Woz: This is not my America

Stopped by Latin American tech journalists at an airport, the Apple co-founder says that after the NSA revelations, he questions his own government and wonders whether it's behaving like a king.

A concerned citizen. FayerWayer/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

As the passions and justifications swirl around the revelations concerning the NSA , the rest of the world sits and wonders.

Is only the U.S. involved? Or might, perhaps, every government on Earth be rather keen to use all technological methods to protect its interests?

What do ordinary Americans think (apparently, we don't mind too much)?

But, more importantly, what does Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak think?

It so happens that Latin American tech site FayerWayer happened upon Woz as he sat at San Francisco airport.

So often known to be obliging and spontaneous, Woz offered his thoughts. Essentially, he seemed to be reassessing his whole view of America.

He explained that he was brought up believing that other countries tortured prisoners, but America "didn't torture them. We gave them good clothing and everything."

"I was so proud of my country and now I find out it's just the opposite," Woz sighed.

Woz believes a certain decline started a few years ago.

"All these things that talk about the Constitution that made us so good as people, they're kind of nothing. They all dissolved with the Patriot Act," he said.

"There's not even a free open court anymore," he added.

He is clearly distraught about what he sees is the erosion of the America he believed in, one whose people had clear rights. Everything, in his eyes, was overturned.

Warming to his theme, he explained: "That's what a king does. A king just goes out, has anyone rounded up, killed, puts them in prison."

He began to compare America to Russia. It was Russia, when Woz was growing up, that followed people around and made them disappear.

"We're getting more and more like that," he offered, gloomily.

This trend away from the Constitution has infected ownership in the technological world, he thinks.

"Nowadays in the digital world you can hardly own anything anymore," he said. If you put things in the cloud, someone, somewhere might disappear it and it's gone forever.

"When we grew up, ownership was what made America different than Russia," he explained.

Woz certainly doesn't lack passion or idealism, but are his thoughts realistic in the kind of world that this has become?

Some might even wonder that the idealism of creators such as Woz has been -- quite naturally -- co-opted by those for whom a perfect world is little more than a Clint Eastwood movie.

Though Woz feels deeply about all these issues, it is the very gadgets that his former company and others helped to create that, he implies, help ordinary people to forget about such lofty things as whether the government is following them on Twitter.

"In this day and age, everything's going so fast. We've all got our great toys," he said, as if technologists have not only created the perfect means to make spying easier, but also the perfect tools to distract the average citizen.

Who is to blame for this apparent diminution of the American way? "The trouble is, it comes from the top," is Woz's conclusion.

Perhaps it's one more encouragement for him to continue on his path to Australian citizenship.

Ultimately, though, is there anyone you can truly believe in ? The minute clever people saw that technology would entice more people to offer more information about themselves more openly, they tried to take advantage.

Every entity on the Web is looking us in both eyes and saying: "trust us."

How can we do that, when we know that we can't even trust ourselves ?

 

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