Computers That Control You


Commenting on my piece yesterday about TPM (trusted platform module) and computers that control you rather than the other way around, Jon Udell says:

Presumably no controls take effect unless the TPM is not merely activated by the operating system, but also pressed into service to guard some piece of protected content. So in theory it needn't affect you if you're creating rich media that you intend others to use freely, or if you're using rich media that others have created with the same intent.
From Jon Udell: Technologies of control, technologies of use
Referenced Fri Dec 16 2005 16:54:14 GMT-0700 (MST)

Jon's got a good point. However, I see TPM and TCP as a fundamental shift in how computers have always operated. In the past, we've always started from the assumption that software was infinitely malleable and we could write programs to do what we want. But, what if, for example, programs that let you create freely distributable rich media were deemed "dangerous" or "unsafe." TPM and TCP give computer manufacturers the option of excluding certain software from ever operating. You can't even say "well, then I'll run Linux" because they might choose to exclude that as well.

I don't mean to sound like a conspiracy theory nutjob. There's certainly futures with TCP that are not as bleak as all that, but for the first time, TCP opens a path to a possible future where general purpose computers disappear and are replaced by unhackable appliances. There are people who view such a world as good and desirable. Those people have been winning some lately.