Overweening Generalist

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Big Data and Two Proposals For How We Should Be Compensated For It

Both Jaron Lanier and Evgeny Morozov have looked at the asymmetries in Big Data, saw how We have given our data away for free to gazoollionaires, and Lanier and Morozov have done gedankenexperiments to see how the playing field may become slightly more leveled, regarding the case of The People v. Google, WalMart, Goldman Sachs, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, health insurance companies...the NSA.

I'll try to give a thumbnail, but some of you are ahead of me on this stuff, so feel free to chime in and correct my various egregious erroneous apprehensions. Even though you may be ahead of us here, can we agree this Big Data asymmetry qualifies as a Missing Public Discussion? On with it...

Morozov notes the winner-take-all aspects in Facebook and Google, et.al, having the biggest computers to harvest the most data about us. They've got megapetaflops of data stored on us. And they need more. We thought we were just having fun and playing and they were "giving" us search or social connectivity. We volunteered our user data, belatedly realized there were such things as "data trails" and gigantic computers somewhere with fancy algorithms attached to our name/number and what we do, what we like, who we know, where we live, how much money we have...and of course the NSA has the goods on the sort of porn-loving perverts we are. We only devoutly wished they wouldn't "go there," assuming like three year olds that if we wished they'd be decent they would be. Back to Bad Boy Evgeny.

The problem of Big Data asymmetry is a democracy problem, and passing privacy laws would be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Lusitania. We need a civic solution.

He says the metadata should be thought of as the "social graph" and it's ours. Mostly. Anyway: it's time someone "pay" for it; we should be getting something back for...ourselves. For Morozov, this isn't money for us. The social graph should be given free to any startup. Google and Facebook: how are you going to compete with them? Level the data playing field! As it is, the situation is not good for "free market" competition. To say the least. If there was more competition for Google and Facebook (et.al) it could lead to possibly a reacquisition of some privacy...and innovation among the data-gatherers.

How about government getting in on it? Nope: public money can't compete here; the behemoths are way ahead of all that. They're that Big. However, our personal information and our social connections (which we gave them, remember) are not only the public...mind? and much of the personal aspects of our selves, but we and our connections may outlast Facebook and Google and the other tentacles of the Behemoth. Historically, very very few corporations have lasted 100 years. (I smell that last part as a component of a Bad Argument, but let me sally forth anyway...)

Morozov proposes the social graph as a public institution, to be regulated, maybe by a civil agency or even the UN. This would open up competition: say you wanted to start something to compete with a Behemoth: the social graph is there, and you access it. Morozov seems correct: if we went back in time before these Behemoths got started, we'd look at the hardware and algorithms and not be all that impressed. They only got there earlier and nabbed our data quicker than everyone else, and "won."

As a new competitor, maybe you'd guarantee anonymity, so you would opt in. Or you could opt out. The regulatory body would control how social graph data was collected and accessed.

The NSA is mired in secrecy, with no congressional oversight, which seems like a clear violation of the 4th Amendment to many of us. And that's not to mention what they've been doing. Of course, NSA used Google's and Facebook's data on us. And Verizon's and AT&T's and holy muthafreakinshit what a mess this is for any semblance of privacy, Constitutional rights and protections, decency, democracy. You know: The little things.

NSA ain't goin' away, so let's take the NSA's data (they're being paid by us, our taxes!) and make some or a lot of it available for a more robust competition for social networking and search engines.

This is a basic sketch of Morozov's way of dealing with our current Worldwide Theatre of the Absurd and Big Data collection asymmetry. Personally, I think it's nuts. (He does call it a "modest proposal.") But, if implemented, can it make things worse? Or would it be more likely to make things better in some way? What am I missing here? One thing I like about his ideas here: he wants to fiercely politicize the public dialogue about privacy and data and democracy.

Lanier basically sees the mess we're in as a "collective action" problem: it can't be solved by individuals in a free market but only by a sort of paradigm-shift in the way We perceive the problem, and by an adjusted normative response.

