Man of marble and of code
Over the course of the last few weeks I’ve been quietly testing a theory on a number of trusted sources, friends and acquaintances whose opinions on economic and technological matters I value.
The hypothesis very loosely speaking is that the Internet revolution was founded on an extremely precarious and highly politicised social equilibrium which may not be as robust as we like to think it is. Our failure to understand this presents us with a false sense of security.
Don’t get me wrong. We’ve clearly benefited from the Internet in amazing ways and it has allowed us to achieve things that were previously unthinkable.
But…. I am increasingly concerned that we have all overlooked the precarious nature of the system we have created, how dependent it is on collaboration and how vulnerable that makes us in the long run if those social systems fall apart.
What we have been experiencing in terms of benefits and advantages is akin to a Bob Geldof-organised charity concert.
I.e. These concerts reveal precisely what we as a social group can achieve if and when we actually choose to a) all get along b) act in a United way and c) focus our efforts on one particular benevolent and altruistic effort.
But it’s also something that is by definition a bit of a one off event.
No doubt what we can achieve is mind blowing. Like building the Tower of Babel.
But the problem with charity concerts is that after a while we do all want to go home and get back to our own selfish existence.
The Internet charity concert has now lasted nearly 30 years. That’s a very long time. But what we are starting to witness now is the rise of increasingly exploitative and manipulative agents (hackers), not to mention proprietary businesses, all of whom don’t play by the collaborative rules and whose key focus is taking advantage of the goodwill within the concert for their own selfish purposes. They even label their companies “concert x y or z” to better manipulate us — not unlike the the cottage industry of unofficial vendors that spring up on the sidelines of concerts to try and charge you twice as much as usual to get home. That to me indicates the party may soon be over — unless, of course, we quickly find a better way to keep it protected from malevolent agents.
On that basis I increasingly side with the thoughts of Jaron Lanier. If we want the concert to continue we’re going to have to start compensating people for taking part in the concert, for concert fatigue and for holding themselves back from returning to their old lives.
Climateer linked to this story on Motherboard about a new book by Andrew Keen that argues a very similar point. Namely that the web Revolution has led to the creation of a very weird form of capitalism (which in my humble experience resembles increasingly the story of Animal Farm).
From the article:
In his new book The Internet is not the Answer, Keen rubs up against the “Silicon one percent” to document what he sees as a profound hypocrisy—an elite made wealthy by the internet, co-opting the language of “community” while privatizing public life in every direction.
The first thing I thought of when I saw Geldof's name was this post from 2007 on his buddy:“You’ve got wealthy Oakland residents crowd-funding their own militias,” he told me in a phone interview. “Google have superimposed Google Bus on San Francisco’s public transit system. These companies are eating away at the idea of public society.” The so-called Google bus is the private shuttle service that recently sparked protests as a symbol of gentrification and over the way it used public stops.Profound hypocrisy I think is a great way to put it.
Now, I am not by any stretch of the imagination a tech expert. I can’t even code. Apart from some very very very very basic html....MUCH MORE
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