No Escaping The Information Superhighway

For those unaware, BTJunkie closed down a few days ago, “voluntarily,” which is to say they closed down before the US government could close them down. The more I look at it, the more I see it all as innevitable.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief a month ago, thinking there was some victory over SOPA/PIPA…little did we know the air was toxic from our own neglect of a system that is now even more unstoppable than once thought possible: there is no escape from what we have created.

Upon expressing this notion to a friend, he said this to me, “Project Free TV is toast, too. I’m not buying DVDs, god dammit. What happened that’s made this so? I haven’t been keeping up with any of it,” to which I offered the following rant:

That’s exactly what happened. People riding a wave tend to focus on how awesome the crest is, not the fact that it is actually the beginning of the end for that wave.

First of all, in the next decade, we’re going to start to see a shift in how we use the internet – not really insofar as how we use it, but how we pay for it. Right now, we pay for it like it’s cable television, when the service is actually more similar to how we use electricity. Cable sends out the same signal no matter how many TVs use it or how loud you want to listen to it or how many channels you want to watch at a time. Internet, like power, pushes different amounts of power depending on how much is being used; unlike power, the internet is not billed like a power bill, though it should be.

The concept of it is pretty simple. It’s the same reason you pay for different data packages on a phone, with “unlimited data” being priced competitively enough to compel people to not limit their usage; in the next few years, those unlimited packages are going to disappear. Ironically, by that time, the cost of the service will have decreased, but they will charge more for it, for the simplest of reasons there is: because they can. The companies who have controlled the actual delivery of the internet saw the writing on the wall a long time ago, seeing there was nothing they could do about content and instead choosing to control the much larger aspect of getting online – the connection, itself.

We pay $50 a month for internet now, but what happens when we’re paying $2/gb? 1gb is like watching a non-HD movie – couple that with other downloads, playing games online, YouTube videos, internet radio, and all the rest of your usage, and the average user is looking at their bill doubling. Someone heavily downloading or playing games is going to be paying $10/day for the internet in 2020: mark your calender.

And, while bit torrent seems to be dying, we said the same things before – Napster, Kazaa, Limewire – in just the last decade. We went almost 100 years from the development of the vinyl record to create the compact cassette; the time between recording tapes and burning CDs was 20 years; from there, we went from downloading at 40kps in 1998 to 400kps by 2002 (today, we frequently download at well-over 1000kps).

Ten years later, the concept of waiting for almost anything is totally foreign – I download entire discographies in the time it took me to download a song back in the 90s. So, we should have faith in our clear ingenuity. It’s blatantly obvious to me that we’re getting progressively smarter, to the point where it seems almost exponential; while difficult for us to notice, the progression of humanity in the last twenty years is going to put this period of history on the same timeline with the Renaissance, but it will take us a century to realize that this is where it all started.

I don’t know where it goes from here. Companies and individuals who own the rights to property that continually becomes less secure are going to have to find more and more ways to get their money. Government often plays a role. It was the US Congress that gave away the airwaves of radio and television, after being paid off by the entertainment industry; a few years later, NBC became so massive the government broke up their monopoly (that they had helped create). The government had to make the FCC to regulate it all. There are grey areas, too, like how there was to “parental advisory stickers” until Tipper Gore stuck her nose into it, back when Al was still a senator.

And it shouldn’t be some shock to any of us that the government has always been in cahoots with media. There’s a reason we have the first amendment; media is powerful stuff and when the government has too much influence over it, bad things happen. We now live in a time where, to quote Number Two, “there is no world anymore! It’s only corporations!” The rapid development has been expansive; with the growth of technology and information access over the last two hundred years, it’s really hard to tell where authority lies.

We’re as likely to believe a schizophrenic blogger as we are a TV news station, and at the end of the day there’s no way to tell how much control anyone really has over any of it. Most people have no idea what sites are blocked in the USA and not outside the USA, or what USA sites block broadcast to anywhere outside of the USA; we think censorship like that is something that happens in some faraway land like China when, in reality, it’s far easier to make a book disappear in a large library than a small one – most things that get censored in the USA, we never even know existed, in the first place.

It’s brilliant, and it’s all based in the same sort of strategy. Information overload leads to information being overlooked – but the more we get, the more we want, as is our nature. The System has discovered that the key to keeping The Machine running is not to starve it, but to keep it overfed. But, we can’t break the laws of nature – we can’t keep it up forever – everything we’re doing is being bought on credit.

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