The illusion of permanence

I keep hearing phrases that reiterate the desire for more freedom in our digital spaces, to avoid “vendor lock-in” and a general concern not to be fenced in. Apparently signing up and purchasing apps is the equivalent of locking yourself in the basement, proceeding to chain yourself to the floor and then throwing away the key.

There seems to be a sense of permanence in our digital spaces – the hardware, software and services we sign up for – which seems odd, considering the technology depends on a complete lack of anything tangible. We have created a sense of the artefact and of the analogue where none ever existed. Digital came to free us of these things, but somehow they have returned with greater resilience, vim and vigour.

Zip disks anyone?

This year I cleaned out my cache of legacy technology. CDROMs with applications that no longer work, files unable to be opened, operating systems no longer current and hardware no longer able to connect. There is so much legacy technology it’s scary how quickly we change and adapt.

This concept of lock-in scares me because it seems to strike fear into people. They become stunned and unable to function, frozen by fear of making the wrong decision. Yet when we look back at our recent past how much has changed? Are you using the same computer, the same apps, the same software version, the same services from 3 years ago? Five? Ten? Has every update, and version upgrade ran smoothly or come without tradeoffs or made components/features/files legacy? Are you reading this in your chains from your basement?

Permanence is a myth in the digital age. Entropy follows us into the digital realm because it is a fundamental rule of the universe. Everything changes, everything moves and everything evolves.

“Nothing is static. Everything is falling apart.”
– Tyler Durden, Fight Club

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