Stallman, 1985: “The program controls the users.” Tristan Harris, 2017: “Our minds can be hijacked”

It’s remarkable how well some of Richard Stallman’s quotes have aged. “With software, either the users control the program, or the program controls the users…”

The idea of a program controlling its users must have seemed very esoteric when that quote was first penned in 1985, at a time when home PCs (let alone ones with GUIs) were exotic: the first Mac had launched only a year ago. By the time I first heard of Stallman’s ideas in the ’90s, I was surrounded by PCs with GUIs, but still didn’t get it.

Now here we are, 30 years later. The first thing most of us do when we wake up is roll over, grab our phone, and look at some software. The existential costs of the non-free software are so high that we read new stories about them in the media every week, and the tech revolution’s architects are banning the products they built from their own homes.

For the less frequently cited ending to Stallman’s quote is this: “…If the program controls the users, and the developer controls the program, then the program is an instrument of unjust power.”

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/05/smartphone-addiction-silicon-valley-dystopia

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