of the internet forces government officials to focus on the internet, but most of them really don't know much about it. So what happens? Instead of listening to the "real" voices of the internet, politicians listen to Big Business.

    I don't think there is a way of organizing internet users into a powerful political voice, but perhaps this Napster brouhaha will do just that.
  • A process needs to be created by which up and coming technologies can be evaluated. A simple statement to make but with a huge burden of explaination and justification...

    I think that technology is not neutral. Believing that a technology is only "as good as the person who is using it" is naive! Every technology has social ramifications that are inherent in its purpose. Marshall McLuhan is often quoted "the medium is the message" but people generally misunderstand this to mean that a medium influences what content can be transmitted on it. I think what it means is more literal: a medium is itself a message... a technology has a specific effect on society... a lightbulb requires a power infrastructure which implies large capital interests, which in democratic capitalism meant large power companies. This is a direct social effect of the technology of the lightbulb.

    So what's my point?

    Well, I think that both political and social institutions as well as geeks need to fully wake up to the fact that "the medium is the message" and start making decisions about technology on that basis. And do it in a rational manner... not in some haphazard way through boycotts, legislation, lawsuits etc.

    I think that a rational examination of technologies will be built on a framework that includes the following three pillars:

    1. "the medium is the message"
    2. human rights (a la Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
    3. "the world is one country" and humankind its citizens
    I have been writing a paper on this exact subject. It is currently in progress (and some parts are really old and pretty rough to boot!) but here it is [berteig.org]. (I hope my poor server holds up :)

  • "Democracy is two wolves and a sheep, voting on what to have for lunch."

    I first heard that about 10 years ago, and then a couple weeks ago here on /., but I forget who posted it.

    That's why the U.S. was formed as a Constitutional republic and not a pure democracy - to keep the majority from infringing on the rights of the minority. Fat lot of good that's done though - the Constitution gives NO authority for the creation of almost all the three-letter federal agencies that exist, but did that stop them from being created?



    --
  • What is Libertarianism?

    Libertarians and their ideas are often misunderstood. Libertarian.Org is here to offer an overview of the libertarian philosophy and the libertarian movement. It is designed to be an introduction to the breadth and depth of libertarianism, for the long-time libertarian and the curious newcomer.

    While libertarians are a diverse group of people with many philosophical starting points, they share a defining belief: that everyone should be free to do as they choose, so long as they don't infringe upon the equal freedom of others.

    Human interaction should be peaceful, voluntary, and honest. It is never acceptable to use physical force to achieve your goals. The only time force is acceptable is when you are defending against force.

    This might not seem very radical. After all, your parents probably taught you not to cheat, steal or pick fights -- in other words, not to use force against others. What sets libertarians apart is that they don't make any exceptions to this principle -- not even for governments.

    In the libertarian view, governments should be held to the same standards of right and wrong as individuals. As a result, libertarians believe that governments should not interfere with the interactions and exchanges of peaceful people.

    (from http://www.libertarian.org/)

    --
  • by phutureboy ( 70690 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @08:00AM (#889037) Homepage

    Libertarians and their ideas are often misunderstood. Libertarian.Org is here to offer an overview of the libertarian philosophy and the libertarian movement. It is designed to be an introduction to the breadth and depth of libertarianism, for the long-time libertarian and the curious newcomer.

    While libertarians are a diverse group of people with many philosophical starting points, they share a defining belief: that everyone should be free to do as they choose, so long as they don't infringe upon the equal freedom of others.

    Human interaction should be peaceful, voluntary, and honest. It is never acceptable to use physical force to achieve your goals. The only time force is acceptable is when you are defending against force.

    This might not seem very radical. After all, your parents probably taught you not to cheat, steal or pick fights -- in other words, not to use force against others. What sets libertarians apart is that they don't make any exceptions to this principle -- not even for governments.

    In the libertarian view, governments should be held to the same standards of right and wrong as individuals. As a result, libertarians believe that governments should not interfere with the interactions and exchanges of peaceful people.

    Read more at http://www.libertarian.org/ [libertarian.org]



    --
  • For those who have a hard time understanding or handling more than 1,000 pages, you might try The Virtue of Selfishness [amazon.com].

    Everything is diced up into shorter essays that two-dimensional readers might find easier to swallow. Then again, thinking is a prerequisite to understanding this material.

    Interestingly, people either absolutely love or hate Rand's writing. Usually that's an indication that the issue has to do with the philosophy represented than a name-calling slam (usually by one who hasn't even read the material).

    *scoove*
  • by scoove ( 71173 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @04:38AM (#889040)
    1. Visit Amazon.com - Atlas Shrugged [amazon.com]

    2. Buy it.

    3. Read it.

    4. Either understand it or bug off and continue to be a parasite.

    *scoove*
    "But I don't think of you."
  • by ka9dgx ( 72702 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @06:19AM (#889042) Homepage Journal
    At first I thought she was dropping literary references by the truckload just to keep me from reading the book... eventually I figured out it's just a culture/background difference. There were a ton of references I just didn't get due to the wide separation of her life and mine in terms of experiences and culture, but it was still a VERY valuable read.

    The author has us (slashdotters, and technologists in general) pegged... and has valid concerns about the direction we're going in. We do need to look around, see the bigger picture, and try to plan things out a bit more. (A ton more would be better).

    If you can make the culture bridge, and not take it personally, it's a good critique.

    --Mike--

  • I find it truly unsurprising that nowhere in this article or this discussion has anyone asked or considered whether perhaps ugly, selfish people are the people that can contribute most to the advancement of the species. a bunch of unmotivated nice people sitting on a hilltop holding hands doesnt seem like a way to get much done.

