Category Archives: Technology in Focus

When Bricklyn Pulled the Plug

  • by Brenda Softbrick, The Bricklyn Eagle’s Culture & History correspondent, and Samantha B. Fortune, Health & Science correspondent
  • July 10, 2021

Summary of Article ➤ Did the landmark 1992 ruling of the Federal Council limiting computer network connectivity set Bricklyn on a smarter course? A look back at the ruling and the controversy over The Exchange.

➤ Note from Bricklyn Eagle Editor Walt Brickman: We had not planned on running this article by reporters Softbrick and Fortune until next week, but given the announcement yesterday of the Federal Council’s ban on Facebrick, we asked them to complete this article asap, as it will give you a basic understanding of The Exchange 🌀 — Bricklyn’s link to Outland 🌀 computer networks and databases — as well as the key role the Realm’s Chief Prognosticator 🌀 often plays (as happened again in yesterday’s Council ruling).

One of the most profound and far-reaching decisions ever made by the Federal Council of the Realm of Bricklyn (FCRB) 🌀 occurred on May 15, 1992.

On that day, the FCRB by a 6-1 vote pulled the plug on the growing expansion of computer networks. For better or worse, that decision has shaped Bricklyn’s subsequent history and set the City on a very different path from its twinned City of Burlington, Vermont, and from virtually all other Outland communities. What’s more, it sparked a movement among other Inland (LEGO) towns and cities 🌀 to follow Bricklyn’s lead.❖

Of particular note, the Federal Council of the Realm of Bricklyn issued three key mandates as part of its ruling:

(1) that any inter-business and inter-governmental networks only be allowed under strict criteria to be drafted by the Bricklyn Science & Humanities Board (BSHB). These criteria were promulgated the following July, and approved by the FCRB;

(2) that societally beneficial limitations be placed on the use of computer networks by residential users, under rules to be developed by the BSHB. More in a future article on some feel the adopted rules were circumvented by Facebrick.🌀

(3) that one location, open to the public, be established in the City of Bricklyn as a single point of connection to external networks being developed in other Inland/LEGO cities. This facility, called “the Exchange” in honor of Ursula Le Guin, was opened in November 1994.

Report on the Future of Networked Computers in Bricklyn

Cover of the landmark report by the Office of the Chief Prognosticator, relied on by the Federal Council in issuing its three mandates on networked computers.

Heavily influencing the Council’s decision was an in-depth report prepared by the Realm’s then Chief Prognosticator, Ray Brickbury, in consultation with Chief Scientist Mike Strassman (who still holds that position) and then Chief Historian Joseph Tiler Bellis.

“A Report on the Future of Networked Computers in the Realm of Bricklyn” predicted that computer networks would ultimately display a dangerous vulnerability, where the welfare of businesses, residents, and essential public services could be at risk from being dependent on the stability and security of the networks.

“It was very fortunate,” Plater-Zybrick adds, “that the Realm back in 1992 could call on — and then listen to — the wisdom of Chief Prognosticator Brickbury and his colleagues.”📍

📍Brickbury retired in 1999, and was replaced by Mary Plater Campbell. David Bricks was appointed to the position in 2014 .

Brickbury also foresaw that computer networks would enhance the already addictive nature of computers for young people, lessening the resilience of this generation of Bricklynites.

A young Ray Brickbury, then an Assistant to the Chief Prognosticator, in 1981. In front of the Prognosticators offices in the Northeast Corner building (LEGO 10264).

➤ From the pen of Ray Brickbury’s human doppelgänger, Ray Bradbury: “We have too many cellphones. We’ve got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.” Quoted in “Fahrenheit 451 becomes e-book despite author’s feelings”BBC News. November 30, 2011. Retrieved July 5, 2021.

❖ As policy analyst Barbara Plater McQue has written, “the bold decision of the Federal Council moved Bricklyn to a leadership position among Outland communities around the world, a surprising outcome for a Realm of relatively small size, and geographically isolated from the principal LEGO realms.” From Bricklyn’s LEGO Community Leadership & How It Came About (Lost Hinge Press, 2019).

Defending the Federal Council’s Ruling

Hilma Plater-Zybrick at her home.

As can be imagined, the Federal Council’s decision also placed a demanding burden on the Bricklyn Science & Humanities Board, then Chaired by Hilma Plater-Zybrick. As many readers will know, Plater-Zyberk later went on to be elected to the Federal Council from South Bricklyn in 2008. She then ran and was re-elected as for the at-large Council seat in 2012, thereby becoming President of the Council.📍

📍The at-large Council member is automatically named President of the Council. For more on the Federal Council.