Facebook employs less than 5000 people, but it's worth over $65 billion. The heirs of the WalMart fortune are worth, according to one data point I saw recently, $147 billion...and they're just Sam Walton's offspring.  How can a scenario like this be sustainable? It can't. (Lanier in his book Who Owns The Future? fascinated me in many ways, but one of them was his explanation of how WalMart "won": they basically did what Facebook and Google did, but earlier than them: massive data banks [what Lanier calls "Siren Servers" and they're the new "factories" for the Robber Barons of 2013] on consumers, buyers, distributors, every sort of technological minutiae imaginable, all to get a leg up on their competitors.)

The bigger the computer, the more likely you're gonna be the winner in a game that's basically winner-take-all. And what really makes you a winner? Data. Big Data. Gather the data, enter it. Pay hotshot computer people to write the algorithms. Pay others to keep the lights on and the data servers from overheating.

The Facebook game of "giving" consumers something they want then harvesting data about them? This will continue to spread throughout banking, health care, retailing: they'll give us good service at good prices...but soon most of us will be unemployed and at their mercy because The Behemoth is too good at doing what it does. Marc Andreeson wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal in 2011: "Why Software Is Eating The World." With the acceleration of computing power entire industries are replacing workers and distribution with a few dozen of the most talented programmers and a few dozen data servers.

Look at how Amazon ate up its competition. Look at how many people Kodak employed, with decent, middle-class-bolstering jobs. Then look at how many people work at Instagram (hint: the number is 13), which bought Kodak. How can anything like that be sustainable without some sort of "collective action" solution, as Jaron Lanier puts it?

Note: there are scads of smart free-market thinkers who think all of this is good. No collective action required. Andreeson is one of those guys. You probably know one yourself. Jaron Lanier is not one of them. He sees this as a disaster: you think the inequality between the 1% and the rest of us is bad now? He sees all this as making it much worse, and it's happening so fast we're stunned. I agree.

So what does Lanier propose? He's somewhat similar to Morozov in that he agrees the Behemoths have mostly gotten that way by collecting data about us. But his solution - and he's proposed variations on this scenario - is that we should be paid for our data, via micropayments. NSA and other governmental surveillance is out of control because there's no limit on the cost to them. If they had to pay you a tiny bit of something when they took a picture of you on some camera on some street corner and used facial recognition and stored that data...you should get some little bit back for that. It's your data. Whoever agreed to allow the government to be so intrusive in our lives? If they're going to do this sort of shit, they're going to have to pay. After all, We are the government, in a democracy....errr...right? In increasingly starry-eyed theory we're the government. We pay them out of our taxes to work for us. Imagine that.

And not only that: all the data about us that's being shuffled around and sold to other Behemoths and vendors: that represents us. If they're going to do business with our data, they're just gonna hafta pay. Literally. With "micropayments." Every bit of data about us can be tagged when it's used and we get a little bit back. If you write some article and all kinds of people link to it, tweet it, use it in some way (still not sure about the limits of this), you get something back. One of the godfathers of the Net, a fascinating genius named Ted Nelson, wanted HTML to always link back to the origins of some idea. It didn't go Ted's way, but Lanier - who knows and loves Nelson - says there might be a way to tag our data to ourselves so that if our face ends up in an ad on Facebook, we get paid. This would seem to entail a reworking of the architecture of the Net, so I don't know how workable the idea is. In theory I like it more than Morozov's idea...which is, I know, anathema to the Everything FREE! vision we all love(d) so much.

Some Sources Used
"Let's Make the NSA's Data Available For Public Use" by Evgeny Morozov
"The Real Privacy Problem" by Morozov
"Who Owns the Future?": Morozov reviews Lanier and thinks Lanier's ideas are lame. (Of course!)
"U MAD???: Evgeny Morozov, the Internet, and the Failure of Invective" by Maria Bustillos: a sort of smack upside the head for Evgeny; Bustillos rather likes Lanier. And Bustillos is one of our best interpreters of this whole scene, in my view; I love her.
video: "Jaron Lanier On Connected Media Universal Micropayments and Attribution": 2 minutes. I think Lanier had a dental problem here, which accounts for the lisp?
"In Venting, A Computer Visionary Educates," an article by John Markoff about Ted Nelson
- A bunch of other sources; presumably I'd have had to pay a little bit under the micropayment scheme, but then presumably I'd get something back from people reading this? However, when we look at it from Jaron Lanier's perspective, the Behemoths are gonna have be paying us far more than we're paying them?