    I am selfish; the majority of things I do probably aren't for the best of other people, and lots of things I do probably make other people miserable. fuck them. it has yet to be demonstrated to me that anyone else is more important than me; I would be shocked if you didnt think that there is noone more important than yourself.

    if you do truly think that society or other people is more critical to the advancement of the species than you are, please do us all a favor and kill yourself; we're short on oil and food.
  • "You want to be good with tech? You have to be smart and dedicated. If you're not, tough noogies. There aren't armies of geeks wanting to come to your door and baby your email when it doesn't work. The problem is that, of course, everyone is not smart and dedicated. This isn't my problem."

    One of the problems with political institutions making laws governing all things technological is that they don't understand them. The only way that laws will be passed that can intelligently govern things on the internet is if politicians and the general population do come to understand that better. If we do care about technology and the internet, then we should help other people to use and understand them. It is our problem if they don't.

    "This sentiment runs deep, I suspect, because most of us got the shaft from "popular culture" when we were young (myself included). Well, the tides are turning, and no, I won't hand things to you on a silver platter. Go bust your ass and then come and talk to me. I'm happy with my world."

    Does the fact that popular culture didn't treat many of us with respect mean that we have no responsibility to society? We do make up our own little niche of society and we can either choose to do the same things or we can grow up and try to do something good for people. If we do that then we'll be more valued and younger geeks will reap some of the benefits of that.

    We really do owe it to people to use our tech knowledge to help them to understand how to use technology and to understand the issues around it that concern us.

  • "money, power, fame... a geek craves not these things"

    if you need me to tell you who that was adapted from, you shouldn't be here.

    Jon, you've lost touch with your people. You're so intent on starting a geek counter-revolution, that you've lost touch of the people you think you're leading. How many black-box programmers give $.02 whether Bush or Gore is elected unless they have other motivations. Geeks don't have a coherent political agenda... DUH. Of course they don't. Their grouping isn't formed out of a shared ancestry, skin color, sexual orientation, geographical location, or shared traumatic experience. They do what they do because they love technology. Laws don't affect them.

    From the Matrix, the laws of the land are like the limitations of a computer game. Some you can bend, some you can break, and some you can ignore entirely.

    No matter how many rules the government erects, the cyber-elite will bend and break them, render them outdated and useless, and affect the new social order. And the cyber-elite IS affecting the new political order. Look at how the Republican national convention had to adopt articles of security, privacy, etc. AND is having the entire convention simultaneously streamed over the internet.

    How many of the politicians have had to espouse their standings on digital privacy and the like, along with their other standings on issues such as abortion, welfare, etc.?

    I'm a geek, but I'll also be standing up for MY OWN INTERESTS in voting this year. Some of those interests will regard the internet, privacy, and security, but others will involve issues even closer to me.

  • "money, power, fame... a geek craves not these things"

    if you need me to tell you who that was adapted from, you shouldn't be here.

    Jon, you've lost touch with your people. You're so intent on starting a geek counter-revolution, that you've lost touch of the people you think you're leading. How many black-box programmers give $.02 whether Bush or Gore is elected unless they have other motivations. Geeks don't have a coherent political agenda... DUH. Of course they don't. Their grouping isn't formed out of a shared ancestry, skin color, sexual orientation, geographical location, or shared traumatic experience. They do what they do because they love technology. Laws don't affect them.

    From the Matrix, the laws of the land are like the limitations of a computer game. Some you can bend, some you can break, and some you can ignore entirely.

    No matter how many rules the government erects, the cyber-elite will bend and break them, render them outdated and useless, and affect the new social order. And the cyber-elite IS affecting the new political order. Look at how the Republican national convention had to adopt articles of security, privacy, etc. AND is having the entire convention simultaneously streamed over the internet.

    How many of the politicians have had to espouse their standings on digital privacy and the like, along with their other standings on issues such as abortion, welfare, etc.?

    I'm a geek, but I'll also be standing up for MY OWN INTERESTS in voting this year. Some of those interests will regard the internet, privacy, and security, but others will involve issues even closer to me.
  • ...but you have to think it all the way through.

    Are you an individualist? or a socialist? How far will either perspective take you?

    I understand the concept of "majority rules", and that fits nicely in a boolean logic sorta way. But that disallows for balance in anything that oozes to the legislative level.

    I don't think that libertarians are wrong. They've got quite a lot to say. But I also think that socialist have as much validity to their perspective. Both individuals and the collective whole need to be considered in the government.

    There're a whole lot of lame statements (IMHO) concerning: Katz's right to post, the governments "true" role, the mass' inability to absorb technology, etc... Those all miss the point of this book and the issue it represents.

    When the resources aren't enough for everyone in the world, what are you gonna do? How wide will your sphere of influence/support grow? Will it include your family? How about your friends? Your town? Church? Soccer team? Neighbor?

    Are you really gonna play libertarian towards everyone until the person next to you earns your support? That seems pretty callous. And distrustful.

    I think that those are some of the values that this author is concerned with, and disappointed in finding within our society (at this time).
  • You dismiss the libertarian assumption that I belong to me, yet don't back this up or explain why your assumtion is correct.
    I don't belong to the state. I don't owe anybody anything by the virtue of their exsistance.
    Most intellectuals (self afixed title if I ever saw one) don't live on earth with me and my brothers. They live in a very bizarre universe. In the real world there is no such thing as tenure, you must continue to prove yourself relevant and useful at all times and we have to put into practice what we believe.
  • Uh. No. I don't see why you keep harping on taxes, most people would like not to pay taxes and will call themselves anything and make any arguement to rationalize their non-payment of taxes.

