Deus ex machina…The Encyclopedia Britannica gives this definition: “The term was first used in ancient Greek and Roman drama, where it meant the timely appearance of a god to unravel and resolve the plot. The deus ex machina was named for the convention of the god’s appearing in the sky, an effect achieved by means of a crane (Greek: mēchanē). The dramatic device dates from the 5th century BC; a god appears in Sophocles’ Philoctetes and in most of the plays of Euripides to solve a crisis by divine intervention.”
Fast forward to the present, and the crane has been supplanted by the bits and bytes of computer code, the sky by cloud data-storage, and the crane operator by a secular “holy trinity.” Gates/Microsoft, Bezos/Amazon, and Dorsey/Twitter behind the scenes collectively control the strings/code which power the new god of our digital existence to which we have become beholden, willingly or not.
In 2012, I wrote “The Death of Privacy by Bits and Bytes.” In 2021, I would update that to “The Death of Liberty and Freedom by Computer Diktat.” Much like Pandora’s Box, the digital world initially looked so good from the outside, but once unleashed, carried a mortal curse. The digital world has enabled untold progress in all of mankind’s endeavors, but there was an unrecognized catch, a life and freedom-threatening one now on display.
What if the basic operating code of all computers and popular media communications were controlled by a few monopolies? What if those monopolies were made up of just a few individuals? What if those individuals used their monopoly power to exert their own politically aligned views, and to impose societal control of citizens?
No single path of digital pervasion into all of society exits, but in the general field of science a noteworthy example is given by the 2009 book from Microsoft: “The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery.” It was described as presenting the first broad look at the rapidly emerging field of data-intensive science, with the goal of influencing the worldwide scientific and computing research communities and inspiring the next generation of scientists. Note the goal of “influencing worldwide.” The topics include Earth and Environment, Health and Wellbeing, Scientific Infrastructure, and Scholarly Communication. That list can be interpreted to cover just about all human activities…all to be a Microsoft project…all to be governed by Microsoft interests.
One example is the recent announcement that Microsoft’s Bill Gates is providing major funding for a Harvard group whose project is known as SCoPEx, as reported in the August U.K. Daily Mail (https://news.trust.org/item/20201218140025-po1gu). This Harvard University project plans to test the theory that global warming can be modulated by spraying into the atmosphere small particles which would reflect the incoming radiation from the sun. Earlier articles covering aspects of this geoengineering concept are one from 2010 (Bill Gates announces Green Tech Fund to Make Renewables Viable) ,and another from 2015 (Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud). Without your permission, Bill Gates has decided that he will be the one to decide, if his project works, what the earth’s temperature should be.
Nothing new here for Bill Gates and Microsoft, as he has been sponsoring climate controlling geoengineering dreams for years. A 2007 article in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) titled “We will be able to engineer the Earth to our liking— but we’d better start now By William B. Gail” postulates the need for climate control by man, and then lays out “Nine Ways to Cool the Planet.” http://climate-action.engin.umich.edu/figures/Rood_Climate_Change_AOSS480_Documents/Gail_Geoengineering_IEEE_2007.pdf “Particles in the Stratosphere” is one of the nine. And just who is Mr. Gail? Credits at the end of the article state that “William B. Gail is director of strategic development at Microsoft’s Virtual Earth unit.” He is also a contributor to the Microsoft publication “Fourth Paradigm” cited earlier.
The arrogance of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is shamelessly on display by his comments as reported elsewhere. As social media computer convenience and near-addiction to it has made him a billionaire, it has also placed him in the position of a “deus” able to be the final arbiter of what may be said on his servers. With a captive audience enthralled by the allures of social media, Dorsey is now in that monopolistic position, and is using it to censure commentary which he decides is offensive to him in some way. Would be competitors face the daunting task of unseating an entrenched communication system in wide use. Legislative efforts face unlimited lobbying and financial pushback.
Google’s shutting down of the Parler application is yet another example of digital censorship.
By way of analogy, think of the print industry…books, newspapers, journals and the like. What basic thing do they have in common? They are printed on paper. What if all this paper raw stock were controlled by one entity, or several entities sharing the same political ideologies? Nothing would get printed without the permission of that entity to sell print paper, if it so chose. You are effectively censored by the inability to get your words onto paper.
There is no chance that the digital age is going to be put back into the genie’s bottle. However, these events provide hard evidence that there is a price to pay for digital delights in terms of ceding control of one’s freedom and freedom of expression.