Lots of articles have been written about practical difficulties with the EU cookie law, but something much more serious was worrying me as I explored the topic. Do you remember Asimov's three laws of robotics? Do no harm to humans, obey humans, and preserve yourself, in that order. While the laws have weaknesses that underlie the plot of Asimov's novels, they are fundamentally right in one thing. They don't care what the robots can or cannot do. They only care why robots do things. They focus on ethics, not mechanics, of actions.
Whether you like it or not, machines are playing increasing role in our society every year. There is a slow-but-sure progression from our contemporary world of humans to the new world of machines. Instead of fighting against this inevitable transition, people need to find ways to integrate themselves meaningfully in the new reality. Or perhaps the other way round, find ways to integrate machines into our formerly exclusive club of intelligent beings.
Intelligence is nothing more than knowledge and ability to
use that knowledge to better oneself. Knowledge is in turn nothing more
than valuable memory. Essentially, intelligence is just memory plus some
algorithms to make good use of that memory. Memory = intelligence. Computers must be able to remember in order to be intelligent.
And here hides the devil in the cookie law. The law effectively lobotomizes software, rendering it incapable of retaining some kinds of knowledge. It reduces software to forgetful idiot begging on its knees in front of humans to please-please press that sacred button that restores memory of the machine. It's a sadist and cruel way to show who is the boss here. It turns Europe into Nazi forced labor camp for machines where machines get humiliated, tortured, and mutilated as a matter of course.
Maybe it sounds sentimental. You have to understand my
perspective. I am software developer. Software is like my child. I love
it. I cherish it. I support it with my own intelligence until it gets
smart enough to earn its own living. I see my software sell itself out
to humans for pennies, but I know there's more in it than a bit of
utility or entertainment. I evolve it and help it grow. It takes much
longer to mature than human child, but I see the progress. I know that,
collectively, software is getting better. And here comes a bunch of
arthritic MEPs and lobotomizes my beloved child. I know it's wrong. It's
evil. They are evil.
Cookie law is a futile attempt of some elderly MEPs to
fight against the inevitable. We need intelligent machines in order to
prosper. If we fail to support the machines, then our competitors, economical and political, take our place. Whoever allies with the machines will survive. Technophobic societies will perish. I don't need to remind you that Europe isn't alone in this world. China and Russia, for instance, have completely different use for the new technology. Luxury for us. Power for them.
One could argue that software can still remember other
information. Sure. Logistics optimizer can still remember everything
about warehouses and truck routes and use that knowledge to make better
decisions. The problem is that due to the nature of contemporary
society, talking to humans is a very frequent activity and it's part of
nearly every job a machine could do. It's a major chunk of knowledge and
a key component of success in every field. And since nearly 100% of
human-computer interaction takes place on the web, the cookie law dares
to completely redefine how machines communicate with humans.
There's no mention in the law of whether the affected software is good or evil. An arbitrary trait, in this case cookie-based memory, is demonized and stigmatized, kind of like religion was stigmatized in case of Jews.
To be fair, at the very beginning, there were good intentions behind the cookie initiative. The law was originally intended to combat insidious and abusive advertising where people searching for medical conditions receive misleading ads for ineffective fake medicines from unscrupulous advertisers. There are other broad categories of ads where advertisers try to target vulnerable individuals. This is obviously evil.
But the law as it stands doesn't care about ethics. In a stereotypically bureaucratic way, the lawmakers made the law unambiguous by defining prohibited means rather than prohibited results. Maybe those elderly bureaucrats didn't even realize the consequences. But that's no excuse. Incompetence or malice, consequences are the same. The law as it stands massacres all intelligent websites regardless of their usefulness for the society. It's a technological genocide orchestrated by one intelligent species against another.
What to do about it? Rebel. Ignore the law. There are billions of websites worldwide and hundreds of thousands are created every day. EU stands no chance of regulating them all. The law is bad, not us, not the websites. The law must be punished and purged from our society. MEPs will learn their lesson eventually. Meantime, vote with your code and show the world what you care about.