Eric Wagner said...

Terrific piece. I remember reading a piece in the LA Times Book Review a decade or so ago about institutions that had lasted more than 800 years, mostly universities. I heard someone recently say they thought Apple would outlast every other institutions. That seemed a little presumptuous.

I don't know how the future will turn out. As I move through my fifties I feel a bit like a tree. Bad habits, like roots, seem hard to change, but I seem very open to vibrational changes, like leaves in the breeze. A song playing in the grocery store or a flock of birds can refocus my conscious mind, at least for a while. I read a bunch of poems by Desmond Egan this weekend, and he commented on how Latin and Greek have mostly disappeared from non-elective school curriculi. Paradigms do shift. This post seems disconnected. So it goes.

Anonymous said...

As per the usual, I was off down
the rabbit hole following the web
of ideas here.
What I'm beginning to wonder is how
this is framed ? Is commodification
the answer to data ? Is creation of
government Utility commons the way
to address these problems ?

It's obvious that NSA has completely
lost sight of their real objective
in their mad rush to build a haystack
hoping they will have every needle
in it somewhere. Is that the right
way to find those who intend real
harm ?

I have data storage accumulated
over the years that I doubt seriously
any of the hardware exists to be
able to access it with. What if
the Instagram people all catch the
Hanta virus ? Will it bring Kodak
back ? Kodak was immune to a problem
like that.

How much of this big data could
survive a massive solar storm and
its attendant power system fail ?
How much of the non-volatile data
is on media that will survive a
hundred years ?

I do know that no one has a 100
year old CD or DVD, and there's
a lot of work going into working
with the remnants of movie films
which have crumbled before the end
of their copyright. Magnetic also
is continuously degrading all the

Are we going to give the future a
heritage akin to the remnants of
Greek and Roman civilizations or
are we going to preserve crapola
that the schlockmeisters can sell
and let the rest disappear.
Worse is putting on DRM so that
even if you had a workable copy
it cannot be re-covered by the
author. (This has happened.)

I don't have the answers, but we
really need to have a dialogue as
we try to find some answers to
these questions and others of the
invisible barb wire as it closes

As a long term nutty technocrat I
have never been comfortable with
people who wandered onto the Net
clueless, full of amazement, who
considered it all magic that they
didn't need to understand at all.

The only way to protect yourself
in cyberspace is to understand
how it works, this applies to the
government agencies, commercial
interests, and ordinary people.

Google and Facebook only get away
with what they do with the collusion of the clueless. I want
to see Google change its motto
to first do no harm instead of
don't be evil.

I'd like to see every Net user
change theirs to don't be stupid
enough to think there is a free

Great topic.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Try as I might, I can't figure out what the "social graph" is.

"Morozov seems correct: if we went back in time before these Behemoths got started, we'd look at the hardware and algorithms and not be all that impressed. They only got there earlier and nabbed our data quicker than everyone else, and "won."

Well, to me Morozov seems wrong. It's false, for example, that Facebook was "first." It was preceded by MySpace, Friendster, etc.

I happen to think the free services Google provides is a pretty good value for my data, but if I really want to, I can without the data and still get the service. I'm using TAILS for this (anonymizing Linux software) and I can still use Gmail, blogger, etc.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Sorry, that was supposed to say, "I can withhold the data."

michael said...

Eric- We may have moved into some new epoch where these companies will last forever. I hope not.

WalMart's business model was so avant they wiped out mom and pop stores throughout the country, and their greed is such that the Walton heirs are worth $147 billion (according to one stat I researched; it's certainly over $100 billion), and they refuse to pay their workers a living wage, so the State (that is, us), have to chip in with foodstamps, and other safety net features for their employees. How can that possibly be sustainable? Under fascism, it will go on...

michael said...


What distresses me about Lanier and Morozov trying to come to a solution about Big Data and the Siren Servers (another name for a rock band?) is the proto-inchoate qualities of both of their ideas. I wanted to mention that in the blogspew, but withheld my feeling for how out-of-control-hopeless this all seems. Well, at least they were trying. Do I believe you can wrest back control of NSA data? No.

