It isn't always that way. From back in 2010:
Written primarily by a free software attorney whose doctors also recommended an implanted ICD and who examined 1) the regulatory requirements, 2) what the device makers have to actually submit to the FDA (not source code), and some other relevant security and design characteristics like just how close to you a controller device would need to be before being able to connect with and control your implanted device, in order to make an informed decision about the surgery.
One of the most important issues discovered during this process was just how little doctors had through of these issues, if at all. If your doctor is recommending an implanted device, whatever you decide about the treatment, it is important to discuss these issues with your doctors and help them understand your concerns.
A paper book last forever.
Before there was "bitrot" for digital files there was plain old "rot" for everything else, pressed paper books no exception. Those interested in the immortality of books need look no further than the library of Alexandria and the damage to the store of human knowledge done by its destruction.
A paper book can be read by anyone
Though very old, writing is a technology like any other. At a lower level on the technology stack you could say that "A paper book can be read by anyone who is literate and sighted." While it is true that ebooks require an electronic storage device as opposed to a paper one, those electronic storage devices are also capable of reading ebooks aloud, sharing information and culture with the illiterate and blind people in our own societies and preserving pronunciation and accent information for future generations.
In the Oxford University library in England, I found books in the old books room that were published in the 1600s. The persistence of paper books is an enormous benefit to all humankind.
Is the persistence of those particular physical objects what has enormously benefited humankind, or is it the knowledge and information they offer? While I can imagine scenarios where studying the physical books is of value to historians, I think we can likely agree that most of humankind will benefit only from the content of the books and will likely never know of or come into contact with the physical specimens in the old books room of Oxford's library.
What value then do books add to the persistence of human knowledge? Stone tablets are more durable and cell phones are owned in large areas of the geographic and socioeconomic world where owning a library is simply infeasible.
If we want to preserve knowledge, it seems to me that digital technologies offer us a larger scale, more ubiquitous, distributed, self-correcting, mechanism, for spreading and maintaining knowledge than ever before. While it is true that the current crop of format spats is making it difficult for consumers, the net effect is clearly in the right direction. And as all of the formats continue to converge on html, those incompatibilities gradually disappear and we are left with the native format of the web, which is the most universal and accessible format for displaying formatted text since the advent of printing.
How about distributing all of our social network and other currently centralized services ala: the Freedom Box idea?
Alternately, replacing your router with something powerful enough to also run a Tor node, as mentioned earlier in the comments, or an Asterix server, or all of that together, would be a nice use.
The web is a way of linking computers together, social networks are a way for people to manage what information goes to which of the people they know in particular social contexts. The two are not the same. The web works just fine without any awareness of social contexts and social networks exist just fine without computers at all.
What we need is a way to make our digital communication tools more like our analog expectations about information management, which means designing systems that allow the controlled sharing of information about our lives with the right groups of people in private, not on personal webpages broadcasting to the world.
That could take many forms. I want a system that just handles making secure connections to my various contacts and parceling out what information gets sent to those contacts based on my history with them. Something like this: Freedom Box Schematic
I don't care if the phone makers want to rebirth the shareware market of the early '90s; eventually people will get tired of paying per feature and expect the good ones to be rolled into the core functionality of the OS or the larger applications they use, ala winzip.
What worries me about android is how all the phones they sell with it still need to be jail broken before you can make use of the freedoms in the free operating system. Surely that's a greater threat to your control over the software in your life than the fact that people are also willing to sell you closed software.
I THINK THEY SHOULD CONTINUE the policy of not giving a Nobel Prize for paneling. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.