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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #292 - Digital, Technologies: emancipation or enslavement ? (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Fri, 15 Mar 2019 08:43:36 +0200

While public-private partnerships in the field of digital technologies are constantly strengthening GAFAM at the expense of basic research of public interest, an interesting initiative is emerging in France in March 2019: the Upsilon project . ---- What makes a technology emancipatory or on the contrary enslaving ? ---- It is a complicated question, which we want to answer intuitively: a technology is emancipatory if it is at the service of individuals and collectives, if it allows more independence, freedom, security (in the sense of protection his personal data for example) ; technology is, on the contrary, enslaving if it serves the interests of a company or the state, if it makes its users dependent, if it facilitates surveillance. To continue the reflection, one wonders if these properties are intrinsic, ie will a given technology always be classified on one side or the other. Of course the answer is no, it would be too simple. Let's take a very concrete example from the common history of computer science and the labor movement.

Canuts from Lyon to computer technologies
The ancestors of computers can be divided into two categories: calculating machines and programmable machines. The first programmable machine is a loom, the Jacquard loom, named after its inventor. At the beginning of the XIX th century in Lyon that Joseph Marie Jacquard develops a loom semi-automated and programmable, which needs to be implemented as one or two workers, against three or four before. For Jacquard, it will be an emancipation tool for the canuts since the children, released from work that can now be realized by single parents, will be able to go to school.

Only here: few canuts are owners of their loom, and for those who are, we are rather in a situation of exploitation similar to the couriers and bike couriers who own their bike today. As a result, in this period of rising capitalism, increased productivity does not benefit workers, but the owners and traders who, since there are only working parents, pay only their wages, thus obliging children to work elsewhere, most often in factories where working conditions were more difficult. This is largely the cause of the revolt of the Canuts of the 1830s. Jacquard regret all his life the social consequences of his invention.

With this story we see that at least in some cases, a technology is not intrinsically emancipatory or enslaving. In the case of the programmable loom, it seems almost obvious that the collective use of the means of production and the self-organization of the workers would have made this invention an extraordinary tool for the emancipation of the working class. It is not a coincidence that it was at this period on the slopes of the Croix-Rousse that the prud'hommes, the cooperatives, and mutuellism were born.

Today, it is on the computer side that the development of technologies that influence our lives is mainly played out. Since the 1980s, the free software movement has offered a form of collective use property applied to software technologies based on legal bases via free licenses. However in recent years, with the explosion of so-called " cloud computing" "(Cloud) and the concentration of these services in some large private platforms, the simple free software is not enough any more since the software, free or not, are in any case no longer executed by the user but manipulate his data directly at home. big platforms. This new paradigm raises new questions. How to protect yourself from the surveillance capitalism that comes from the concentration of data and services on some lucrative private platforms ? How to allow people to maintain control of their personal data ? How to influence the development of new technologies so that they are emancipatory ? It is to think collectively about these issues, especially in the area of computer security, that we are launching the Upsilon project.

The new paradigm of the Cloud
As civil servants with a public service mission and as a computer science teacher, we have a dual role. On the one hand, to advance computer security at the service of the people under their control, ie emancipatory security as opposed to enslaving security offered by major platforms such as Gafam. On the other hand, the training of technicians and engineers who will develop the technologies of tomorrow, which we inherit in anticipation of part of the responsibility.

At present, the main means of transferring research to society, which are the publication of articles that are most often inaccessible to the public, and market valuation in partnership with companies, do not allow the creation of emancipatory technologies: the commodification of a computer technology requires making its users dependent on proprietary (non-free) software or centralized platforms. It therefore seems necessary to get rid of these constraints in order to accept others such as the need for the decentralization of security services, in order to eliminate the dependence of users.

On the teaching side, we ask ourselves a double question. On the one hand, integration into the computer science curriculum of the transmission of a critical social and political perspective on technology to its future designers. On the other hand the popular education necessary for the enlightened use of technology, an essential element of its control and therefore its possibility of emancipation.

The launching day of the project will take place on March 29 at the University Paris-VIII.

Pablo Rauzy

More information on Upsilon.sh website

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