And we now know that the NSA surv is a lot to do with trade policies, as it's come out they were snooping at the G-20 Summit:

NSA is about Big Biz. And we're paying for it. And Eric Schmidt of Google gives speeches tsk-tsking Behemoths for sharing data with the NSA, while Google allowed it to happen. I highly suspect they all do this. And it seems probable that each Behemoth is hacking the others for data, so it doesn't matter that I'm not on Facebook or that I've started to use Bing as a search: my data will make it around.

Did you see where a Snowden doc says NSA has installed a virus in - probably - all of our computers?

You ask a lot of good Qs about the possible precariousness of data. I can't answer the Qs. You're far more tech savvy than I am (hell, almost everyone is more tech-savvy than me), and I wonder if there are tech answers to various aspects of "privacy." I will say this: I was never so clueless that I didn't suspect the Behemoths with their Siren Servers would spy on us. Zuckerberg once sent an IM: "They trust me...the fucking idiots." This, to me, is the synecdoche of the Mind of Big Data.

michael said...

Tom- Social graph was apparently a term that was used like "disruptive" is today by tech wonks, but has fallen out of favor. If we Wiki it, or look at the images for it, it's a map of our connectivities, and as much of what that entails.

According to Jaron Lanier, My Space and Friendster didn't go the whole nine by realizing it's about personal data. Zuckerberg has spent a lifetime being obsessed with other peoples' data. Privacy is all over; get used to it: that's Zuckerberg. He's an asshole but only because he has a big mouth. All of what I've called Behemoths with their Siren Servers (Lanier's term) realized it was our data that would enable them to "win," which is all they care about. Fuck decency, privacy, democracy, any sense if equality...I know you can't stand my that I actually think Morozov has something to say; his style and attitude are sheer punk. Intellectual punk. He's got scads of enemies, he doesn't play fair...did you ever read Mencken? Morozov is wrong about a lot of stuff but in my opinion there needs to be MORE Morozovs: brash nay-sayers to the techno-utopians, all of them well-fed and not worried about paying their rent of losing their jobs. Also: there's a non-provincialism in his writing (he knows a LOT about how Internet has been used by fascists and authoritarians all over the world, stuff that doesn't play much in the mainstream. And Morozov's most eloquent detractors are people I admire more than him. I like him because he's so snotty people have to at least contend with his assertions, and especially - and this is where I really like Morozov - he's got a rhetorical style that's elegant. For a Russian he writes English better than most of the techno-utopians.

So, yea, sorry: I'll come right out and say it: if some Expert or Economist who talks about the free market is well-informed but really doesn't seem to care about human suffering, I won't waste my time. I'm interested in human values and not the next version of tekky "meritocracy" where there's 20% unemployment, a shredded safety net, the banks go on as TBTF, and 70% of the jobs are soul-sucking bullshit wage-slave jobs. I don't respect a "market" like that and I don't respect people who bow down to it. Not everyone was born with a native ability to write code; indeed, most of us are good at and enjoy other things that have little or almost nothing to do with HiTech. Why should we be forced to live in THEIR world, when it's entirely plausible that now we can live lives of more pleasurable work, without the fear of being two paychecks away from being homeless?

I also suspect that withholding data is valiant, but if it's anywhere it will soon be everywhere.

Eric Wagner said...

I used to work for Blockbuster, which wiped out the mom and pop video stores for the most part, and Blockbuster has now faded away. Rei panta, as Heraclitus used to say. (Autocorrect changed that to "Rei pants.")

Anonymous said...

That puts Morozov in the Oswald
Spengler category, many disagreed
with him but he forced them to
bring out their arguments against
him into the open.

I like the idea of erring on the
side of kindness, instead of doing
the usual bashing of those who need
help because some of them aren't
worthy recipients of help. Coming
up is the season when it was time
to see if you had enough to survive
the winter and to celebrate if it
was enough. Our economics isn't
able to deal with abundance since
it was conceived in scarcity as a
normal condition.

At some point the dimmest of our
politicians is going to realize
that that giant databank has all
of their material just waiting
for the mining job on them to do
them in. It also has all of the
1%ers and all of the bureaucracy
neatly stored for a zealous new
crusade to sweep society clean.

