Words by c.z.robertson

Evangelising computers

2001-01-04 03:00:00 UTC

A few days ago a friend asked me why I was so keen on telling other people about issues related to computers. It's a fair question. It's partly because, in general, I tend to evangelistic about things that I'm passionate about (which, I'll be the first to admit, is a bad habit), but it's also because I think that it's important that people have some understanding of the technology they use.

I find it astounding that people know nothing of, for example, the licenses under which software is made available to them, or of the difference between open and closed formats. Understanding who makes the technological decisions and what their motives are is fundamental in a world where, as Lessig put it, code is law.

I suppose a large part of the problem is that people think of technology as something that is done by other people, not something they can participate in themselves. (As it happens, they're right, so long as they remain ignorant of it.) There's also the problem that people just dislike computers and don't want to get involved. While I'm aware that people feel like this, I have very little idea why.

I feel similarly about science, law and politics, but these are all fields which I have some understanding of, and that leads me to suspect that I'd have similar feelings about any field I was knowledgable of. Perhaps I'm just over-estimating the importance of computers.