Tag: Big Tech (page 2 of 5)

Platform power and infrastructure

John Naughton writes notes that we need to describe a fourth kind of power alongside compelling us to do something, stopping us from doing something, or shaping the way we think.

Image by fabio on Unsplash

The great unsolved problem of our time is how to deal with – and where necessary curb – the unaccountable power of these giants. The first step on that road is to reach a collective understanding of what kind of power they actually wield. And for that we need a taxonomy. In an earlier era, the political theorist Steven Lukes proposed one. There were, he said, three kinds of power: the ability to compel people to do what they don’t want to do, the ability to stop them doing something they want to do and the ability to shape the way they think. This last one was useful in addressing the power of influential media owners (Rupert Murdoch, for example) in the old media ecosystem. But although it still applies in some ways to social media, it’s less useful for the networked ecosystem we now inhabit; we need another category.

“Platform power” is one possibility. The tech giants all possess it to a greater or lesser degree. In Apple’s case, for example, it owns and controls two important platforms – ie, software systems on which other agents can build businesses: they are the operating systems on which its devices run and its app store, which decides what apps are allowed on Apple devices. Google owns several platforms – a search engine and its associated advertising marketplace, the Android mobile operating system, YouTube and Google cloud services. Facebook (whose holding company is now rebranded as Meta) also owns several – Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp; Twitter owns, er, Twitter; Amazon owns its marketplace and cloud services; and Microsoft owns the Windows/Office platform and a fast-growing cloud service, Azure.

Source: How can we tame the tech giants now that they control society’s infrastructure? | The Guardian

Microcast #091 — Arguing in circles

Overview

An eclectic mix of articles in today’s microcast, covering everything from teens and tech to Fediverse functionality.

Show notes


Image via Pexels

Background music: Shimmers by Synth Soundscapes (aka Mentat)

Continuous eloquence is tedious

Corner of a high-rise building

🏭 Ukraine plans huge cryptocurrency mining data centers next to nuclear power plants — “Ukraine’s Energoatom followed up [the May 2020] deal with another partnership in October. The state enterprise announced an MoU with Dutch mining company Bitfury to operate multiple data centers near its four nuclear power plants, with a total mining consumption of 2GW.”

It’s already impossible to buy graphics cards, due to their GPUs being perfect for crypto mining. That fact doesn’t seem like it’s going to be resolved anytime soon.


😔 The unbearable banality of Jeff Bezos — “To put it in Freudian terms, we are talking about the triumph of the consumerist id over the ethical superego. Bezos is a kind of managerial Mephistopheles for our time, who will guarantee you a life of worldly customer ecstasy as long as you avert your eyes from the iniquities being carried out in your name.”

I’ve started buying less stuff from Amazon; even just removing the app from my phone has made them treat me as just another online shop. I also switched a few years ago from a Kindle to a ePub-based e-reader.


📱 The great unbundling — “Covid brought shock and a lot of broken habits to tech, but mostly, it accelerates everything that was already changing. 20 trillion dollars of retail, brands, TV and advertising is being overturned, and software is remaking everything from cars to pharma. Meanwhile, China has more smartphone users than Europe and the USA combined, and India is close behind – technology and innovation will be much more widely spread. For that and lots of other reasons, tech is becoming a regulated industry, but if we step over the slogans, what does that actually mean? Tech is entering its second 50 years.”

This is a really interesting presentation (and slide deck). It’s been interesting watching Evans build this iteratively over the last few weeks, as he’s been sharing his progress on Twitter.


🗯️ The Coup We Are Not Talking About — “In an information civilization, societies are defined by questions of knowledge — how it is distributed, the authority that governs its distribution and the power that protects that authority. Who knows? Who decides who knows? Who decides who decides who knows? Surveillance capitalists now hold the answers to each question, though we never elected them to govern. This is the essence of the epistemic coup. They claim the authority to decide who knows by asserting ownership rights over our personal information and defend that authority with the power to control critical information systems and infrastructures.”

Zuboff is an interesting character, and her book on surveillance capitalism is a classic. This might article be a little overblown, but it’s still an important subject for discussion.


☀️ Who Built the Egyptian Pyramids? Not Slaves — “So why do so many people think the Egyptian pyramids were built by slaves? The Greek historian Herodotus seems to have been the first to suggest that was the case. Herodotus has sometimes been called the “father of history.” Other times he’s been dubbed the “father of lies.” He claimed to have toured Egypt and wrote that the pyramids were built by slaves. But Herodotus actually lived thousands of years after the fact.”

It’s always good to challenge our assumptions, and, perhaps more importantly, analyse why we came to hold them in the first place.


Quotation-as-title by Blaise Pascal. Image by Victor Forgacs.