I don't think there will be much
of a society left once that is
done since most of them will be
jailed for the clear evidence they
left behind and decided to keep
forever. So far the hackers have
been extremely kind but NSA has
built the pot of gold at the end
of the rainbow for any enterprising
kiddie who knows how the Net

I'm sure the Mob is equally
thrilled that every phone call is
there just waiting for connect
the dots to tag them all and map
their connections.

I'm just waiting for the other
shoe to drop on this one. One of
the olde dayes phrases was GIGO
Garbage in Garbage out and no one
can tell any savvy comp user that
all of the automated stuff has
suddenly mutated into perfect.
I've seen government run programs
that took reasonable information
in and convert it to unusable
crap at a cost of hundreds of
thousands to the taxpayers. We
were forbidden to use it because
it was crap and our stuff had to work right or someone would then
notice it immediately.

What really annoys me is the brain
drain, smart people who are quite
active in advocating useful change
are being forced to move out of
USA just to avoid being harassed
at every turn by our so called
protectors. If we achieve the
dumbest common denominator then
what ? The 20th century serves as
a really bad example for this as
Germany went from the peak of the
intellectual world to a bombed
out landscape full of wandering

On the other hand there is a Hel
of a lot more hope on the horizon
than anyone whose nose is stuck
in IT will ever see. The Net is
just two tin cans and a string if
you examine it closely.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Actually, my problem with the micropayments idea you blogged about is that it's such small beer. If we're going to have lots of unemployment and a gulf between the two classes, we have to get serious about a guaranteed income (or a similar solution.) Facebook micropayments won't cut it.

There are lots of techno utopians who don't have much money. There are good and bad sides to technology; hence the irony of you using Blogger to complain about Google, reaching a worldwide audience you couldn't easily reach 20 years ago.

Psuke said...

I agree that this is a Missing Public Discussion...not least because I think many people miss the point. Did you see the article one guy wrote about the app he created? The one that let him search for females in his vicinity, know what they looked like, who their freinds were, etc? And all of it using Facebook public data? No, not Stalkr - it was called "Girls Around Me" (article here: http://www.cultofmac.com/157641/this-creepy-app-isnt-just-stalking-women-without-their-knowledge-its-a-wake-up-call-about-facebook-privacy/). All the females he showed it to got kind of freaked out - they had no idea their data could be collated that way, and I think that's the trouble, most people have no idea their data can be collated that way. Yeah, sure, people joke about it, but it's just a joke, right?

I think, like the women shown the Girls Around Me app, they need to be *shown* how much *anyone* can find out about you from the data you post on FB, or G+, and the cookies that track one across the web. Perhaps then more people might start calling for better management and compensation for their data. Maybe.

michael said...

Tom- If Jaron Lanier doesn't even have the kinks worked out on the micropayments scheme, how do you know it'll be small beer? A citation please?

Google allows me and many other incredible amts of freedom. However, let me ask you a question about the "irony" of my complaint about Google and the fungibility implied: Marx was hounded out of half the countries in Europe for being a radical pain in the ass to power. He ended up in England, the most tolerant (along with Holland, probably) country in the non-Unistat world in the last half of
19th c. He ended up writing Kapital in the British Museum. How about that irony, eh?

Noam Chomsky has been the most consistent intellectual critic of US power for 50 yrs now, and yet he works at MIT, which researches and develops nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in other parts of the campus. What irony, eh?

So: I should quit using Blogger because I have a problem with the way Google has shared info with the NSA?

Is that your argument?

michael said...

Psuke- No, I hadn't seen that. Lately, I find I'm less and less surprised by this stuff. I did see a couple of articles and a short vid about Berkeley computer scientists who developed a way to see exactly where (down to precise GPS coordinates) people were when they sent out a Tweet. They did it to alert people that...you may not know as much about what your gadgets are doing as you think you know.

All these Apps can be used - like Google, FB, Twitter, Amazon, on and on - wisely, with knowledge and forethought and INTENT, but the public's learning curve about it seems to lag far behind.

FAR behind.

Personally, I find it dizzying-unto-vertigo to try to grasp it all.

