The following is personal opinion, and therefore subjective and biased. It is however relevant to the subject of this blog. It is long, but has 3 SUPER SECRET FUN TIEM Easter Eggs. Normal impartial hard science coverage will resume next week.
While I wanted to stay away from personal bias on this blog, my Dad asked me why I would bother staying up to watch the BBC coverage of the 2012 American Presidential Election. I think he thought I was very keen to get the ‘good guy’ back in power. As a young, libertarian, bordering on a classical anarchist, it would make perfect sense for me to say ‘Barrack is a pro-choice, non-corporate neo-liberal, with minimal religious bias, and a vaguely more constructive view on gun control. Plus <insert comment about how his race is relevant>.’
None of these in fact swayed my judgement at all. I live in England, and so feel that the majority of these factors have near zero effect on my life. I am largely disinterested by economics or politics. Terrible to say, I am aware, but true. I see them as ‘soft sciences’, struggle to really grasp their core concepts and believe any predictions based on them to be questionable at best. Further, I would ignore an American telling me to ‘vote for X/Y form British Prime Minister’, and think that Americans should be extended the same courtesy. It’s their country, it’s their choice. Despite some very interesting opinion polls it’s not our choice.
That said, I was rooting for Obama, due to two reasons which I think will have a direct impact on my next 4 years; all because I am an internet using, unemployed environmental scientist who reads too much sci-fi.
As an environmental scientist
In my mind two things separate Obama and Romney’s stance which utterly define who gets my (totally impotent) support. Obama has been promoted as the ‘greener’ candidate since his inaugural election campaign, while McCain showed a more ‘economic’ lead view . This was mirrored again this year, which was a pity. Romney has had various ‘green moments’ in his previous career, but during the presidential campaign he started to back off an otherwise ok track record for a Republican, which leads me to infer he wanted to look more moderate for the climate-skeptic right wing.
This is all pretty well reported and commonly understood by the people. What might not be quite so widely known is how the two candidates stood on a poorly understood concept called ‘net-neutrality’. While they both disliked SOPA in its proposed incarnation, Romney opposes government regulation promoting net-neutrality.
As an internet user
Net-neutrality is an organisational model for the provision of data through the internet, and the opposite of a ‘tiered service’ model. A net-neutral internet model is effectively what is in place at the moment. Data on the internet is given equal priority, with no single data stream having preference at the expense of another. This is not a question of speed/size of data, but purely the importance attached to information.
A tiered service model would enable some data suppliers (i.e. a web page/streaming service) to team up with ISPs in order to effectively create a preferential subscription service.
As a geek
In my formative years (probably far too early) I came across a book called The Diamond Age or a Young Ladies Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson, which would years later lead me to Snow Crash. Both of these can be read with subtle reference to a tiered service model. Nell, a girl from a ‘lower tier’ accidentally comes into an item which gives her access to information intended for a girl in a higher caste, meant to lead the owner into a “more interesting life”. Snow Crash describes a fictional Sumerian culture which was ruled and controlled via ‘me’, or human behavioural software, such as how to bake bread, or plough a field, with those able to ‘write’ the software becoming a ruling class over those who simply ‘ran the software’.
As technology becomes more embedded in human life and behaviour, and access to information becomes an increasingly mandatory resource, creating subscription access information hierarchies can only lead to a disenfranchisement of those who cannot afford access, and so the creation of an artificial class divide. Further, this action suppresses the voice of any content creators who do not have the ‘right connections’ in a way similar to the issues between big business and the DIY movement in the modern music industry.
Why does this matter to me?
Well, in terms of the environment if the biggest Western economy is more supportive of green issues that can only mean any improvements in climate change/pollution/resource use etc will be better than under a government which would give less worth to these areas. Since I am forced to share the surface of this planet with these people, that can only be a good thing. Also, I might find getting a job easier if there is more general investment and promotion of it.
As for net neutrality, the creation of ‘information castes’ seems like a divide we just don’t need. Writing this blog is DIY publishing. If i want it to continue to have a chance, with the budget that I have available, I need a neutral internet. In some ways it has already been enacted (German Stazi, most existing communist countries), with unpleasant results. The internet already works brilliantly without imposition of big business interests, and the only time I would support governmental involvement is in the protection and endorsement of the system as is. The internet is the only country with no nations and no borders, and it should stay that way (unless you’re in china).