Back in 2016, the World Economic Forum released a Facebook video with eight predictions it had for the world in 2030. “You’ll own nothing. And you’ll be happy,” it says. “Whatever you want, you’ll rent. And it’ll be delivered by drone….”
In some ways, not owning things is easier. You have fewer commitments, less responsibility, and the freedom to bail whenever you want. There are upsides to owning less. There’s also a big problem… The reality is when you buy a device that requires proprietary software to run, you don’t own it. The money you hand over is an entry fee, nothing more. When everything is a lease, you also agree to a life defined by someone else’s terms… When hardware is merely a vessel for software and not a useful thing on its own, you don’t really get to decide anything. A company will decide when to stop pushing vital updates. It might also decide what you do with the product after it’s “dead….” The power has shifted so that companies set the parameters, and consumers have to make do with picking the lesser of several evils…
You can trace much of this back to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which basically makes it illegal to circumvent “digital locks” that protect a company’s proprietary software… One day in the future, if you buy a physical house, you will likely have to rent the software that operates it. You won’t really have a say in the updates that get pushed out, or the features that get taken away. You’ll have less of a say in when you renovate or upgrade, even if you want to continue using the house as is. You might not even have the right to do DIY repairs yourself. Just because you’ve bought a smart washing machine, doesn’t mean you’ll be allowed to repair it yourself if it breaks — or if you’ll be allowed to pick which repair shop can fix it for you. You only have to look as far as John Deere, Apple, and General Motors. Each one of these companies has argued that people who bought their products weren’t allowed to repair them unless they were from a pre-approved shop.
The scary thing is that only sounds terrible if you have the mental energy to care about principles.
Making decisions all the time is difficult, and it’s easier when someone else limits the options you can choose from. It’s not hard to turn a blind eye to a problem if, for the most part, your life is made a little simpler. Isn’t that what every tech company says it’s trying to do? Make your life a little simpler? Life is hard enough already, and living in a home that maintains itself so long as you hand over control — well, by 2030, who’s to say that’s not what we’ll all want?
Read more of this story at Slashdot.