Plater-Zybrick, in a recent interview with this paper, noted that “the heavy, and growing, dependence that much of the Outland places on computer networks, puts individuals and businesses at the mercy of increasingly common service interruptions, viruses, or attacks.” But Plater-Zyberk cautions that “the even graver risk is that whole countries are now realizing that their basic infrastructure, including electric grids, is at grave risk.”

📍 From “Plater-Zyberk reflects on the Outland’s SolarWind Attacks,” (The Bricklyn Eagle’s Inland-Only Edition, June 15, 2021).

➤ See also, for example, reports on the recent SolarWinds attack on CBS news (“SolarWinds: How Russian spies hacked the Justice, State, Treasury, Energy and Commerce Departments“) & in many other publications, including The New York Times (“As Understanding of Russian Hacking Grows, So Does Alarm“).

Controversy Over “The Exchange”

The Exchange is located in the third floor suite of the Northeast Corner Building — coincidentally (?) in the same building that houses the Office of the Chief Prognosticator.

Some critics of the Federal Council’s mandate for a separate facility to connect to networks in Inland communities across the globe said it seemed to emulate what they called the “bizarre fantasy novel,” Always Coming Home, by Outland author Ursula Le Guin.

In Le Guin’s telling, computer networks in Kesh communities were made available in buildings called “Exchanges” (or “Wudun” in the Kesh language) and not in peoples’ dwellings or places of work.

Defenders of the Council’s ruling argued that Le Guin’s imagined society offered a “perfectly sane approach” to allowing for the growth of knowledge (through connections between the Exchanges and enormous databases in the “City of Mind”), while at the same time “diminishing the negative societal impacts of networked computers.”

Yes, as a result of the policies resulting from the Council’s decision, life in Bricklyn can at times seem quite backward compared to Outland cities, or to even quite a few other Inland communities.

Yes too, there has been occasional griping from the business community about the “wonders of technology” Bricklyn is missing out on — though those critiques have lessened as the vulnerability of Outland networks has become more apparent.

But polls show that the vast majority of Bricklynites still strongly support the Council’s 1992 ruling and see little reason to revisit it.📍

📍 Polling from the Prew Institute for Public Research indicates that 55% of Bricklynites still think “highly positively” of the 1992 Council ruling; 20% view it “positively;” 10% view it “negatively;” 2% highly negatively;” and 13% either “have no opinion” or “have never heard of” the 1992 ruling.

Neo-Luddism?

Bricklyn’s path forward has some parallels to the slowly growing Neo-Luddism movement among Outlanders. Even those who profess not to be Neo-Luddites can attest to the benefits of lessened dependence on the Internet and world-wide networking in this age of damaging hack attacks.

➤ As Brett Frischmann writes in Scientific American’s blog (“There’s Nothing Wrong with Being a Luddite” (September 20, 2018): “The good thing about Luddism is that it enables critical reflection and evaluation of the world we have built and are building. At times, we need to break away, to deconstruct the systems within which we find ourselves embedded and to evaluate how the technologies we take for granted influence who we are and can be.” ✥

Facebrick Banned in Realm of Bricklyn

by Eric Tiler Corman, Bricklyn Eagle Political News correspondent
July 9, 2021

Summary of article ➤ In an unexpected ruling, the Federal Council of the Realm of Bricklyn has banned Facebrick from the Realm due to monopolistic practices & abuse of privacy. Reactions to the ruling and next steps.

Federal Council President Hilma Plater-Zybrick at her home.

In an unexpected action, the Federal Council of the Realm of Bricklyn (FCRB)🌀 has just issued a ruling (by a 5-2 vote) mandating the termination of Facebrick’s🌀 services within the Tripartite Realm of Bricklyn.

The Council’s decision only applies to Facebrick, not to Facebook (the parent company). Facebrick has been operating a Bricklyn-only network since 2016, as Bricklyn has long restricted access to Outland networks. But unanswered questions remain over whether the Council’s ruling also applies to Bricklyn citizens trying to connect to the global Facebook social network at The Exchange.📍

📍For some background about The Exchange, see “When Bricklyn Pulled the Plug.”

Council Finds Monopoly and Privacy Violations

According to Council President Hilma Plater-Zybrick, “the ruling centers not just on violations of Bricklyn anti-trust laws, but also on concerns over infractions of Bricklyn’s privacy regulations.”

