I Can't Let You Do That, Dave: when we design computers to boss us around

My latest Publishers Weekly column, "I Can't Let You Do That, Dave," is a look at the dangers of redesigning our computers to boss us around instead of doing what they're told and trying to help us:

Contrary to what’s been written in some quarters, Aaron Swartz didn’t attempt to download those journal articles because “information wants to be free.” No one cares what information wants. He was almost certainly attempting to download those articles because they were publicly funded scholarship that was not available to the public. They were scientific and scholarly truths about the world, information that the public paid for and needs in order to make informed choices about their lives and their governance. Fighting for information’s freedom isn’t the point. It’s people’s freedom that matters.

All of which makes the publishing community’s embrace of DRM and its advocacy for badly written, overly broad legislation to support DRM, fraught with peril. Since Frankenstein, writers and thinkers have recoiled in visceral horror at the idea of technology overpowering its creators. But when we actively build businesses that require censorship, surveillance, and control to thrive, we make a Frankenstein’s monster out of the devices that fill our pockets and homes, and the network that binds them all together.

I Can't Let You Do That, Dave


  1. So, so tired of big business, copyright, patent, etc. greed.  How did we get to the point where creators don’t matter, but only the ones with the most expensive lawyers, win?  I despair. 

  2. The actual quote is “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” The use of “sorry” and “afraid” spoken in HAL’s calm monotone voice make the line seem pretty creepy after his just having murdered Frank and the other three crewmen and his condemning Dave to a certain death. 

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