Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 1st Nov 2018 22:30 UTC
In the News

Silicon Valley technology giants such as Facebook and Google have grown so dominant they may need to be broken up, unless challengers or changes in taste reduce their clout, the inventor of the World Wide Web told Reuters.

The digital revolution has spawned a handful of U.S.-based technology companies since the 1990s that now have a combined financial and cultural power greater than most sovereign states.

Tim Berners-Lee, a London-born computer scientist who invented the Web in 1989, said he was disappointed with the current state of the internet, following scandals over the abuse of personal data and the use of social media to spread hate.

I couldn't agree with him more - but I'd like to expand this beyond just the online or technology sector. In all kinds of sectors there are companies that are far too large and rich, and thus powerful, to continue to exist unabated. We've broken up powerful companies before, but the odds of it ever happening again seem slim - companies have been very successful at fostering an anti-government atmosphere in which corporations are seen as idols to be worshipped rather than potentially harmful entities that need to be kept in check.

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The problem is people.
by kencreten on Thu 1st Nov 2018 22:40 UTC
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The problem with the Internet is the same problem we have with everything else. People.

Reply Score: 3

Tony Swash
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The brilliant German political economist Wolfgang Streeckrecently wrote a book called “How Will Capitalism End? Essays on a Failing System”. His argument is complex and clever and very well presented, but to sum it up super simplistically would go something like this:

Global capitalism went through a prolonged crises in the first half of the 20th century marked by events such as the First and Second World Wars, the Great Depression and the rise of both Fascism and Communism. The main period of crisis ended with the end of the second world war which, because of the way that total war had only been possible via a massive extension of state management of the combatant economies and the securing of the active support of the mass of the population, resulted in a defeat of capital. This defeat by imposing a system of Keynesian economic management, the Bretton Woods system of financial and capital controls and the building of welfare states, actually saved capitalism by stabilising it. This stability was delivered largely via and through nation states and their democratic governments.

This post war settlement began to break down after the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 and the global defeat of organised labour in the l980s. The result was that capital began to escape the control of nation states. Capital has defeated national democracies.

Unfortunately it has proved impossible to build effective and democratic transnational system that can scale up to the size, and therefore are powerful enough to control, transnational capital. The best attempt was the EU but the EU is both non-democractic, and relatively ineffective in relation to controlling the excess of transnational capital, and is deeply structurally flawed.

Therefore Streek is fairly pessimistic about the coming decades when we will live in a world of relative instability, chaos and confusion where capital can roam free of democratic political control. Streek characterises the way people deal with living in such as world as “coping, hoping, shopping and doping”

This remark of Antonio Gramsci comes to mind.

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

Reply Score: 3

Iapx432 Member since:

PostCapitalism by Paul Mason presents a similar background, but seems to be more optimistic about the future. He predicts that the info giants' business models will collapse by themselves as they are basically trying to monetize information that has inherently zero value.

He also has some interesting things to say about financial vs production profits. In the US right now Capital makes more money keeping someone in poverty and forcing them to pay credit card interest than giving them a manufacturing job and making money off the product sales. He sees left and right extremism as a result of the middle class getting poorer. All of this rings true but unfortunately he does not spell out what to do other then appeal to the state to regulate.

My theory is we need a new form of money. The emergence of debt destroyed the feudal system. Ironically, the emergence of speculation and interest proof money that values the environment could destroy capitalism and replace it with more automation, less work, more innovation, less disparity and a sustainable planet. AI would be freed to do something other than churn privacy into adds.

Reply Score: 2

ssokolow Member since:

AI would be freed to do something other than churn privacy into adds.

AI has its own problems. There's a book I've been meaning to read since my brother read me excerpts of it called "Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era" by James Barrat.

The gist of it is that, if we can't write bug-free software, and we don't have the patience to plan for every contingency when designing everything that should happen in the absence of bugs, and we already let the machines called corporations run away on us, and there's such high potential profits to be the first to Artificial General Intelligence, it's inevitable that we'll create something smarter than us which doesn't have our best interests at heart. (But not in a Skynet sort of way... in a manipulative sort of way.)

Hell, we already have. Look at the misery various corporations are causing in their pursuit of their prime directive (maximize profit) and they're still made of people.

Edited 2018-11-03 20:19 UTC

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zima Member since:

I propose to call such AI... The Invisible Hand ;) (running on ARM chips of course)

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zima Member since:

PS. Well, always better than Dead Hand (the rumoured Soviet/Russion system which will automatically launch their nuclear arsenal in the event of decapitating attacks on their leadership)

Reply Score: 2

Related interesting read
by emphyrio on Fri 2nd Nov 2018 00:22 UTC
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People like to think that capitalism in its current form is somehow unique; I'd like to refer them to The invisible hand? : how market economies have emerged and declined since AD 500 by Bas van Bavel.

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RE: Related interesting read
by Tony Swash on Fri 2nd Nov 2018 18:58 UTC in reply to "Related interesting read"
Tony Swash Member since:

Something unique did happen at the time of the industrial revolution. The indicators of all the stuff most important to peoples lives (age expectancy, child mortality, life time income, nutrition, etc, etc) all went from either stasis or very slow incremental improvements to very, very rapid and very big improvements. If you were born in in the 16th century the world around you would not have been very different to your great, great, great grandfathers world. Now the world around you when you are 60 is vastly different to the world when you were 25 (I know, I'm 66).

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Comment Title
by Dr.Cyber on Fri 2nd Nov 2018 10:03 UTC
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There are Private corporations that are more powerful than nations for a long time now. In fact, America is owned by the Federal Reserve which is a private corporation.

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"Slim odds"
by zima on Sat 3rd Nov 2018 19:23 UTC
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In a world where we failed to split Microsoft, we likely won't do anything of the sort also with younger tech companies...

Reply Score: 5