[Freedom-misc] Is Nonfree Software the Cause of Computer/Internet Addiction?

strypey at disintermedia.net.nz strypey at disintermedia.net.nz
Thu Sep 20 08:27:33 CEST 2018


It's an intriguing question. As we learn more about addiction, we realize  
that it's not caused by "drugs", or gambling, or sex, or danger, or any of  
things people get addicted to. Like fetish, addiction is a set of compulsive  
thoughts and behaviours that can become focused on *anything*. So obviously  
that includes media; TV shows, video games, internet.

But I agree with what freemedia says, companies make their software  
proprietary software because they want to gain control. They want to control  
user behaviour in ways that allow them to accumulate wealth, and they want  
that wealth because it gives them more control. Making technology more  
addictive than it needs to be to accomplish its supposed purpose (for the  
user) is one way to control users, and leverage their time spent using the  
technology to accumulate wealth (by showing ads, selling collected user data  
etc).

Another way of looking at it though, is that the people building technology  
are being given the wrong goals by managers who haven't really thought  
properly about their organization's goals. Joe Edelman talks about this in  
his talk 'Is Anything Worth Maximizing':
https://vimeo.com/155525207

He uses the example of CouchSurfing. If you told the developers working on  
the CouchSurfing website that their success was being measured by how much  
time each users spends on the website, they would set about making the  
website as addictive as possible. But if you make the metrics about how many  
users report having found a satisfactory place to spend the night using CS,  
that would give them a totally different motivation. One that's much less  
about ensnaring the user, and more about serving their real needs. This IMHO  
is software freedom ethics applied to network services.


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