One of the examples of anti-competitive behavior cited by the Council was Facebrick’s 2020 acquisition of the fledgling social media app WeBricks, “snuffing out a potential competitor,” the Council’s ruling said.

Editor’s Note: While the Council’s ruling dealt with the monopolistic practices of Facebrick, have we given any thought to just what Bricklyn’s youth are learning when they play this board game and need to accumulate the most money & wealth in order to win? The Junior Version of this popular board game is designed for 5 year olds and up!

As to privacy, the Council found Facebrick repeatedly failed to tell customers of its sharing of personal data with third parties, and also engaged in other “systematic privacy breaches.”

The Council cited Facebrick’s failure to address these issues, despite repeated warnings from Bricklyn regulators.

Facebrick supporters claim that the company is being unduly tarred with accusations being made in some Outland countries against Facebook, and that Facebrick is a good corporate citizen, providing valued social media services to Bricklynites.

Replying to these critics, Council President Plater-Zybrick said that: “Regardless of Facebook’s practices in the Outland🌀 world, the Council’s ruling was solely based on Facebrick’s practices within the Realm of Bricklyn.”

Plater-Zybrick has been considered a long-time “skeptic” of Facebrick, but that she could convince four other Council members to join her in ruling against Facebrick remains a surprise. When asked, Plater-Zybrick would only say, “What became clear to most of us was the egregious nature of Facebrick’s violations. What’s more, we received a statement of support for the actions we were considering from the Chief Prognosticator🌀, always an important consideration in major rulings by the Council.”📍

📍 By long standing Bricklyn tradition, the Chief Prognosticator of the Realm can be called in for an in camera meeting with the Federal Council when the Council is considering taking actions that may have “high significance for the future of The Realm of Bricklyn.” The decision to call for the Chief Prognosticator can be made by either the Council President, or by vote of a majority of Council members. The current Chief Prognosticator is David Bricks.

Facebrick Supporters Attack Council Decision

Bill B. Butler, Federal Council Member
Federal Council Member Bill B. Butler, aka “3B”. Besides serving on the Council, Butler is an engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad.

Bill B. Butler, who represents South Bricklyn, was one of the two dissenters on the Federal Council. When asked about the ruling, Butler said: “Facebrick is a great resource for Bricklyn. It gives people what they want, which is why virtually everyone who wants to be socially networked uses it. What’s more, most folks don’t give a hoot about their so-called privacy, as long as they can easily network with their family and friends.”

As Butler added, “if Facebrick did happen to violate our laws, what that means is we need to re-examine and change our laws so that Facebrick can quickly resume operations here in Bricklyn. I’m sure that’s what most Bricklynites would want.”

Representatives of Facebrick could not be reached for comment. An appeal of the decision to the Chief Magistrate’s Court, along with a request for a Stay of the mandate, are possible. However, given the fact that the ruling received the endorsement of Chief Prognosticator Bricks, most legal analysts view it as unlikely that the Court would hear an appeal (the Court has discretion on whether to accept appeals of Federal Council decisions).

Public to be Polled

There has been little opinion polling on the Facebrick question, but Bricklyn Eagle Editor Whitman, along with TV 3 Managing Editor Frank Smallbrick, have just announced they will be teaming up on a poll in the coming weeks to gauge public reaction to the ruling.✥

➤ Note from Bricklyn Eagle Editor Walt Brickman: Unfortunately, as Editor, I must offer an apology. As you may know, The Bricklyn Eagle just recently launched a Facebook page for Outlanders. In fact, some of you have already “liked” it. We are seeking clarification from officials at the FCRB if this page must be taken down in light of the ruling, or whether it can remain available to our Outland readers. All I can say right now is, stay tuned! But rest assured, we at The Bricklyn Eagle will continue to provide you with unbiased news reporting, despite our having used Facebrick and Facebook for our business.

➤ Note from Reporter Corman: As mentioned in our article, Outland policies and laws were apparently not taken into consideration by the Bricklyn Federal Council in its Facebrick ruling. Having said that, readers may find it of interest that U.S. President Joe Biden, in remarks given today (coincidentally the same day as the Council’s ruling), said that: “We are now 40 years into the experiment of letting giant corporations accumulate more and more power … and what have we gotten from it? Less growth, weakened investment, fewer small businesses. … I believe the experiment failed.” As Biden observed, “Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism, it’s exploitation.” See “Biden launches assault on monopolies,” POLITICO (July 9, 2021).