Software and Computer Engineering

I'm Not Passionate About What The Computer Industry Has Become

As a child, I got immediately hooked on computers. My family computer used to have Delphi installed, so I'd spent countless hours playing around and making small programs. Of course, in an objective sense, these programs weren't in any way technically impressive, as I lacked any formal programming knowledge, but they still represented for me the ability to shape the behavior of the the very computer I was using.

That is a very unique feeling. It means shaping reality to your own designs. While, as a kid, one doesn't get much choice in many real-world matters, in that little four-by-three CRT screen, I could shape reality. I could just try things out, see the results of my ideas in an instant, have new ideas on how to make it better, and then keep going at it for hours, until I had something I thought was really cool, so I would call my mom to see it.

While trying to keep myself away from: 1) just complaining about how new things are different; and 2) sounding like “in my time, we had it the right way”, I'd still argue that the computer industry has, for the most part, drifted away from that original vision of “bicycle for the mind”.

The primary way that most people today interact with a computing platform today is the smartphone. It has been a great equalizer, enabling people of all income levels to be digitally included and being able to participate on the Internet. Having a smartphone today is arguably more essential than having a TV a few decades ago, as it allows an individual to communicate, to participate in social groups, to get information and, last but not least, to have access to services, including governmental ones.

That huge potential also attracts many companies to try and profit from this increased attention given to the phone. I can't see a day pass by without getting multiple advertising messages from the very wireless services provider I pay. Despite diligently unsubscribing from every marketing and spam campaign, I still get promotional emails.

We are constantly bombarded in computing every platform by attention-grabbing attempts at making our time and money serve someone else's interests. The computer platforms of today -- be it mobile, desktop, or anything in between -- are seen as a medium to vehiculate to shape consumer behavior to achieve business metrics.

To allow computers to fully benefit to humanity, one essential value is allowing individuals to fully assert their own choices and preferences on what they are able to do and see. Unfortunately, attempts at asserting this freedom of choice has proven countless times to be impossible on close proprietary systems driven by profit margins and engagement metrics.