Billionaires Are A Security Threat

These success stories are wonderful, but they all pale in comparison to Wikipedia, the greatest work of human knowledge of all time and the single most important piece ever created on the Internet. In its earliest days it was routinely derided as absurd, but it’s now woven deep into our lives — it lives in your pocket all the time, and you can pull it out at a bar and talk to your friend or date about an article. We take it for granted. Their value cannot be quantified. It’s also kind of free.

So, in medicine, finance, and art, we should try to create a spiritual equivalent of Wikipedia that does whatever the discipline requires. Math, cooking, memories of loved ones who have passed away. Maybe computers too? GitHub doesn’t count, but Git might. The “sharing economy”, today a whole layer of professional existence in all imaginable dimensions, emerged from a flood of startups that imitate ridesharing: Uber for that, Uber for that. It became a punch line. Enough. Grow up. Nobody cares. Make a Wikipedia for something instead.

Open source software has always been driven by the vague notion that it will improve the commons, that the implicit or overarching collaboration that comes from showing and sharing your work will lead to better projects, more successful businesses, more ambitious ideas, and a bigger future. If we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants, then some of us will find something up there. And sure, well – that’s a utopian vision that we could all use a little more of, especially after recent events. Dorsey’s reflections on the turmoil on Twitter last week concluded: “We did the right thing for the public company business at the time, but the wrong thing for the internet and society.” There is certainly a tension to be resolved. But I’ll go one step further: In a world full of bored billionaires, the lack of open access becomes an existential risk that could suddenly wipe everything out.

For decades, technology has measured performance in things like funding rounds, company valuations, potential market, active users, downloads, and yes, stock prices. But these are all units of capitalism. One level down, should you decide to question it further, the platform for the platform is just money. Who cares? We already know how to do this.

Capital can kill code. Capital can kill anything. So if what you’ve created matters, you need to turn it into something that can’t be bought while billionaires still exist. An idea that can’t be killed is worth more than an idea that can be killed, and the only thing billions of dollars can’t kill is something that can’t have a price in the first place because it abounds and it replicates endlessly it spreads around the world.

The good news is that the better, stronger, more resilient world we need is inevitable given enough time because the foundation has been laid. Twitter may not collapse for good, and even if it does, ActivityPub, Bluesky, Mastodon, and good old RSS feeds are all waiting to fill the gap. Brilliant people will create amazing things in JavaScript, store them on GitLab remote storage and publish them on npm. Some of them have already started. These are the reasons why even the worst-case scenario for Twitter under Musk would not be a complete disaster for global communications. We’ll be fine because all of those pieces are already out there. Nothing will happen to us because the mistakes we made in treating Twitter as a platform were not made last time with an earlier generation of technologies that built Twitter and that we should emulate. We’ll be fine, especially since we still have the internet. ❤️

https://www.wired.com/story/twitter-elon-musk-open-source-platforms/ Billionaires Are A Security Threat

Zack Zwiezen

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