Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Back to the Walled Garden with You

Don Norman has seen the future of the Internet, and doesn't like it much:
Exorbitant roaming fees and a lack of adequate technological infrastructure reduce me to idiocy. My smartphone doesn't work when I need it most -- when I am in a foreign country. Why? Because of the roaming charges and greed of my service provider and the difficulty of purchasing a temporary subscription to data services when in a foreign land.

My intelligence is in the cloud. My life is in the cloud. My friends, photographs, ideas and mail. My life. My mind. Take away my cloud and I am left mindless.

Notice that my isolation is only partially the result of technological limitations. The hotel's lack of Internet access could be overcome. They had never experienced a technology conference before so they assumed that only a portion of the attendees would be connected to the Internet, and they would primarily do email. Instead, they got a taste of the future world where everyone has multiple devices requiring Internet connection, all wanting a full experience of rich sound and images. That problem, however, is easily remedied.

The much more fundamental problem is caused by the business models of the service providers, whether they be for radio or television, cable or satellite, telephone or mobile phone. Each of these providers wish to maximize their profit while simultaneously minimizing that of their competition. They try to enforce proprietary standards, locking people into their own distribution: Think proprietary digital rights management systems for music, movies and books, think locked cellular phones, think region codes on movie DVDs, think overly restrictive copyrights on content and over-inclusive patents on inventions and ideas. Each system has some basis in logic and business, each has some legitimate reason for existence. But these systems are implemented and enforced in ways that restrict them far beyond what is necessary -- even to the point of reducing creativity and hurting individuals.

No comments: