Money Quote March 14 2018
Platforms are simply acting the way you’d expect given the norms of financialized capitalism. That’s where reform must focus.
Every few days my browser tabs overflow, and I feel the need to summarize why I’ve kept those stories lingering in my digital consciousness. Here are stories I’ve been reading and thinking about for the past few days.
Look, I agree with the premise — the web has become weaponized and some kind of regulation is needed. But I disagree that these platforms — Facebook, Google, Twitter, et al — have any desire to “control” the dialog of the world. As I’ve said over and over again, the issue is not that the engineers and brohans of the tech world want domination. The issue is they’ve created a public square that is quite literally out of their control, and under the spell of a business model in the thrall of a financialized, steroidal version of capitalism that needs serious reform. If we want to reform anything, we should reform that. The rest (including the platforms) will follow. MQ: “Berners-Lee warned of “two myths” that “limit our collective imagination” when looking for solutions to the problems facing the web: “The myth that advertising is the only possible business model for online companies, and the myth that it’s too late to change the way platforms operate. On both points we need to be a little more creative,” he said.”
The platforms are coming to the realization that journalism and what I call “the independent web” really, really f’ing matter. That’s a good thing. But they have yet to come to the subsequent realization, that if their goal is, as Axios reports, the creation of “a news product that’s native to the platform and includes content from vetted publishers (to) drive less passive engagement and curb the spread of misinformation,” then those same platforms must must acknowledge they are media companies and publishers, with all the attendant responsibilities of those designations.
We are starting to understand Trump in far more nuanced and historical terms, and that is a good thing. This read is so worthy. It’s long, but the main point is in this money quote: “As a result, the primary evangelical political narrative is adversarial, an angry tale about the aggression of evangelicalism’s cultural rivals. In a remarkably free country, many evangelicals view their rights as fragile, their institutions as threatened, and their dignity as assailed. The single largest religious demographic in the United States — representing about half the Republican political coalition — sees itself as a besieged and disrespected minority. In this way, evangelicals have become simultaneously more engaged and more alienated.”
Along those same lines, have a listen to this podcast between Sam Harris and Niall Ferguson, author of The Square and the Tower (excellent analysis of network power) an avowed centrist when it comes to Trump. I know, I know, but as Harris avows, the conversation truly left him, and me, feeling…better about things.
The received wisdom about the “blockchain revolution” is that while cryptocurrencies may come and go, the blockchain itself is the truly big deal. But…what exactly *is* the blockchain? Turns out, no one agrees. It’s still very early, folks. MQ: “This uncertainty has contributed to the general bubbliness of the industry by inflating the number of “blockchain” projects and exaggerating the capabilities of the technology. It may also cause unpredictable problems in the future as states pass blockchain-related legislation.”
I love the insurgent nature of farmers hacking the domination of their livelihood (like their tractors) by massive BigCo platforms. MQ: “The right of anyone to fix, tinker, modify, or even just access their own stuff — their phones, cars, washing machines — seems basic, yet it’s something that has been quietly eroded by corporations trying to corner the lucrative repair market.”