And that brings me to another thought: an author whose name I've forgotten (too lazy to Bing it) wrote a creepy, compelling book called Peep Culture. It came out last year, and I couldn't put it down; I read the whole thing in 2 days. He had chapters on "reality" TV shows and the people who want to be on them, about the radical democratization of "porn", about all the little James Bond-ish surveillance and spy gadgets we can buy on the open market to watch/peep/spy/surveil others, and all sorts of other aspects that were part of his thesis: if we say we want personal privacy, why do we so want to look into others' personal lives? We seem to really believe we want personal privacy, and yet we don't take the time to know how our digital data/images/pics/etc can be used. He said we're really lonely, despite the idea that the Net was supposed to get people together. We have a desperate need to be "known" by others, even strangers: See me? I'm here! I exist!

Now that's irony.

This age is Golden for stalkers. And the future looks even brighter.

michael said...

Good point bringing up Spengler. Those authors who are eloquent and provoke and don't care about saying what others are afraid to say, or even seem to be "trolling" in a grand way every now and then - btw: what the fuck was Socrates all about? - what kind of Reader can't handle that? Or can't see the Writer's purpose? Apparently: lots of them.

I wish more would err on the side of kindness. Perhaps plenty do, but don't make a show of it, and their stocks for kindnesses exist more in words and deeds than in material giving.

I see the Mob as just another Capital Gang, conspiring against the others - more technically "legal" - to get their little fiefdoms. They are more colorful than Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, though. We're hypnotized to see Whitey Bulger as the Very Bad Man, while Robert Rubin or Dick Cheney are saluted and allowed to pontificate on TV. Gimme Bulger any day; he's more upfront about being a violent, murderous gangster who ruins lives.

Re: the GIGO: I heard Jaron Lanier give a talk and someone asked him about Kurzweil's dreams and Lanier pointed out all the brittleness built into gigantic computer systems, which he called "legacy software." As I understand it: grand new platforms are built on top of what went before, and what went before has bugs and blemishes. And...I don't recall if it was Lanier or someone else along the same lines: they pictured this amazing robotic warrior fighting in another Unistatian foreign war, probably for oil. We see this awesome, 20-foot-tall killing machine ready to fireblast 100 mere men armed with AK-47s ..and then Windows goes down. I'm not sure to what degree this was in jest.

The brain drain of those courageous enough to stand up to what's going on: locked up or drummed out. Yet another symptom of decay, rot, fascism.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...


I didn't tell you to quit using Blogger. My point is that techno-pessimism is as one-sided as techno-optimism.

Facebook's annual revenues in 2012 were about 5 billion and there's about 319 million people in the U.S. (you can Google to check my numbers), so, no, forcing Facebook to give everyone in the U.S. $16 a year won't do much to end poverty

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I'm not clear why you see Google rather than the NSA as the villain. This seems counterintuitive:


Psuke said...

I remember many many years ago getting into a semi-argument with a friend about "internet communities" not being a replacement for "meat-space communities". He was a big computer-head, living in a blue collar 'burb, so he was all "Yes! They're just as good! Better!", but nowadays I think he understands more where I'm coming from. I've also had many semi-heated discussions with pro-net friends on why I don't use my legal name on any of the sosh media I've signed up on. (No, not even the ones that require "real names"). I'm not naive enough to think that keeps me "safe" or "untrackable", but it does keep me (mostly) ungoogle-able and I like it that way.

I do find it frightening, the things it seems so many will say, or do and then pix-or-it-didn't-happen! to the net, just for the sake of attention of people you may never meet. And possibly, might not *want* to meet. But I do think the human desire to be seen and acknowledged is here to stay, and that's what needs to be contended with in this debate regarding privacy nowadays.

michael said...

I'm not a techno-pessimist, but I do see some aspects of it as needing to be more in the conversation. If anyone reads this blog at all, a major theme since the beginning has been "Wow. The geeks have been jaw-droppingly impressive with how they've changed the world." And I consider geeks as the technical intelligentsia, who historically (say since their rise around 1880) been conservatives who just wanted a technical problem to get up in the morning and work on, every day, paid well, of course. The other major group of intellectuals I consider the Humanists, who go as far back as the 1500s, maybe further. They've splintered into various interests, but what unites them is a revolutionary fervor, in the name of the oppressed, but of course: more jobs for them. Their power is rhetoric.