    I have full self-ownership. I also live in a country, and my citizenship is automatic. I enjoy certain rights, protections and freedoms. In exchange for these things (most tangible and least arguable to a libertarian is national defense) I pay taxes. It's an exchange of one thing of value (my time/energy/cash) for another (domestic saftey/rule of law).

    My bitch is that things I have no interest in and feel isn't the role of government (subsidies, welfare, foreign aid, military actions on behalf of corporations [see columbia], pork, etc.) is where my money is going.

    Remember, the libertarians are semi-anarchistic so there is no official platform. Also, I don't associate everything a self described Democrat or Republican says they believe with what they all believe. IE. I know Democrats that are full blown socialsts and some I think might really be independents.
  • by E-Rock ( 84950 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @07:00AM (#889065) Homepage
    Cybersilly By Brian Doherty

    Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-Tech, by Paulina Borsook, New York PublicAffairs, 267 pages, $24.00

    This is a bad book, unlearned in its titular subject, petulant, and poorly argued. It is tempting simply to dismiss it and move on. Despite its shoddy quality, however, Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-Tech is not irrelevant. Far from it. The book is fascinating as a case study in the reasoning and psychology behind opposition to the mix of individualism and anti-statism that characterizes contemporary libertarian thought.

    Borsook was a regular contributor to Wired magazine during its start-up period in the early-to-mid-1990s. During that time, she became alarmed at what she saw as the undue influence of libertarian thinking at the magazine and in the world it covered. As the dominant thought leader for computer industry culture, she suggests, Wired was a powerful vector for the libertarian "plague" or "parasite" (two metaphors Borsook uses for libertarian thinking at different points in the book). "It's worth trying to tease out what these mostly American, mostly West Coast inventors and programmer-droids and plutocrats are up to--for they have the big bucks, and cultural juice, that will be affecting us all as we head into the next millennium," she writes.

    Borsook took her first swipe at the topic in a 1996 Mother Jones article. As an extension of that lament about the supposed dominance of libertarian thinking in the high-tech world, Cyberselfish can expect a sympathetic audience. Most intellectuals, after all, are not simply unlibertarian but actively hostile to libertarianism. They don't agree with the philosophy's vision of a state restricted to the protection of its citizens' lives and property (if that much--anarcho-capitalists sail under the libertarian banner as well).

    What's more, most intellectuals tend to think there's something untoward about anyone who does embrace the libertarian philosophy. At best, goes this line of thought, such people are tools of moneyed interests. At worst, they are inhuman, atomistic drones. And while most Americans express sympathy for generally stated libertarian tenets (abstract visions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are A-OK), that sympathy tends to wear thin when rubbed against the sharper edge of specific policy applications (What do you mean, shut down the FDA?).

    Borsook throws around enough names to suggest a knowledge of libertarianism, but it's clear she doesn't know that much about the political philosophy she's attacking. She cites Friedrich Hayek, for instance, but misspells his first name and gives a ludicrously reductive reading of The Road to Serfdom's critique of planning. "All government intervention of course," she summarizes, "irresistibly lead[s] to Stalinesque collectivization of farms." Similarly, she mistakenly identifies Ludwig von Mises as the inventor of anarcho-capitalism. (Mises was no anarchist.) She mentions Murray Rothbard, the actual intellectual father of 20th-century anarcho-capitalism, to say that he borrowed the idea from Mises and then adds, in a bizarre footnote, "Who knows if it was a conscious choice."

    Borsook references Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate in 1996, and claims the L.P. "routinely" nominates him for high office. (So far, they've done so exactly once, though they may well do it a second time this summer.) She says the Cato Institute was founded a decade before it actually was and that the Scaife Foundation was one of its original funders. (Cato existed four years before getting any Scaife money, and Scaife is mentioned just to gratuitously hang Ken Starr around Cato's neck.) She brings up REASON, in order to claim that Editor-at-Large Virginia Postrel is used as a "Token Girl" at overly male and sexist computer-world conferences.

    For all the names she drops, Borsook doesn't seem to know what issues are actually the dominant concerns of libertarian writers and institutions--drug laws, education, foreign policy, and trade all go unmentioned. She has only the vaguest idea of the theoretical and empirical reasons why libertarians think what they do--not even enough to argue with them.

    If Borsook were your only guide, you wouldn't think there was any economic or philosophical reasoning, any history or logic on which libertarianism is based. The only apparent motivation is a snotty adolescent attitude among geeks, who have a "wicked excitement about...the Hobbesian war of all against all." Her technolibertarians suffer from "a kind of scary, psychologically brittle, prepolitical autism." They "make a philosophy out of a personality defect" and, she insists, are disproportionately involved in "programmatic weird sex."

    Borsook knows too little to contextualize libertarianism outside high- tech, and thus she equates it with "bionomics," cypherpunks, and George Gilder. Bionomics, a concept set forth by Michael Rothschild in a 1990 book of the same name, holds that, in the broadest terms, economies function like biological systems and can manage themselves. (Rothschild also created The Bionomics Institute, whose popular Bay Area conferences helped define high-tech's character and community.) Cypherpunks are radical opponents of any government restrictions on cryptography. Gilder is the great social-conservative cheerleader for high-tech, and Borsook is mostly interested in the biologically reductionist notions about sex roles and family life he has spun out in books such as Men and Marriage (1992), a revision of his earlier Sexual Suicide. Gilder is indisputably a high-tech guru, and his books Life After Television (1990) and Telecosm (2000) extol the liberating potential of technology like nobody's business. But his insistence on traditional male-female roles doesn't exactly play well in Silicon Valley. More important, such ideas have nothing whatsoever to do with libertarianism, techno or otherwise.

