A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.
-- Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"
A number of people I know have asked me why I feel so strongly about particular tech issues that I feel compelled to take action. A number of those people have also informed me that my practice of maintaining a ban list of companies and products that I refuse to patron is objectionable to them. They don't always say it directly, but once you get used to hearing it implied, it becomes easy enough to recognize it.
The reality is that I also do this outside the sphere of tech and tech companies. I apply it to other things in life, political entities included. The truth is that articulating my political opinions on this blog would likely be detrimental to my career prospects so over the years I've learned to keep those opinions buried. Though if you know me personally, you almost certainly know how I lean politically. Hint: I live in a red state and I am most certainly the odd man out.
Nevertheless, my opinions on tech are the ones I most freely share regardless of who you are or how well you know me. I've even gone so far as to post those opinions on the indexed public website you happen to reading right now. This seems to annoy some people and I've never really understood why. But rather than speculate on what drives their annoyance, I have decided instead to explain why I am doing it to begin with.
The long and short of it is that tech is becoming increasingly important in the world. Being within mere months of turning forty, I have come to realize that the world in which I exist has changed drastically over the last thirty years. Thirty years ago computers were just for nerds and skilled office workers. Now everybody is walking around with yesterday's supercomputer in their pocket. They can download more information in a few seconds than I could once store on an entire hard disk. Fun fact: My first hard drive had a capacity of twenty megabytes.
In the space of these decades we have gone from a relatively sane and open minded society to an insanely closed minded and jingoistic one which is propped up by echo chambers. It's scary as hell to watch it all happen. It's even more scary when you realize that tech and politics are almost inextricably linked now. But from my perspective that's hardly a revelation as I've spent a huge portion of my life watching each one circle the proverbial drain like a slow motion rendition of Thelma and Louise's final drive. It's no coincidence that the two seem to be marching in lock step.
The raw truth is that just like most of you, I'm afraid. I have no idea what this world will look like in 20 years but deep down I have accepted the possibility that it likely won't improve anytime soon. That's not to say there aren't good things happening, but only to say that our ability to consider the long term consequences of our actions is handicapped when presented with a wide variety of short term endorphin rushes which compel us to act against our best interests.
This is why I push back. Standing firm in a world where everything seems to be going to shit is frankly the best response I can muster when presented with the hard line influences of so many forces that are beyond my direct control. Make no mistake the actions I have taken, such as attempting to cull Google from my life, is not only a way to push back, but to escape the influence of these forces.
I use Linux religiously because I have a deep distrust for the Windows division at Microsoft due to years of anti-consumer and anti-competitive behavior. I keep abreast of developments in BSD variants because I'm afraid that one day Linux will be successfully co-opted by one of the many clever corporations tracking its every waking moment. My personal laptop accesses the Internet only via an always on VPN connection because I distrust my ISP. I keep a Tor client installed and run a Tor non-exit relay out of my house because I am convinced that one day I will no longer be able to trust the VPN.
I more or less have the basic blueprint for a battle plan in my head that already has several levels of retreat accounted for. That's because despite the fact I am pushing back, most of the people I know, even the immensely intelligent ones, aren't doing the same thing. Sure I have found a few like minded souls on reddit in /r/linux and /r/privacy but there are far too few of us to make a dent in what is happening. I know that. The problem is that unlike my detractors I am simply incapable of ignoring it.
Perhaps it's because I work in tech and am constantly tasked with using tech to help solve the problems of my clients. I pride myself on delivering long lasting and secure solutions that respect the privacy and the rights of my clients. Most practitioners of tech don't care. But because of my ethical drive to fulfill those obligations I hold dear, I simply can't turn this off. That's probably not entirely fair though. Even if I didn't do this professionally, if I still knew what I know now, I would definitely be making a lot of the same decisions.
The TLDR here is that knowledge is power and with power comes great responsibility. Getting to know tech for me has acted as a Pandora's box of sorts. This essentially means that once opened, I cannot close it no matter what horrors I find inside. So here I will continue to squat in my tiny corner of a once open and free Internet and continue to preach. Not because I want to or even because I think it will make a difference, but because I am compelled to.