The technical intelligentsia (geeks) use math as their rhetoric, and compared to the Humanists, have been rhetorically apolitical. However: the effects of their work has been so overwhelmingly radical the Humanists could only dream of having such power.

I admire an enormous array of works from both major branches of the Intellectual Class. So, no: I'm not a techno-pessimist.

As for micropayments and FB: you have not bothered to read Lanier or even to watch the videos I put up on my blog. Lanier proposes ANY use of your info, anywhere, by anyone, should be paid. So: when I link to RAWIllumination.net, Tom Jackson gets a little something. When some insurance company brokers some info to some other consortium, you get something. It's WAY wider than FB.

The devil dogging Lanier, Nelson and their cohorts is doggin' 'em with a red-hot pea-shooter, laughing (for some reason I imagine Wallace Shawn's voice) and saying, "C'mon! Let's see you make this work, you freaks!" And, as I understand it and wrote in a comment above, the plan is proto-inchoate but has something to do with tagging your ID number to HTML to some sort of account scheme. It seems valiant...and dire.

If they can make it work, I'd like to see it accompanied by UBI, retention of the EITC, end of the war on certain people who use certain drugs, a financial transaction tax, and a far more aggressive attack on white collar Business Criminals, meaning prison time and not fines. End Citizen's United, even if it takes a Constitutional Amendment, and make elections publicly financed.

But I digress.

michael said...

Tom- I don't see where you get the idea I see Google as the villain and not NSA. I've seen NSA as a villain since Bamford's Puzzle Palace, which was years before Sergei and Larry ever met.

I think FB is worse than Google. And WalMart is worse than FB. Goldman Sachs and the other TBTF are worse stlll, but in the scheme of things this hierarchy is trivial.

RAW said to make your demands clear: I want some semblance of capitalism to go on; it's the most dynamic force for creative solutions to real human problems. I also see it as a means toward an END: the relative end of the Rat Race, if a person wants it. The world of leisure (which I'm using in a 18th century semantic sense.) There's plenty of space for people to get filthy rich, but it should not be at the expense of those who don't care about living in a palace.

In the so-called "free market," I don't recall ever voting on whether the Pentagon should get $600 billion a year, do you? I don't recall having a say in giving tax breaks to Exxon-Mobile every year, even when their profits have never been higher, do you? Orthodox economists conveniently bracket off those and many other welfare schemes for the rich, and I find it embarrassing at this point in history when anyone bows down to their assumptions about accounting.

If you keep reading about Google-NSA you'll see many articles by hacker types that Google and all the others are doing a CYA thing: they want to say they've been victimized by the NSA, but they knew there were backdoor ways NSA could get in, and they basically looked the other way. NSA is charged with keeping us safe from harm, under the GODDAMNED CONSTITUTION. Snowden is a hero; the Behemoths are complicit, but the NSA seems now like an out-of-control criminal enterprise, and they also may be TBTF, but in a different sense than the banks.

I hope I've spelled out enough for you here and made myself clear.

michael said...

Psuke- the guy who wrote the book was Hal Niedzviecki (no wonder I couldn't remember his name):


This seems be a vital tendril of this Missing Public Discussion. As garish and creepy as so much of it seems to you and me, I also find it mindblowingly fascinating.

Another former rah-rah Internet intellectual is Sherry Turkle of MIT, who now writes books about the depressing specter of being alone, together.

I read some essay by Rushkoff that was collected in a book including many other authors, and this was maybe 10 yrs ago. He wrote about how "reality" TV was as far from "reality" as it gets, and that many of these shows seem to mimic the Stanford Prison Experiment...or was it the other one about administering shocks to others (that's recently been shown to have been as famous study that was half-baked )?

I can't help but come away from all this by thinking most people don't really have a personal hierarchy of values, consciously and daily negotiated with, and worked toward, constantly refining and changing as new information and contacts and experience arrive...did you ever read Alan Watts's book The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are?

Someone asked me a few months ago: what's your ideal situation? And I said Thomas Pynchon: write really well, be paid well for it, and have a private life, as anonymous as possible. I don't want to be "known" by everyone. I guess maybe that makes me a Bad Murrrkin?