This week we’re talking with Cory Doctorow (this episode contains explicit language) about his newest book Chokepoint Capitalism, which he co-autored with Rebecca Giblin. Chokepoint Capitalism is about how big tech and big content have captured creative labor markets and the ways we can win them back. We talk about chokepoints creating chickenized reverse-centaurs, paying for your robot boss (think Uber, Doordash, Amazon Drivers), the chickenization that’s climbing the priviledge gradient from the most blue collar workers to the middle-class. There are chokepoints in open source, AI generative art, interoperability, music, film, and media. To quote Cory, “We’re all fighting the same fight.”
Cory Doctorow goes deep into Usenet’s history and uncovers a sage decision by the “backbone cabal” which may help us improve the web’s (currently centralized) state:
Restoring adversarial interoperability will allow future companies, co-operatives and tinkerers to go beyond the comfort zones of the winners of the previous rounds of the game – so that it ceases to be a winner-take-all affair, and instead becomes the kind of dynamic place where a backbone cabal can have total control one year, and be sidelined the next.
Cory Doctorow, writing for EFF about the history and present of adblocking:
The rise and rise of ad-blockers (and ad-blocker-blocker-blockers) is without parallel: 26% of Internet users are now blocking ads, and the figure is rising. It’s been called the biggest boycott in human history. It’s also something we’ve seen before, in the earliest days of the Web, when pop-up ads ruled the world (wide web), and users went to war against them.
Fascinating. I’d never heard of adversarial interoperability before.
As the title for the linked post from Cory Doctorow says, all you have to do is “become an admin on dormant, widely-used open source projects” and then do your thing.
Many open source projects attain a level of “maturity” where no one really needs any new features and there aren’t a lot of new bugs being found, and the contributors to these projects dwindle, often to a single maintainer who is generally grateful for developers who take an interest in these older projects and offer to share the choresome, intermittent work of keeping the projects alive.
Ironically, these are often projects with millions of users, who trust them specifically because of their stolid, unexciting maturity.
This presents a scary social-engineering vector for malware…
Chime in below if you’d like to add questions/thoughts to our planned discussion.
Cory is a science fiction author, activist, journalist, co-editor of Boing Boing and the author of many books. We talked to Cory about open source, the open web, internet freedom, his involvement with the EFF, where he began his career, the details he’ll be covering in his keynote at OSCON, and his thoughts on open source today and where developers should be focusing their efforts.