In a piece examining GPL v.3 and Linus Torvalds’ recent comments (‘If Linus snubs new GPL, is that it for ‘open source’?’), Andrew Orlowski discusses an idea put to him by a “GPL 3.0 advocate”:
“If what I’m told by the GPL 3.0 advocates is true, then the world is about to end fairly shortly.
One proponent told me that the difference between now, 2006, and 2009, is that the value of your home in 2009 will be determined by the “freedom” your gadgets exhibit. This is a startling idea, one I’m sure today’s real estate agents haven’t yet pencilled in as a pre-printed tick-box on their forms. I’m paraphrasing, but the argument is that if the property owner didn’t have “control” over all the technology in their home, then the home would have no value, or a lesser value than a comparable home on offer.
“I don’t want to use the phrase ‘Matrix’,” said one, who went on to use the phrase Matrix – by saying, fairly emphatically, “it would be like living in the Matrix”.
Utter nonsense, of course.
Your average property owner wants to get home, flick a switch, and find that “stuff” comes out – the stuff being, for example, light, heat or cooling if (s)he flicks a switch, or entertainment if (s)he flicks on the remote. Homes that don’t fulfill these basic obligations have a tendancy not to get sold – they’re probably car parks. In fact, you’d have to coral prospective home buyers in at gunpoint, and keep them there, to accept such a lousy proposition.”
Regardless of Orlowski’s cynicism, this idea does add another wrinkle to the implications of architectures of control discussion. Economically, products which remove control from the user are more likely to be worth less, and in the long run, this might begin to have an impact where architectures of control become more prevalent. Maybe not in houses for a long while, but already (for example) a second-hand CD-ROM of some software which requires a node-locked licence is almost worthless.
It’s an interesting idea and I don’t think we’ve heard the last of it.