    No matter--any weapon Borsook can muster to bash the libertarian enemies she sees all about her will do. Hence she mocks Wired co-founder Louis Rosetto as a "neo-caveman" for entertaining sociobiological explanations for women's lack of dominance in high-tech, yet offers up feminist researcher Carol Gilligan's similar thinking as a rational explanation for the phenomenon.

    Strangely, Borsook herself frequently and frankly brings up the thinness of the factual assertions behind many of her arguments. In a typical moment, she points out that "political scientists who study the demographics of the Net do not find voting patterns that differ much from the world outside" and that political scientists have done no work on the intersection of libertarianism and high-tech.

    To another author, such facts might be cause for worry. But Borsook bravely pushes on. Even while acknowledging that she meets people in the high-tech world who aggressively deny being libertarian and others who claim not even to have heard the word, she nonetheless asserts that almost all techies--the deniers and the ignorant along with those who openly embrace the libertarian label--parrot the same simplistic line, her summation of libertarian thinking: "Government bad, market good; someone said it, I believe it, that settles it!"

    It isn't so much that Borsook strongly disagrees with every element of the modern libertarian message, though she surely would have problems with much of it if she knew what it was. It's that she considers libertarians unpleasant people. They're selfish, asocial, too into Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein; they indulge in impersonal, perverted sexual games because they can't stand real intimacy. She finds them "nasty, narcissistic, lacking human warmth."

    She peppers little insults like this throughout the book, and on some level this book could be seen as a personal lament: "Why is it so hard to meet nice guys in Silicon Valley?" Dotting the book are tales of bad dates with libertarian geeks who make snide remarks about bums and who send her unwanted e-mail, only to get riled when she explains she doesn't believe all that free-market stuff.

    But it isn't clear that Borsook has strong intellectual objections to the "free minds and free markets" matrix that undergirds most of what libertarians say and think. She spends a chapter dissing cypherpunks, for example, chiding them for being overly concerned with government meddling in their lives (she thinks they haven't suffered enough to complain). Yet she agrees with their central goal of halting government interference in the sale, development, and possession of cryptography.

    So what is Borsook's case beyond pique, beyond finding Bionomics conferences to be "little shops of horror," beyond lamenting that technolibs prefer Edge Cities to "real" urban centers, beyond finding libertarians "psychically exhausting"? Boiled down, she makes two arguments: First, high-tech people have no right to attack government since their industry would not have existed without government funding. Second, successful businesses are successful because they operate in a world where governments keep schools going, food and drugs pure, banks honest, and the like.

    The first argument is simply a non sequitur. Government is involved with just about any commercial transaction or field imaginable, if only because it builds roads. But the fact that the government paves streets hardly makes it responsible for all the businesses that spring up alongside them. (There is, moreover, ample evidence that road building would continue even if government disappeared.)

    The Defense Department's role in developing ARPANet, the forerunner to the Internet, was more as a customer than as an engineer creating something by design; it provided money for researchers doing early work on a decentralized computer network, but didn't plan or anticipate anything like the Internet we use today. Indeed, the essentially unplanned way in which the Internet developed is an example of the biologically informed models of growth and self-regulation that libertarians celebrate. It's also worth pointing out that the Internet's huge growth, both in terms of infrastructure and customers, came about due to commercial investment, not government financing.

    As for Borsook's second line of attack: Anyone advocating a smaller role for the state is by necessity thrust into the realm of historical fantasy, of imagining the way things could be. Government has arrogated so extensive a role to itself that it's understandable that many people might imagine that nothing the government has a hand in could possibly have happened without it.

    One of the key insights of libertarianism revolves around the notion of the "spontaneous order," the idea that social orders and markets can, do, and will develop to meet human needs without central direction or control. For instance, just because government has taken it upon itself to finance and run schools does not mean that no one would be educated if it didn't. Nor would restaurants start poisoning their customers if municipal food inspectors disappeared overnight.

    But Borsook doesn't understand what libertarians mean when they talk about spontaneous order. Thus she asserts that such a theory of "self-organization" appeals to "engineers' physics envy" and that "the reason for the rise in technolibertarianism is that engineers are practical and like to fix things and get things right, so of course only the sensible political choice of libertarianism would fit."

    In fact, the engineering mentality, which presumes a single best way of doing things in accordance with unchanging "natural" laws, is the exact opposite of the spontaneous order mentality that pervades libertarian thinking. That's why Hayek specifically identified the engineering mentality as the mind-set from "which all modern socialism, planning and totalitarianism derives."

    But Borsook hasn't thought about libertarian philosophy hard enough to make fine distinctions. To her, anything and everything anti-government--from militiamen obsessed with what they consider a Zionist-Occupied Government to people who want more foreign tech workers than current immigration laws allow--is tossed into the libertarian stew she finds so distasteful.

    The root of Borsook's problem--and perhaps of libertarianism's problem with mainstream writers and thinkers--is encoded in her book's title: Cyberselfish. She spends most of a chapter musing over the well-known "fact" that people who get wealthy from high-tech are unprecedentedly stingy with their corporate and individual giving. When I presented this thesis to Ann Kaplan, editor of Giving USA, one of the prime data collection sources for American philanthropy, she told me there are no accurate macro data to support that contention.

    In fact, even the "data" Borsook cites don't support her contention. She notes that the regional United Way goal in Silicon Valley has not increased during the '90s and that, although San Jose has double the average U.S. per capita income, local charities do not receive twice the national average in donations. (She doesn't say how much they do receive and doesn't cite any sources for the data.)

    Additionally, she notes a survey by the Community Foundation Silicon Valley (CFSV) of area residents across all income lines that indicates they give to charities at a level similar to the national giving rate (about 2 percent of annual income). What's more, in Silicon Valley, "the percentages of those giving in each income bracket are somewhat above national averages."

