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Upstream


May 21, 2024

Ever wonder why it feels like almost every single tech product you use is actively trying to screw you? Why it is that your printer requires you to subscribe to ink cartridges that, ounce for ounce, cost more than gold? Why you can’t read websites anymore because of all the moving, deceptive advertisements clogging up the screen? Why you’re paying substantially more for an entire suite of buggy streaming services than your parents ever were for cable TV? Why your BlueTooth enabled electric toothbrush keeps breaking? Why airplanes are falling apart mid-flight? 

Well, it might not seem like it at first glance, but all of these phenomena are related. They have a single cause: deregulation. Specifically, deregulation driven by big tech monopolies that have found all sorts of creative and coercive ways to use the legal system to screw over not just their customers, but increasingly their employees, clients, vendors, advertisers—basically everybody but a handful of shareholders and C-suite decision-makers who are growing filthy rich off of our impoverishment and immiseration.

In this conversation, we’re talking big tech—how we got where we are and how we can fix things—with Cory Doctorow. Cory is an activist, journalist, and author. His two latest books are the science fiction novel The Bezzle and the nonfiction book, which we’ill be talking about today, The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, published by Verso.

In this conversation we explore the history of trusts and anti-trust laws originating in the late 1800s, and we discuss how deregulation, copyright, digital locks, IP law, and monopoly-friendly legislation have all led to a process of enclosure in multiple tech industries—from the internet to airplanes—resulting in a landscape fully devoid of anything resembling the promise of technology that has been whispered into ours ears since the dawn of the digital age.

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Intermission music by Embrace. 
Episode artwork by Berwyn Mure.

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