Blindness of the Layperson Toward Digital Freedom

Aug. 22, 2020 [technology]

Software, firmware and hardware design is not conceptually tangible to the average user. The mass of functionality is packaged away neatly outside of view from users and so has been exploited to the fullest possible extent.

Imagine for a moment that you were transported back to early 20th century America armed with today’s knowledge of the damages associated with smoking. Good luck convincing any significant proportion of the population to reconsider their habit. “What gives? Everyone does it!” It had been normalized and so took decades of public efforts to turn the tides on the matter.

We live today in the digital equivelant of 20th century American attitude toward smoking. It has become so normal to use proprietary technology designed to mistreat users that it is even expected. And like proprietary technology, tobacco can even bring pleasure or comfort to those who use it. This greatly complicates constructing a compelling case against it.

But the effort to correct public perception toward smoking had a massive advantage, which arguments for digital freedom do not enjoy; the effects were ultimately measurable and tangible to the average person given enough time. Digital technology is so deeply abstracted and reaches into so many facets of life that I fear it truly asks far too much effort on the behalf of the layperson to be able to percieve where one truly does and does not have freedom.

How is a citizen expected to know that their entire computer runs unprivileged below a master processer which they cannot control and which exposes remote access capabilities? One cannot possibly seriously consider their position on the matter without first being capable of understanding what that entails, let alone being aware of it to begin with.