i dream of being possible

tech, evil, captilism, and you

I’ve continue reflecting on capitalism and foss. I think @lukaseder’s post about how F/OSS is a marketing strategy frames the F/OSS movement in a necessary fashion. I think it took me a little while to realize that part of the resistance I’ve seen to my post on commodity fetishism is, perhaps, largely due to the fact that many members of the F/OSS community don’t see themselves as participating in the ‘economy’ in a traditional or easily recognizable fashion1.

Interestingly, because of the way that, despite being a huge billion dollar industry, F/OSS software and its developers/community members are exist somehow in a different economy. And, certainly, the rise of bitcoin does demonstrate that they have some desire to side-step the regulation of current economies, but not the structure.

As the above link says: F/OSS is a business strategy. F/OSS is a business. It is inextricably tied to and embedded within a larger capitalist economy. An economy that, as experiment, has largely failed. Failed to live up to its own principles and failed to create society worth being proud of.

F/OSS is not exceptional. I realize that there is a pervasive feeling of rebelliousness and, idk, revolution within the tech community at large, but feels don’t change reality. And we can see from the reality that the tech community has simply accepted the status quo of inequity and oppression from society at learge, attempts to code their way to freedom will be forever doomed to fail.

Perhaps the greatest (albeit non-FOSS) example of this is Google. Google is pretty infamous for their ‘don’t be evil’ motto, which outright states:

You can make money without being evil.

Is this true? Maybe. Many things are, indeed, possible. However, is this achievable in our current economic climate? Not really. And certainly, perhaps the best way to understand how inherently contradictory Google’s claim to ‘not be evil’ is, is by understanding how they’ve simply changed the definition of good and evil:

through its motto Google has effectively redefined evil as a matter of unserviceability in general, and unserviceability among corporatized information services in particular.

Which is a strange notion of evil, as is the fact that in Google’s own description about it, it is largely about how they are a business that sells advertising and that they’ll advertise in a non-evil way. What the fuck this even means is beyoond me, this is how much hand waving and ‘don’t look at the man behind the curtain’ is happening here.

But this is only one example. And note how Google never claims to be good, just not evil.

Yet, this is, by and large, what the tech community has done. Rather than, you know, actually working to effect real and positive change in the world, they’ve simply redefined ‘good,’ ‘evil,’ ‘revolution,’ and so on. And everything remains the same old, same old.

  1. I actually agree with this, which is why I was prompted to discuss how commodity fetishism has been sublimated in the F/OSS movement.