Because general purpose computers are, in fact, astounding — so astounding that our society is still struggling to come to grips with them: to figure out what they’re for, to figure out how to accommodate them, and how to cope with them. Which, unfortunately, brings me back to copyright.
In other words, an appliance is not a stripped-down computer — it is a fully functional computer with spyware on it out of the box. … Because we don’t know how to build the general purpose computer that is capable of running any program we can compile except for some program that we don’t like, or that we prohibit by law, or that loses us money. The closest approximation that we have to this is a computer with spyware — a computer on which remote parties set policies without the computer user’s knowledge, over the objection of the computer’s owner. And so it is that digital rights management always converges on malware. … And on the network side, attempts to make a network that can’t be used for copyright infringement always converges with the surveillance and control measures that we know from repressive governments.
Freedom in the future will require us to have the capacity to monitor our devices and set meaningful policy on them, to examine and terminate the processes that run on them, to maintain them as honest servants to our will, and not as traitors and spies working for criminals, thugs, and control freaks.