Sunday, May 7, 2017

"Feudalism and the 'Algorithmic Economy'"
Old school rent extraction device

That's the graphic I chose to illustrate 2015's "The Last Word On The Sharing Economy: Actually, The Emperor Has Some Very Nice Clothes, It's The Crowd That Has To Go Naked" and about which I said:
Wow, just wow.
I am, he said modestly, reasonably au courant with most of the issues and still am dumbstruck by this mini tour de force....
This link isn't on that level but still a good read. And a chance to re-use the pic.
From Medium, April 17:

Using AI and algorithms to return to feudal economic models
For the sake of this essay, feudal economic models imply the idea that a very tiny segment of the society is fantastically rich while the bulk of society works hard, has few choices about the work they do, and tend to be poorly compensated for their efforts.
feu·dal·ism: noun, historical
  1. the dominant social system in medieval Europe, in which the nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants (villeins or serfs) were obliged to live on their lord’s land and give him homage, labor, and a share of the produce, notionally in exchange for military protection.
Welcome to the Algorithmic Economy, a future which uses machines to determine how effective you can be and how little they can pay you in the process.

There are no unions in this economy. There are no bosses to complain to. There are no people you can ask for redress. Because in this economy, the people doing the labor are considered the least important part of the machine and it’s best if they never communicate with someone living if it can be helped.

This is just like something out of a dark and dystopian science fiction novel, except its likely happening to you, right now. If it isn’t, unless you are very fortunate, it will be, soon. I write about the near-future in my speculative fiction. Often these are my most unpopular stories because they paint technology in a less-than-ideal light.

In a world in desperate need of positive imagery, a number of famed science fiction writers such as David Brin are recommending writers look at creating more beneficial, beneficent and Utopia-oriented stories, where people see the future as something to look forward to rather than promoting the more popular (and definitely easier to write) dystopias.

I have heard David Brin and know this work does need to be done, but having the extensive background in computer technology that I do, I still feel compelled to point out just how powerful and how much effect technology can have on our society now and in the near-future.

In “Dark Harvest” I point out the future of human trafficking improving its capacity to provide “slaves to order” using social media habits to gather intelligence on users making it possible to predict their behaviors and habits. Such technologies which I see being furthered by companies like Facebook, Instagram, and now are making it even easier to find, isolate and extract people from their lives without warning and without recourse.

In “We Now Return You to Our Scheduled Advertising” I posit a world overrun by “push” information technology being used to ensure advertising cannot be stopped from being heard by potential customers.

In our current world, television advertising is diminishing due to the power of DVR technology. As a result, smartphones (because they are harder to secure) are becoming a means of forcing users to endure advertising they don’t want in order to get content.

Companies are also learning how to hack your smartphone to send you content you did not ask for, by forcing your browsers to accept cookies, they can target you with specific advertising based on your search requests. Stores can, with the right software installed, direct information to your phone in order to influence your shopping decisions.

How long before such technology becomes part of the shopping experience you cannot opt out of? Recently it became possible to push an ad to speakers at remote locations using software technology. While it was immediately repudiated, it did not stop someone from discovering it could be done.

With recent laws being created, it will be possible to extract your data from an ISP and create profiles allowing advertisers to send information directly to you, no matter where you are.
THIS WEEK, THE House of Representatives followed the Senate in voting for a resolution that throws out Obama-era regulations that would have banned your internet service provider from selling your web browsing history to advertisers. What possible reason could Congress have for repealing such a consumer-friendly policy? The refrain on the House floor yesterday was “consistency.”
“What America needs is one standard across the internet ecosystem,” said representative Greg Walden (R-OR). If services like Google and Facebook can turn data into profit, the logic goes why can’t the cable companies?
But the House’s resolution doesn’t actually apply a single, consistent standard to the internet. It maintains the broken status quo, one in which internet service providers aren’t actually at a disadvantage to websites and apps. If anything, they’re held to a lower standard. (
I have also written about the nature of technology in a non-fiction format discussing the future of employment, opportunities for work and the eventual need for some kind of subsidy to offset the lack of employment opportunities in the future in an essay called: “Humans Need Not Apply.”

In this essay, I posit something I call the “Algorithmic Economy” though it is often called the “Sharing Economy” or the “On-Demand Economy” by economists and other writers on this subject.
I prefer the “Algorithmic Economy” because it speaks to the creeping effects on decisions being made by companies and organizations, which not only include automation used in factories, but the development of apps and programs which use algorithms to direct, control and manage Human behavior.

As programmers using design-thinking engage computers to map, monitor and control Human endeavors, it is becoming more prevalent that computers are effectively in charge of Human behaviors utilizing a number of algorithms (programmed behaviors and decisions made by programmers to elicit a desired response from Humans or there programs) to enrich corporations using such technology such as Lyft, Uber, TaskRabbit and many other such “on-demand” driven businesses.

The continued existence and economic support of such companies has created companies whose values seem far greater than the benefits such corporations provide to their workers. The company is perceived to have a fantastic value which benefits investors, disrupts previous businesses or services, often unfavorably, and enriches only those at the very top of the workforce in those companies, usually executives and senior developers.....MORE
"...Their goal is to create a workforce bound by their economic debt to the system, forced to take whatever work they can find, while being paid as little for that work as possible, understanding ultimately, the creation of an indentured workforce is not only the result but an expected one, keeping society enfeebled and unable to create opportunities for further development...."