The road to surfdom

According to an article from the New York Times I read recently called ‘Eliminating the Digital Boundaries’, “the biggest tech companies want to erase the boundaries and own every waking moment of your day”. The new strategy is to build a device, sell it to consumers and then sell them content to play on it. In the not too distant future we could be buying a Facebook phone, a Kindle phone or an Apple TV.

The article goes on to say that jobs boards of all of these companies are apparently reflecting this shift. Positions in electrical engineering and hardware jobs are in greater numbers than software related posts.

This got me thinking a lot. The ‘owning every waking moment of your day’ bit I have to admit gave me a bit of a cold shiver down the spine. Austrian-born economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek (1899–1992) talked about the dangers of ‘a new freedom’  (in the form of socialism) in his famous book the Road to Serfdom. I won’t bore you with all the details but he warned that “so called new economic freedom which the planners promise us means precisely that we are to be relieved of the necessity of solving our own economic problems”. He says that freedom of choice in a competitive society is based on the principle that if you can’t find what you want from one person you can go to someone else to get it. But if there is a monopoly, we can’t do that.

My point here is not about politics but in the future, if Facebook for example did own your every waking moment, one company will know everything about your whole life 24hrs a day. Where you are every minute of the day, what you’re wearing, what your’re thinking about, what you eat, what music you’re listening to, who your friends are and what you’re talking about, where you shop etc etc – this gives them immense power from a marketing point of view. If this future becomes a reality and we buy in to it – are we being given true freedom of choice – or is it as Hayek warned a ‘false freedom’? If you ‘surf’ on the internet you are immediately giving up your anonymity and privacy and are already on the road to ‘surfdom’. Are we creating and buying into a big brother digital state?

I have no idea, and I still haven’t quite decided yet. What will ‘freedom of choice’ mean in the future and will there be quiet revolution  against this digital big brother state?….. but hang on wouldn’t that be a closed web or abandoning the internet completely….?!


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