    Such data are her main evidence for the oft-bruited assertion that the high-tech world is uniquely stingy. Borsook simply assumes that Silicon Valley can be equated with the entire high-tech sector and that United Way is a reasonable proxy for all charity. And if you look at the CFSV report that she mentions, you find that 83 percent of Silicon Valley households donate to charity, compared to 69 percent nationally, and that Silicon Valley adults volunteer at a rate exactly equal to the national average (49 percent). But 40 percent of Silicon Valley charitable giving goes outside the immediate area, which might help explain the local United Way situation.

    Borsook's problem with an inherent "selfishness" that may not even exist is part of a general negative feeling about people who don't want as much government as she does. She doesn't feel spiritually akin to these espousers of libertarianism; their strongly expressed belief in a philosophy she only half-understands but associates with stinginess disturbs her. That kind of sociological prejudice rests on a false supposition, reflected throughout Cyberselfish, that "social" and "governmental" are coterminous, and that anyone who is against governmental action is therefore essentially "atomistic." The libertarian insight that the state is the nexus of legalized violence and coercion--and awareness of the special moral and practical dilemmas that its use thus involves--escapes Borsook entirely; she never even mentions it to try to refute it. Ignorant of the philosophical and intellectual background behind small-state thinking, she condemns it for being against cooperation. In fact, libertarians rely on uncoerced transactions and charitable fellow-feeling as the web holding civil society together--cooperation on mutually agreed terms at its finest, without force entering the equation.

    Why do Borsook and other anti-libertarians miss this? Willful, ideologically motivated blindness no doubt plays a role. But libertarians themselves must share a good deal of the responsibility. In public debate, they should be less negative and spend more time pointing out the ways in which a culture can survive and thrive by relying on spontaneous orders and voluntary exchanges that make all the world richer, cleaner, safer, and saner.

    Libertarians can perhaps take some solace that in over 200 pages Borsook fails to make a coherent case against "terribly libertarian culture." But they would do well to rely less on defenses of the right to be left alone, which can be interpreted as mere selfishness and hence something easy to dismiss. Recognizing that may be the key to understanding why so many are likely to agree with Borsook despite her inability to actually prove her case.

    Brian Doherty (bdoherty@reason.com) is an associate editor at REASON.
  • the reason the net culture right now is so sucky is the dumbing down of it. once aol opened the floodgates and geocities let everyone have a web page, no technical experience was needed....

    remember when your favorite local restaurant was discovered by a local newspaper and suddenly EVERYONE went there, and it started to suck? same thing has happened with the net. it was not meant to be this commercialized. the net culture at the stage it was at with HTML 1.0 and Gopher was very different, mainly as more people were the same... and more people were likely to know other people.

    the sad thing is those who bitch about the dumbing down and commercialization of the net are branded elitist and snobbish.

  • Either way, the masses have control. The masses go to Wal-Mart, it prospers. The masses buy Disney DVDs and watch NBC. The masses buy RIAA-endorsed CD and watch MPAA-approved movies. The masses buy PCs with Windows pre-loaded.

    These companies all make it pretty much impossible to have alternatives. Go find a high-quality PC without Windows at the same price as a Dell or Gateway. Go watch a DVD that doesn't have CSS on it. Listen to a CD that has no involvement with the RIAA or its member companies. It's hard to do, and getting harder as companies consolidate power. And there's nothing that the masses can do except continue to consume and increase the power of these coroporations.

    This isn't to say I'm a socialist/communist, but I do believe that a certain level of government oversight and laws are required for a good balance between the good of the consumers and the quest for profit for corporations and their shareholders.
  • I have been lucky because my situation/family/background/financial situation enabled me to have the opportunity to use computers. Some people aren't so lucky. Some people may have been able to afford a computer but without having any guidance or inspiration, they have been shown what their potential could have achieved using computers. I originally trained to be an engineer but switched to computer science after I realised that this is what I truly liked. Some people can't afford to do this. My two cousins live with their mother who is an elementary school teacher yet their mother wanted a REAL computer (for back then at least) and bought a top of the line PII 300 with 64mb of ram, 6gb hard disk and a decent video/sound setup. She paid top dollar for it. It is all about priorities, she saved up her money for a while cuz she knew what they wanted and she went out and bought it. Excusing those making >$20,000 from being able to own a decent computer (look at how much lower prices are now compared to what they used to be for a kick ass computer) is like excusing them from having decent medical care. They may have to sacrifice some luxuries like your cable tv with every premium channel, but when you have the basics like healthcare, utilities, house/car payments done.... then save for the bloody computer!!
  • The tech culture is becoming a elitist society with no coherent political values, poorly prepared to deal with real politicians, who pass real laws like the DMCA

    Anyone else suspect this article is a little barb back at all the slashdotters who have criticized katz in the past?

  • Hmmm. While I would tend to agree with Katz's general point that tech-culture tends toward elitism, I think he is blowing everything way out of proportion. Consider:

    Not surprisingly, this techno-civilization has little interest in the political systems that still dominate society, so it radically underestimates their power and has an inflated sense of its own.

    This seems like a generalization or stereotype. I personally am double majoring in polticial science and computer science, and most of my friends from the CS side of things do take at least a passing interest in politics. At least as much as anyone else in this country does, but I will try to avoid ranting about that for now. I would also mention the very successful OpenLaw group, which has submitted briefs and advised legal teams in several high-profile tech law cases, including the suit against 2600. The technical people involved with that could not be accused of not caring about politics and law.

    Having known only one reality, the young and techno-savvy can't quite imagine any other.

