Terminator, The Matrix, I Robot and many other movies deal with an exciting topic of what happens when humans gain the powers promised by a certain technology. Will the robots rebel? Could internet turn into SkyNet? Will advanced nano technology allow building bombs that make nuclear weapons seem like sticks and stones? What about merging ourselves with technology?
In so many ways further technological development seems akin to playing with fire and powers once only prescribed to gods. Are we up to the challenge? Are we ready? And if not, how can we become ready? Technology could give us the power to destroy, but it could also give us the power to create a world of unimaginable prosperity and freedom. It could be used to enslave, but also to liberate the potential of each individual.
We need to identify the *good* uses of technology and we need to evolve our social and cultural mentality to the point where destruction and enslavement wont even be a temptation anymore. If that ideal is an utopia, if it cannot be reached then perhaps we are already doomed.
Excuse a rather extreme contrast painted by the title as I point you to quite an interesting article on Free Software Magazine about recent events regarding the deal between Novell and Microsoft and how it relates to the Free Software community. The contrast is put between a 100% Free Software distribution which has had it's first major release under FSF's sponsorship, gNewSense, and our latest apparent sell out, Novell.
On a related note, RedHat has already had its say on this controversial deal and has quite provocatively stated that they will be here in one year and Novell will not.
There is a very good article on Free Software Magazine encouraging for those who stand up for Free Software. I'll quote one of the best parts: "Let's not get off the freedom train so soon. The Free Software Foundation has been nurturing this vision along for so many years, and a little commercial success doesn't change the ultimate goal. I'm unable to articulate very well what I see as the problem here: that this vision of free software and a free society has grown steadily for so many years, but because we've gone through a spurt of rapid growth thanks to corporations realizing one aspect of the value of free software (its low cost and power), suddenly people want to say the FSF's approach is no longer relevant.
It is almost a common knowledge that Bill Gates had a certain vision when he co-founded Microsoft: a computer in every home that can be easily operated. Pity that this vision seemed to have had a hidden implication that every of these computers would have to run Microsoft's operating system. Nevertheless, the vision of widespread and pretty much ubiquitous digital empowerment is largely coming true.
Blackboard today announced that the US Patent Office had awarded it a patent "for technology used for internet-based education support systems and methods." Things covered by this patent include client-server online courses in which users are defined as either students or instructors, the use of online drop boxes in an instructional setting, online grade books, online assessments, and many other common systems and methods that folks in higher education had utilized for years before the June 30, 2000 filing date of Blackboardâ€™s patent request.