Thoughts on Computers

  • On Augest 2021, Apple announced it will implement a client side scanning scheme (aka a mass surveillance backdoor) on iOS/iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey. Tech nerds including me were disappointed and shocked by this far-reaching and extreme intrusion of digital rights. After strong backlash from more than 25,000 users and 90 right groups and experts, Apple delayed its plan on September.
  • However, this plot gives me an opportunity to rethink my digital life and the relationship between humans and computers.
  • I have been trying to have diversified setups since then. I fixed my Pixel 3 and installed CalyxOS (an open source de-googled Android variant) to it. I installed Manjaro Gnome to my PC and learned a lot about the world of Linux desktop and surprisingly good Linux gaming. I cared more about privacy and selfhosted more services to be less dependent to the cloud (aka someone else’s computer).
  • As a computer nerd I’m super interested in AI depicted in fictions like Sword Art Online and AI: The Somnium Files. However in the real world AI is a word of various things. While AI does have good use such as self-driving cars and repairing photos, it is more broadly used in mass surveillance and locking people into information cocoons, which make this world more divided and less free than past decades.
  • Similarly VR is a technology I initally believed in but now more skeptical about. Business leaders like Mark Zuckerberg are racing to be dictators in metaverse and reimplementing the worst part of human sociality in a universe for dreams and fantasies.
  • While I share many values with privacy advocates, I do not believe blockchain technology and cryptocurrency are good idea. Technology that burns forests, skyrockets GPU (and hard disk) price, generates a fucking global supply chain shortage (I know cryptocurrency isn’t the only cause, but it is one cause), and eventually blow up this planet should be banned like guns should be banned.
  • The internet I know is already dead and might never come back. It’s a mix result of the so-called mobile internet era, walled garden platforms like iOS and WeChat, rising authoritarianism and internet sovereignty bullshit around the world, the killing of Google Reader and harmful use of technologies mentioned above. I don’t want to lose personal computing anymore. I want our next generation understand how personal computing was a miracle to us.
  • I could build my online presence 20 years ago with Microsoft FrontPage, free web hosting, FTP built in Windows 98 and 56Kbps modem. It was actually way easier than today even I knew nothing about HTML then. The local ISP gave every user a pamphlet printing near 1000 URLs of websites around the world. The internet was distributed by nature.
  • Computers are possessions of humans, they should never ever betray its owners with a harmful intention. That red line is becoming blurry now and computer users are knowing less about computers than past decades. Most softwares are collecting data and spying on its users. The second most downloaded app globally is developed by cops and reporting things like all your SMS and installed softwares to the authority. This is dangerous and we should understand more about how computers and softwares really work. I should prefer open source software and craft critical parts myself, rather than trust big tech seeking growth and control.
  • Modern graphical user interface is tricking users to know less about computers. While it is convenient to human, I should revisit command line interface every now and then to remember what the relationship between humans and computers should be. I discovered a lot modern CLI/TUI tools which are great and productive in the past few months.
  • The most impressive line I read on social media in 2020 is that in this historical tide where walls are built one after another, our mission is go on building bridges to connect the most beautiful sensibilities and thoughts of humanity.