    It seems to me that we can easily imagine other realities, which is why there is always so much howling when something like Carnivore is announced. Everyone can see that we must not take technological freedoms for granted and must fight for our rights. If we could truly not conceive of other realities no one would pay any attention to Carnivore et. al, because we would be convinced that it could not effect us.

    The techno-young correctly grasp that many of the country's seminal institutions -- politics, journalism, education -- have failed them and the larger society. But nobody seems to have given much thought to what might replace them,

    Here, Katz finally admits how silly many of his previous articles have been. We have heard him going on and on for months and years about how Open Media was going to replace closed media, the young were building a new culture on line, blah blah blah, and now he tells us no one has given much thought to what is going to replace the "old order!"

    I usually refrain from Katz bashing, but this article is just a bit too much. He takes a single book and two emails and from that data set presumes to make generalizations about all of tech culture. Ordinarily, this would be par for the course where Katz is concerned, but in this case it is even more annoying than usual because he is contradicting virtually his entire body of previous work.

    Then: "Tech empowers the geeks! It lets them be individuals! Gives them power!"

    Now: "Geeks are too individualistic! They have no values and don't know what to do with their power! Everyone should be nicer to each other!"

    I too would like to see tech culture become a little less elitist, but I don't think the problem is anywhere near as bad as Katz is making it out to be. If I got an email claiming that anyone knew where to get encryption software I would think it was silly, because it should be obvious that not everyone does. The problem that that particular email shows is not with "tech culture", it is with the writer. (No offense to whoever wrote it, but go talk to some non-techies on occasion. It will be a good experience for you.)

    This could have been a really good, interesting article, but instead Katz has used a tiny amount of data to create a huge problem out of a fairly minor issue.

  • "The tech culture is becoming a elitist society with no coherent political values, poorly prepared to deal with real politicians, who pass real laws like the DMCA."

    'Zactly backwards. The real questions is:

    "Political culture has long been an elitist society with no coherent understanding of technical issues, and is poorly prepared to deal with real technological advance, such as distributed filed sharing, like Napster, Freenet, gnutella."

    Anyone remember the "digital decency act"? Yeah, that really cleaned the Pr0n off the internet. Nice work guys.

    Yes, various governments have boot-stomped a few indivuduals, but lets face it: all the hot air in the world hasn't changed the day-to-day reality that the internet is still vast, and untamed.

    And we like it that way.

    Politics will never react as quickly to change as the world's best information distribution system can.
  • The answer to your question is ORGANIZE a high-tech user oriented PAC (Political Action Committee), around a very small core of common issues in a way that will have impact on politicians.

    We have computer skills, and as a group, we have enough money to *buy* every elected official in the US, even leaving out the multibillionaire suits. What the hell else do we need to get what *we* want out of the politicians?

    The ACLU gets a lot of what it wants because it has a mailing list of people who can send a fax to their elected official on the ACLU's current favored issue with a few clicks on their issue Webpage they got to via the URL in the Webpage. There's no reason why we can't do this.

    The non-tech people who think that Windows is a real operating system have something at stake and need to be brought into this. We can't reach these people via the Internet only and we can't reach these people through ordinary news coverage.

    The solution is a media budget. Once we are buying megabucks of media ads, we'll get friendlier media coverage. Once we're in a position to object to particular news coverage and reporters and get them booted off the air, we'll get much friendlier coverage.

    We're going to get fucked by our President (no matter who wins), Congress, state and local elected officials until there's a critical mass of us.

    This means:

    • a few of us to set up the political action Internet site
    • a few paid professionals; lobbyists, political consultants, and support staff to go to Congress in person, figure out how to help our friends and zap our enemies
    • a shitload of us willing to participate at the level of receiving an e-mail every few days and a few mouseclicks...
    • a shitload of us willing to cough up $100-$1000 a year to keep things going.
    Such an organization is going to have to organize around a few, simple issues on which there is consensus among the informed, the issues bearing on our freedom as citizens, the issues that affect our ability to do business. (crypto, for instance)

    "Let George do it" is what got the Brits the RIP act and the Aussie situation where the government can break into people's computers at any time without a warrant. It got us the DMCA, CDA and Son of CDA, and it's likely to get us Internet taxation and even per-minute taxes if we don't DO SOMETHING.

    "People always get the local governments they deserve" - E.E. "Doc" Smith

    What does the passage of CDA, DMCA say about us?

    The bottom line here is that one has to pay to stay free. We are lucky in that all we have to spend is a little bit of time and relatively speaking, a little bit of money. Spending a little time and money now might mean not having to take up arms to defend our freedom a few years from now. You know, those nasty situations where you get to shoot at people who are shooting back? Kind of like a video game except with real blood, some of which might be your own. Perhaps the right to speak freely is worth losing one camping trip a year or delaying a major computer upgrade. If you don't find it worth it, you may find that you can't even whine online about your loss of freedom anymore.

    Now watch this get moderated to -1

  • "First of all, I disagree with Mr. Katz' use of the term "Democracy" at the end of this article. The VAST majority of those reading this article (and who are part of the Techno-Elite) do not live and work in democratic societies. Point-in-case: The United States of America is NOT a democracy. We are a Republic (in a democracy, majority rules. In a republic, the majority elects representatives and those representatives do all the decision making)"

    The United States is a Representative Democracy as distinguished from an Absolute Democracy as practiced in, for instance, ancient Athens. A Republic is a form of government in which supreme power does not reside in a single person but rather a group of people. A republic can be a democracy, oligarchy, plutocracy, soviet, etc.

