This pretty much sums it up: Moglen goes on a rant about the evils of capitalism and the wonders of the open source movement. What he proposes is not practical for the world (as it is today) because the open source ideology that helped foster innovation in previous decades does not scale globally. Networks like Facebook have very real operating costs that can’t be covered by donations or grants; product R&D would lack focus and lead to fragmentation (ex. lots of Linux distros).
Monetizing user data is the price of admission in today’s day and age; if you don’t want to participate, you can live in a cabin in the woods, a la Ted Kaczynski. Moglen described man-in-the-middle attacks on people’s social lives, but that’s not what is happening here. A man in the middle attack involves an unknown intermediary; here, entities like Facebook are very much known and broadly publicize/notify their users of their privacy policies and when they change.
He talks a lot about anonymity in addition to privacy. As we’ve learned with other online communities and in our Applications class presentation several weeks ago, when under the veil of anonymity people misbehave: they say and do horrible things when they think there is no accountability for their actions. A network like Facebook ties activity in the online community to real world identities, making the users more civil (or at least on par with their behavior in real life).
He talks a lot about hackable devices; proffering that being able to tear apart and understand the gadgets around us allowed for innovation occur in the computing age. The reality of the situation is that systems which prevent this hacker exploration are there for very real reasons: protect the intellectual property of copyright holders (like the artists in our program), protect encrypted information (like the PGP encryption he so vehemently defends), and to make devices more convenient for people (you can’t upgrade your RAM or switch out your battery because you wanted it to be slimmer).
Of course the work in STEM education is a counterbalance to all this. The most inspiring parts of his talk were diluted by everything else I’ve described: education is key in fostering innovation. The Maker movement relies on easily accessible info and hardware which can be explored by inspired minds. If the cost of digitizing all of Europe’s public domain books is the same as maintaining 6000km of roads, let’s go with a few potholes for a while.
In order to have Einsteins and Shakespeares in this world, we need to enable them to realize their genius. I’m not saying that open source and privacy have no place in this world, it’s just that they shouldn’t rule it; it’s an important part of the checks and balances that keep the industry honest and promote innovation from many different sources.