Planet of the Software Intellectual

Eben Moglen is a revelation.

Jonathan Perlman – who a while back switched out Dawson College’s website for WordPress and turned me on to the company DigitalOcean whose forums I later read are frequented with something called: Software Intellectuals.

Is Eben Moglen a software intellectual?

Surely he gets at the nuts and bolts of the thing better than Jaron Lanier or Joel Spolsky, who some time ago put out these wonderful books I devoured The Best Software Writing, volume I and volume II.

Does it occur to software engineers the economic and political ramifications of the things they create?

Something as mundane and seemingly benign as log files – says Eben Moglen – when centralized – become an economic weapon. A giving up of control.

Software studies – a very new discipline – does precisely this: explaining the implications of code – the multitude of choices that result in an end product – as these choices are infinitely malleable – but who is influencing these crucial decisions, ultimately?

I have seen glimpses of this new power structure, like K trying to get at The Castle, system engineers, program and product managers, marketers and salesman somewhere beyond the pale.

R & D, technical writers, software programmers, like robots programmed themselves with little freedom of thought or action.

Eben Moglen talks about logs in his seminar – but what about user privileges – access to the Facebook database – the NSA’s files – the Google backend?

This ever so Escher-esque of constructs, this messy monstrosity largely begins and ends now in Silicon Valley and the rest of the world should cease being prostrate to a bunch of kids in hoodies and ridiculous glasses – or is that what Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is really about?


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