    I do, however, agree with your assesment of geek psychology. We are the quiet types, and as Londo Molari once remarked: "The quiet ones are the ones that change everything." ;P

  • Since this particularly gifted society created its social revolution quite apart from politics, education, even most adults, it has no sense of history and little memory, which creates another point of vulnerability; to be ignorant of the past is to be defenseless against the future.

    This rather assumes that those of us who are part of this 'elite' society (even that sounds patronising and loaded with superiority complex - yuck) live life without ever taking note of what happens outside the walls of our cubicles. In fact much of this review seems to think that just because we can 'grok' Unix and 'frob' things left and right we never see any other part of life. Which seems to be continuing the Jon Katz theme of the alienated tech society. Well, yes, technically able kids at school get picked on, probably for precisely the same reasons that the science swat gets picked on or the math prodigy gets picked on - they have something which causes envy and resentment. However, most of us escape school still alive and kicking and get on with our lives in society, at which point we don't suddenly become outcasts who only communicate through wireless LANs to our neighbours or use our Palm Pilots to beam infrared requests to the milkman.

    From the Greeks to the the Enlightenment philosophers to Thomas Jefferson to Albert Einstein, some of the world's greatest thinkers have argued that to have knowledge is to struggle to understand the relationship between what you know and what you do. If they're right, we're in trouble. We have no common agenda. We stand for nothing.

    Speak for yourself. There is great danger in assuming that just because we work and play in the tech culture, that is all we ever see. With the exception of cults, and I would not describe the tech culture as a cult by any means, people may belong to many schools of interest and interaction. We do not live life in a vacuum and we cut ourselves off from the rest of society at our own individual peril.

    Cheers,

    Toby Haynes

  • Get this: Ford Expedition driving through Palo Alto one day with bumper sticker: Solar Energy Now
  • One of the reasons that tech culture seems "selfish" and "arrogant" to others is that the people that run it and work in it have worked HARD to get what they have.

    I don't feel like I've had to work hard for what I have. Ok, I pulled multiple all-nighters in school and at work to finish some of my projects, but overall I've had a blast (and I haven't worked half as hard as my parents or my financial-industry friends). During my high school summers, I used to restock shelves and take orders for cold cuts at a supermarket. That was hard work -- you're standing up all day, doing the same thing over and over, and smiling while you're doing it. You're not learning anything new, your brain atrophies, and at the end of the day you're exhausted. Frankly, I think today I have it incredibly easy.

    I do have a chip on my shoulder -- it's hard not to when people pretty much throw money and admiration at you wherever you go. It's especially hard not to when you used to be ostracized in school and now you're the shit. But ultimately I realize that what separates me from most other people is the set of opportunities that was presented to me. I have a hard time reconciling those two feelings, and I think this article presents that duality pretty well.

    You will find some of the richest in this industry - Gates, being the prime example - are more than happy to give money to worthy causes. Like libraries and feeding starving people. Not coddling idiots.

    This paragraph sounds like trolling to me, but hey. Gates give Windows to libraries -- I mean, regardless of whether that adds or subtracts value to the libraries, it's just another way to make Windows more entrenched in the world at large.

    The geeks that I know are generally well-meaning, but they don't think about world peace on a daily basis. They're just getting on with their lives like everyone else, and they're aware that they are part of a privileged elite. Once in a while some guilt will hit them and they'll donate some money (or bike a few hundred miles to collect some money, in my case :-).

    Overall I think the article was pretty accurate. We are arrogant and politically disorganized.

    Li.

  • Issues on Slashdot tend to be driven by this group ideal as much as anywhere else; it's a place where it's cool to be anti-Echelon and anti-DMCA.

    It's a wee tad condescending to suggest that it is only an issue of coolness, doncha think? Do right wing republicans consider their anti-abortion stance to be one of coolness? No, I think that the anti-DMCA, anti-RIAA, anti-fucking goddamn suits is just as political an issue as the above issue that so consumes the xtian right wingers. And just because a readership is young doesn't imply that it cannot be political. And some of us aren't as young as you might think. At 40 I'm probably a pretty old fart in this neck of the woods.

    BTW, don't you know that it's just a cool fad to use semi-colons?

    <;)>

  • by freebe ( 174010 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @04:41AM (#889207) Homepage
    "How could they take my Napster away?"

    "How could they take my (TV|radio|soma) away?"

    Well, enough with the pointless comparisons. I have a couple of issues with what JonKatz says:

    • Technology hasn't "become" a social force. It's been a social force since the beginning of what we call "civilization", which is really technology-based. Look at games like Sid Meier's Civilization. You can't play without tech development.
    • Libretarianism and individualism are only professed by this collective because it's what suits them. It's about the group needs of the people:
      • The need to look "cool", to impress specific peers
      • The need to be in a "in crowd", to impress a group
      • In general, the need for group acceptance and conformaty, to impress all of your peers.
      These needs are what drive people to do things like download songs off of Napster. Some people do GB's of MP3's as a self-worth comparison. When people ask me how many GB I have, I'll tell them 0 - but would you like to look at my CD collection?
    Issues on Slashdot tend to be driven by this group ideal as much as anywhere else; it's a place where it's cool to be anti-Echelon and anti-DMCA. What if I'm anti-Echelon, but pro-Carnivore? What if I think that the DMCA ain't such a bad idea? Individual thought needs to be embraced in any society where we wish idealistic progress to happen. We can't have two straw-man positions.

    Where's the complexity of your thoughts? Where can I express that Open Source is good in some areas, but in others some Closed Source software is better, and that Free Software might not ever be the best? Where can I truly be an individual? Certainly not slashdot, despite the hidden references in Katz's essay. Individual thought needs to be sustained, but making straw-man sides out of an issue suits nobody.

