OpenBSD version: Not relevant here...
Arch:            ?
NSFP:            Well...

« Read proposition 3 <> Read proposition 5 »

The idea of (eternal) growth and profitability are a cornerstone of our society (despite not being a thing). Especially in the IT world, the idea of ‘do start-up, be rich’ is the ultimate dream and fullfilment of an overcome deus-ex machina lifting one into the ranks of our new world’s aristocracy. So, at least the fairy tale we tend to tell ourselves.

There is another whole argument to be had how having rich ancestors is really beneficial in this process; However, this article is about another aspect of creating a large and profitable system that scales.

We claim, that:

Proposition 4

“Centralization and profit are inherently incompatible with care for infrastructures.”

In our globalized economy, the idea is that people and especially corporations, naturally have the goal of maximizing their profits and gains. We do not want to judge this perspective here. For our proposition it is irrelevant whether this is a good or a bad thing. (spoiler: We think it is a bad thing… )

But why are centralization and profit incompatible with care?
Well, it starts with centralization.
Centralizing infrastructure also means centralizing control.
Centralizing control means centralizing power.
Centralizing power means that, all of a sudden, entities gain the ability to go through with decissions simply for their own benefit, disregarding needs of others.
This, quiet obviously, can be come ‘suboptimal’ if we are talking about infrastructure others depend upon.

Next, we have the profit component. The thing with the cloud and digital systems in general is that scaling needs that cattle-style approach. You reduce cost with automation and consistency. In running your system and in supporting your users, in deciding which services to run (or discontinue), in deciding which integrations with external services you allow, and what freedoms your users enjoy in how they can use and interact with your platform.

Caring, however, does not only mean caring for the needs of the majority. Still, caring for everyone in their uniqueness means that a lot of beautiful leaves in the end make a heap whose weigth can make you collapse. Caring for users’ needs is simply costly.

Similarly, caring for infrastructures entails you doing things that have no measurable impact on users. Doing maintenance and ensuring thing keep running does not constitute the holy grail of ‘innovation’ or the mantra of ‘moving fast and breaking things’. It simply ensures things stay the (working) same.
Reducing that care will, ultimately, degrade your service.
Users may not notice it at first.
Users may never notice it at all.
And ultimately the infrastructure falling apart is a slow progress, much like a frog finding themselves in a pot of slowly boiling water. So, if you want to (quickly, i.e., within a 5-10y timespan) increase profits… why should you care about the infrastructure, instead of banking resources on moving fast, doing (for engineers certainly also) more fun things, ‘innovating’, and breaking things?

Hence, in a profit-oriented world, it can become fiscally untenable to maintain sufficient care for a service/infrastructure and its users. To conserve their bottom line, corporations will discontinue services users rely on, or apply support mechanics that can not provide the care some users may need, or neglect maintenance of existing systems. While for a profit driven corporation, this is a rational decision, it will mean a significant loss for users, no matter how mundane (your fancy home automation no longer working), unusual (you having found love with a digital entity), or obviously essential (visual implants becoming obsolete) a service is. For you, profit does not matter, if your world—whatever that is for you—suddenly goes dark again. And (depending on the service) if the service ultimately breaks, it will not only be a loss for some, but for society at large.

So, in summary:

Centralization means power.
Care reduces profits in digital infrastructure.
Power allows you to ignore care to increase profits.
A rational actor will do so.
A caring one will not.
Corporations are rational.