Baby Use Puter

Computer usage has reduced us to the level of children. The world is too complicated for us to understand. We either put our trust into anonymous FOSS cyber-mothers to look after us or we get adopted by Microsoft.

We’re All Brainlets

The computer in front of you is magical. Most people who use computers (especially phones) have no idea what they are looking at. There are images on the screen, there’s text and documents too. How it gets there, why it looks the way it does, etc. is a complete mystery.

Someone with a bit more free time or curiosity could come to understand how webpages work by inspecting the HTML source code and the CSS stylesheets. With a bit more effort they could learn a combination of PHP and Javascript to understand how the fancier features of websites work.

What about the web-browser itself? And what about the other programs and applications? They require more knowledge still: knowledge of high-level languages and of low-level languages. Knowledge of computer graphics, encryption and a good deal of logic and mathematics. There’s already far too much to learn, and that’s not even touching upon the workings of the operating system, the kernel, the BIOS and the hardware.

Even with transparent projects such as the Linux kernel, there can be tens-to-hundreds of millions of lines of source code. Millions of people spend their working lives writing the software that makes the digital world run. You cannot possibly read or understand it all yourself, assuming you even have access to the sources (which you probably don’t).

We’re All Sheep

The only option computer-users have is to trust. Most people put their trust into the Googles, Microsofts and Apples of the world, hence our weird world of spyware and manipulative algorithms that train people to lose their attention spans and accept stupid “truths”. People who are a little more clued-up put their trust into open-source projects, i.e. the projects that don’t actively hide what they’re doing from users. Still, this is an exercise in trust. As a FOSS user, I am trusting people who actually understand the code when they say that there is nothing malicious in there. More importantly, I am trusting that if there was something malicious added into the code, then somebody else would see it and remove it or warn me before I accept an update.

You could waste your whole life studying how your computer works. You’d still be relying on your trust of others, you cannot learn it all, even if we ignore the fact that software is always growing and updating. By the time you would get close to understanding the workings of a major software project, it would be either outdated or updated back out of understanding.

Similar claims could be made of technologically-advanced societies in general, but computer usage is an extreme example.

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