  • by thesparkle ( 174382 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @06:14AM (#889210) Homepage
    Heh-heh. Here's Emmett playing the accordion. Cmdr Taco bought a Who CD. Roblimo has a new girlfriend. Look at Jon Katz dressed up like a gladiator. heh-heh. We're so cute. Our little world must be so interesting to all of you. Look at all the little slashdotters who want to submit articles. heh-heh. let's make em beg a little bit. We are so elite. everyone wants to be like us... wouldnt it be neat if we had a slashdot building and we had free sodas and a foozeball table and a dog named slasher or dotcom or something like that? and we could take the website down for like 30 minutes or so a day and put up a page that says something like "CLosed while we play Quake III". it would almost be like we are working for a real company or something, heh-heh.

  • by Golias ( 176380 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @04:55AM (#889213)
    Borsook takes aim at the Social Darwinism of the tech culture... In this world she finds much hostility and paranoia, a world of "testosterone-poisoned guys with chips on their shoulders and too much time on their hands." Ouch.

    Don't worry, Jon. She didn't mean you. :)

    We have no common agenda. We stand for nothing. We take actions based on tiny nodes of specialized information.

    I feel very strongly that this is a Good Thing.

    Liberalism and conservatism have been discredited, Libertarianism seems rigid and stagnant.

    It has not been demonstrated that either liberalism nor conservatism have been discredited, both thrive in modern culture. Also, Libertarianism does indeed seem rigid and stagnant, but it only seems so. Argue with somebody about Libertarianism in a coffee shop sometime and see how many people start getting interested and evesdropping.

    Technology has become the world's most interesting and ascending social force.

    After Sarah Michelle Gellar, yes.

    No ideology -- with the possible exception of corporatism -- is stronger or spreading more rapidly.

    Didn't you just get done explaining that technology is not an ideology? You were correct about that, why go back on it now? This is the paragraph where your column seems to have left the rails.

    This techno-elite, taking sophisticated knowledge of technology for granted

    Is the generation that grew up with all these toys in place really the techno-elite? Or is it the twentysomethings and thritysomethings that were hacking on 300-baud modems back in the 80's? I don't see a lot of geek culture among the set that grew up with Windows 95... but I could be wrong about that.

    Technology can either be the vehicle through which those voices are re-democratized, or it can provide the tools through which corporatism can generate even more money.

    Hmmm... Money or freedom, eh? I'd rather have both.

  • by b0z ( 191086 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @06:09AM (#889235) Homepage Journal
    I see you are buying into the racist ideas in general. The whole white supremicist thing about, "We can't let these Mexicans come across the border because they take jobs away from 'mericans!" When the truth is that the Mexicans work harder than most Americans at the jobs they do, and most Americans are not desperate enough or can get welfare so we wouldn't need a job working 14 hours a day in a field for $5.

    In the I.T. industry, it is mostly people from India and China that I see coming to work in the U.S. from other countries. First of all, there is a very real I.T. worker shortage. If there wasn't, I would not be getting 2 to 3 phone calls a day with people wanting to interview me for a job. If one day I wake up and decide that the monitor I have at my current job isn't big enough to read slashdot in the size I want, I can go quit and have another job that afternoon. That's not bad for an white American male that dropped out of college and is not certified in anything. If you can't get a job in the I.T. industry, it is your fault by some other reason. Perhaps you need help working on your resume.

    The other fallacy in your comment is that the people coming to work here from other countries are second-rate employees. Americans are lazier than most cultures, and from working closely with people from India, China, etc I see that they are very hard workers and very intelligent. You probably think they are stupid because they are not masters of the English language, but a lot of them have spent a lot of time studying and learning about computers and picked up English to come here. It is true that they usually get paid less than those of us originally in the U.S., but it's because the companies know they can get away with it. Whoever you work for is going to pay you as little as possible. It's not evil, it's just a way of saving money. However, bringing people here results in other costs that most Americans won't see. It is pretty difficult to get a visa to work in the country very long, nevermind getting citizenship. The companies that hires these people put a lot of money into lawyer fees and such because they have to convince the government that no American is qualified to fill that position. If the foreign person already has the job, the company will have to re-post the position and try to hire an American to fill it. We are at no disadvantage to anyone from other countries.

    Don't forget that the IT industry is not all based in the U.S. also. I've done some work in Mexico, and also know of a lot of work in various countries in Europe. There's a lot of I.T. work to go around in any country with enough money to use computers. I doubt somewhere like Somalia has a big need for tech work, but if you go to Germany you can find a lot.

    The point I wanted to make from all of this is that the I.T. industry is different than factory work and such. We are not just white males from the U.S., but diverse people in numerous countries and countless cultures. Try and show some respect for those you know nothing about.

  • by KaiShin ( 209552 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2000 @04:49AM (#889267)

    Perhaps its not the arrogance of our peers that is causing this ignorance of the standard power structures, but the fact that many of our generation, geeks and non-geeks alike, simply do not care about the system. Many people fail to learn about politics, many don't know why such systems exist, how a law is passed, what a republic is, or what they are entiltled to do for their country as citizens of it. Techies jump into e-company start ups and IPOs without knowing the fundamentals of free market economies or the slightest clue of how to run a business. We're a generation of people who just don't care about the old ways. We're so secure in our superior knowledge and intellect that we fail to see why those systems came about in the first place, and why they must survive with or without us.

    Of course, the obvious thing to do is to become part of the system, but not a part that sits back and watches things go by. We are the people who must change the way people think. Posting your opinions here on /. is all well and good, but do you talk about these issues with your non-techie friends? Do you expose different opinions and attempt to broaden their view on tech culture? Who knows, the person you are debating with at a bar may be the president of the future. The more knowledge spreads, the more the system has to change for the better.

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