Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti and self-censorship.

This morning I started to draft an article where I was going to start talking about how the identical hardware is transformed in whether it would have a positive or negative influence in our lives, and end with a question about our longer-term policies towards Haiti and whether our friendship there has overall been a positive or negative influence. The article was intended to be posted to either the IT World Canada or blogs. I decided against that, given it may cause grief without benefit. Rather than tossing the article I decided to publish on this personal blog what I had as an early draft in case anyone wanted to pursue the line of thinking.

I fundamentally believe that for many of the worlds issues, whether that be poverty, food security, or building of infrastructure better able to withstand natural disasters, that knowledge sharing forms an important part. Trying to work against those who believe that making knowledge artificially scarce is good for society, as opposed to one narrow business model among other, will have some small impact on these problems. See: Sharing: the way to Make Poverty History.


Lets use as a starting point something I suggested in my last blog entry. I have come to believe that the two most important questions to ask about any digital technology are: is the device locked, and who holds the keys. I then went on to suggest that I would see the identical hardware as either something to promote or something to strongly oppose based on the software and who hold the keys to any digital locks.

The important take-away is the message of Lawrence Lessig's book Code and other laws of Cyberspace, which is that software can be seen as a form of regulation -- of policy, and that we need to pay attention to this policy.

(Was intending to insert commentary about the UK digital agenda and how they plan to give away computers to citizens to allow them access to government and other services online, while at the same mandating the technology and network have foreign locks and monitoring/filtering through "copyright" reforms. I was then going to bring up my critique of the One Laptop Per Child project which I am no longer enthusiastic about since they fully support Microsoft's proprietary platform -- upon which a new generation of "pirates" will be deliberately manufactured through policy.)

This brings us to Haiti. While some may be offended by what I have to say, I believe that it is not earthquakes that kill people but buildings falling on people that kill people. We need to ask ourselves if the policy we have had towards Haiti helped or hindered the building of infrastructure that would have protected people from the earthquakes. Many reports have suggested that we knew about the instability of the plates many years ago, but like other science that doesn't give us an exact date (or an exact temperature, or...) the threat was ignored.

I am not going to detail what I think the policy of the Friends of Haiti (Countries such as Canada, France, United States, Venezuela) is, but to suggest that the policy is important. A quick Google search of US policy Haiti will give you a quick glimpse.

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