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A Bit of Intellectual Genocide

Over the past couple of years, the on-line world has been over-run by an epidemic of "flattened communications" software and solution designed mainly to get young people community (or actually buying stuff -- which is mainly what capitalism does).

Texting, all thoses "mini-websites" (like Facebook, etc.), the infernally named "twitter" and even newer and just emerging forms of communication present themselves to people as not only the equal of but superior to old stalwarts like email and the website.

We can applaud the entry of so many younger people into on-line life but they would have come on-line anyway. In fact, for the most part (in the United States anyway), they already were on-line. What you're seeing today is a second generation of "kids on-line" seizing on these new "hand-held" or "out of the box" technologies to do what the previous "kids on-line" generation five years ago did with websites and email.

The problem is they enter a much narrower room, with the decor much more sharply controlled, walls that can't be moved. Everything appears to be there for them but, if they want something else, it ain't possible. When compared to the web with its boundless limits and wide open intellectual spaces, it's like a little prison this new technology.

And so the debate here about whether this new stuff is good or bad is not only about the most issue -- that, as proprietary software it is an assault on human collaboration, creativity and freedom -- but also what it means for the way we're dealing with our young people.

This new communications stuff is yet another attempt to control young people, to force them into choices, to limit their own vision of the possibilities. Such a restriction is necessary in a society in which, as far as we can tell, their futures offer very few options and possibilities. This kind of restricted communications software is training for a restrained and hopeless life. From the movement people are born, so full of possibility, promise and potential, we are told that we can't do stuff. Indeed, the very definition of "maturity" is to learn vigorously applied, almost wall-like, limitations on our behavior and futures.

Our education system is designed to enforce those limitations. No education is this country is free. It's all based on one-way transmission of information to "students". Even the most progressive educational models are put together and run by well-meaning, heroic people who must labor is a system whose purpose is repression. I don't know where the courage and commitment they display comes from because I sure lack it, I'm grateful to them every moment of my life for what they do and thank all of us should support it vigorously.

But it's only less repressive than the norm. You can't work in a prison without working with prisoners.

And this new software does the same: limits expectations, possibilities, functioning, perception. It tells kids "talk and show each other pictures but don't talk too much -- couple of dozens words at most". And it says, "Look you're a kid, a moron, and what you say and show isn't worth saving or circulating massively or being enhanced by others...you're not a collaborator, you can't build anything that others will use in their own lives, you're a self-centered, self-absorbed, supercilious, shallow kid."

And can there be anything that better describes the ideology of intellectual genocide than that approach?

As we know, and as we said in the Organic Internet book, people are born geniuses. There's no other explanation for our natural acquisition of more skill, perception and knowledge in the first three or four years of our lives than we experience for the rest of our lives. We're born brilliant and we get more and more stupid as we get older.

There's nothing "natural" about that. Ours is a culture of "dissuasion" and this new flood of protocol is a case in point.

The more important point, however, is where are we? Where, to be pointed about it, are our techies?

I've written about the painful isolation of the techie in the past and how destuctive that state is. Here's a case in point. We have watched these developments with a "tsk tsk" and a wave of the finger and done nothing to counter it or develop and vigorously present alternatives that redirect these trends.

We have turned our backs on young people. Obviously, there's no intention there. In fact, it's not even real neglect. It's more a function of a lack of interest and presence. Most progressive techies aren't thinking about young people as a functional mass movement capable of any progress politically.

But 30 years ago, young people rose up internationally, forging not only specific political and social changes that have altered contemporary social reality but actually changed the way politics and society is discussed. As a force...as a force...as a generation.

That's what needs to happen once again and techies need to contribute to making it possible. Building young people's communications alternatives based on FOSS principles and open ended capability is one way to do that.