Soundbyte 377: Giant Steps

31 December 2018

Right. This is the last thing I am going to do in 2018 before I start with the oliebollen (some call it Dutch doughnuts, but that doesn’t come close to what they represent) and bubbles. Just relaxing while writing this Soundbyte after a number of laid-back days around the Christmas period. I know, it would be the thing to do to come up with yet another list of predictions or analysis of 2019, but that doesn’t do it for me. I’d rather share a couple of thoughts that have been occupying my mind for the last days. And people who now me will appreciate the fact that there will be some common thread in the story, but it might be difficult to follow here and there. But hey, these are a quiet days, so you’ll probably have some time left to read it agian and to play the music real loud…

Plan S, article 13 and more…

The  Internet as we know it runs the risk of undergoing big changes because of a number of decisions are about to be taken that will have a big impact. On the face of it, it would seem that these decisions are completely unrelated, bit I don not think that that is true. Upon closer inspection, it becomes obvious how politicians (see further down the page) and lobbyists are getting more and more involved and with that want to change the  Internet. It’s a phase in which organisations and politicians are trying to get a grip on a thing that is bigger than they can imagine or anything that they have witnessed so far.

The first thing is “Plan S” (zie ook Wikipedia). Plan S, and the underlying idea of Open Access, is intended to prevent scientific research that has been paid for with public funds should be accessible to anyone and no longer behind pay-walls or as part of commercial publications. By making it available under a Creative Commons licenties, new dynamics between markets and science and within scientific communities itself should emerge. Furthermore, this research should also become accessible for less wealthy economies.
Great I should think. But the first doubts are aired by scientists with questions like “Where would I publish in the future if high-profile magazines like Nature or The Lancet no longer exist?”.
I think these are ‘old school’ people who have lived too long in their own version of an outdated reality that predates the value and social mechanics of the Internet, resulting in a lack of confidence. The next fragment of a presentation by Robert Jan Smits, who has played an important role in defining plan S, maybe offers some more details:

Furthermore, there are discussions like Article 13 and netneutrality. Both discussions will give politicians a lot of leverage over the way that the Internet will evolve. Article 13 is a EU directive concerning copyright  in the digital unified market or the question how to safeguard copyright on the Internet. The underlying question arose because the existing legislation does not meet the challenges that are inherent to the way that the Internet is used in the society today. Great, because the current legislation is really outdated. The directive, however, runs the risk of completely missing this original problem by introducing the notion of uploadfilters and very scary liability clauses with respect to copyright. This is something a lot of people protest against (see also the letter by the Electronic Frontier Foundation). The next video is in Dutch and tries to explain the Article 13 problems.

When one combines this conversation with the ongoing debate about netneutrality, in which directives are created that define how (big) Internet providers are allowed to prioritise traffic using a commercial scheme, it becomes clear how slowly but purposefully lobby-organisations are trying to get control over the EU and legislation concerning the Internet. And usually this results in containment and closure of the possibilities of the Internet. I think this represents a bug risk. I’ll be monitoring this closely in 2019…

A well, politicians…

More and more people in the profession of politician (or better the type of person, because I often think that this is more appropriate) play an important role in the way the Internet evolves. It’s a role that they find very hard to fulfil given their blatant lack of knowledge of modern IT-business in general and the Internet in particular. The next video is a sad example of this problem:

Another example is the decision by the UK government to develop their own edition of GPS. As part of the ongoing Brexit-drama it was decided in all wisdom that the UK will step out of the Galileo project to develop their own positioning system (see also It’s not that they just ignore involved costs, complexity and lead time, what really upsets me is that during the entire Brexit-process none of the involved politicians appear to have thought about the consequences of their selfish behavior for the UK and its residents (by the way, we have the same type of people in The Netherlands if you look back at the debates over the dividend taxes). Every involved politician is afraid to loose their seat-of-power and takes decisions they cannot oversee and deny any kind of accountability. Hmmm…

Music that will never make it into the Top 2000

Obviously I have enjoyed the yearly Top 2000 radioshow. And although I have tried to create a list of songs that I could use as a source of inspiration for this Soundbyte, I couldn’t find any songs that really had it. That was yet another reason to open a nice Burgundy yesterday evening and go through my vinyl collection to find the right song. I know, the resulting song is not for everyone, but I think it’s really good: John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Seemingly complex and really up tempo, it appears to be a reflection of the world we currently live in. For aficionado’s there is the next link, which explains why this song is so well thought through, and with that why the analogy with the real world does not apply. In the real world, too little thought is given and, much more sadly, far too few people take responsibility for what they do (just look at the latest climate agreement)….

I wish everyone a nice ending, a smashing start and a healthy and prosperous 2019. In January I will travel to Belize and return with my wife; then my new year starts …


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