The Digital Curmudgeon


Welcome to the dark side of the digital and on-line revolution.  It's not that the conversion of all of our creative efforts to bits and the relevation of all those bits to "the cloud" is necessarily bad, but any revolution, and what has happened is certainly a revolution, has consequences, and this site contains essays where I explore those consequences.

Who I am

First, be assured I'm not a techology luddite.  I am a Ph.D. computer scientist who worked for 30 years on many of the technologies that underpin today's digital world:  Multi-user, secure, reliable computing platforms, distributed data, the internet, VoIP, mobile computing and communications, and many more.  I was involved in some of the earliest social networking software (Usenet and netnews), and in countless efforts to open up the telecommunications network and the operating systems that run our critical software to enable innovation.

What I feel about the modern digital world

While the conversion of all our information to bits has lead to many advancements, it has also created many new problems.  Most arise because the digital world is less transparent, more complex,  and less easily understood by the average person, who often has no idea how things like mobile payments, social networking, and mobile "apps" really work, and thus what risks are involved and how to minimize them.  Many of the issues are new even to old timers because, in short, "this isn't your fathers digital world".

In the early days of the internet and many of the other technologies we now depend on the key technologies were built by academic and industry researchers, volunteers, and others driven by the notion that what they were doing was building a better world.  Profit rarely entered the discussion, and "hacking" was something done by students exploring the world motivated mainly by gaining knowledge or leaving a mark.  Many implementations were public domain or "open source", (even before that term was defined), and standards were set by volunteer committees of those pioneers whose motivation was simply insuring things worked.

As the network became an important part of our modern world, the character of networking changed.  Major corporations got involved building web and mobile technology, and those companies wanted to find ways to make money.  Many built proprietary solutions (AOL, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) which deliver services to their users in a "walled garden" approach, where the company controls what users see and do in an impleentation proprietary to the provider rather than driven by standards to interwork with solutions built by others.  As the value off the information we entrust to the network has increased, it hasn't escaped the notice of criminals and con artists, who "hack" our networks for financial gain. 

Unfortunately, it has been demonstrated many times that people are all too willing to place their trust in computers, and this is where the dark side lies.  People trust that the web site they are viewing really represents their bank and that information they enter cannot be viewed by others, but in fact that trust may be misplaced.  Just as thousands are decieved by telephone scammers claiming to be someone they aren't or fraudulent mailings, fraud and crime in the digital world is all too easy and too common.  People also tend to believe that information in their computers or cloud accounts is as permanent as documents in a bank safe deposit box, but again, there are many ways things can go wrong.

Warren Montgomery