Monday, March 17, 2014

Current So-called High Tech Are Only Financialization By Another Name

A Financial Times opinion piece, March 13, 2014:

Silicon Valley is turning our lives into an asset class
Tech titans with better data and engineers will disrupt Wall Street, writes Evgeny Morozov  
In the past few decades, Wall Street has made finance a central feature of both the global economy and of our everyday lives – a process often described as “financialisation”. Silicon Valley, almost contemporaneously, has done the same for digital media technologies. That process, too, has a fancy name: “mediatisation”.
With reports that Facebook is seeking to buy a drone-manufacturing company, ostensibly to connect the most remote corners of the globe, the days of blessed disconnection seem firmly behind us.

Understandably, many social critics find this troublesome, blaming technology for invading our lives. But it is a false target: mediatisation is actually financialisation in disguise. Having disrupted Madison Avenue, the likes of Google and Facebook – armed with better data, better engineers and better databases – will disrupt Wall Street next.

Silicon Valley companies sit on a trove of data about our most banal daily pursuits. And the kind of data that they gather will only grow more diverse, as the Faustian bargain that we first accepted in our browsers – letting strangers monitor what we do online in exchange for nominally free services – will be accepted in many other domains, especially as the rise of the “internet of things” makes daily interaction with sensors, screens and other data-capturing devices unavoidable.

There is much to like here. A fridge that not only knows that you are running out of milk but can do something about it sounds empowering. Yet in the longer term there is a more consequential side: sensors and internet connectivity are also turning “dumb” gadgets into powerful vehicles of prediction and speculation. The data they capture can be integrated with data from other gadgets and databases to create new information commodities whose value might eclipse the value of the gadgets used to generate the underlying data. Soon, the devices might even be given away for free....MORE
If the FT link is broken the OpEd is crossposted at Mr. Morozov's Tumblr.