Blog Archives

Suppressing Dissent Guarantees Disorder and Collapse

Regimes that are losing public support always make the same mistake: rather than fix the source of the loss of public trust–the few enriching themselves at the expense of the many– the regime reckons the problem is dissent: if we suppress all dissent, then everyone will accept their diminishing lot in life and the elites can continue on their merry way.

What the regimes don’t understand is dissent is the immune system of society: suppressing dissent doesn’t just get rid of pesky political protesters and conspiracy theorists; it also gets rid of the innovations and solutions society needs to adapt to changing conditions. Suppressing dissent dooms the society to sclerosis, decline and collapse.

Dissent is the relief valve: shut it down and the pressure builds to the point that the system explodes. Regimes that no longer tolerate anything but the party line fall in one of two ways: 1) the pressure builds and the masses revolt, tearing the elite from power or 2) the masses opt-out and stop working to support the regime, so the regime slowly starves and then implodes.

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Here’s How We Are Silenced by Big Tech

Big Tech claims it isn’t silencing skeptics, dissenters and critics of the status quo, but it is silencing us. Here’s how it’s done. Let’s start with Twitter. Twitter claims it doesn’t shadow ban (Setting the record straight on shadow banning), which it defines as deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.

Nice, but what do we call labeling legitimate websites “unsafe” and banning Twitter users from retweeting links to posts on those sites? This is what’s happening to oftwominds.com– Twitter has labeled this site “unsafe” due to unspecified violations of the Twitter User Agreement, which I have reviewed and can categorically state the oftwominds.com site and posts have never violated the terms of the Agreement or the Twitter Rules, except if posting several tweets that contain the URL of my current post somehow violates the Rules. (If bloggers can’t list the URL of their original content more than once a day, then the Twitter Rules are prejudicial and should be amended.)

Note that Twitter doesn’t identify or provide the user with evidence of the violation of its User Agreement that justifies the “unsafe/can’t retweet” shadow-banning. The process of contesting such arbitrary and opaque censorship is absurdly unsatisfactory. There is no form for content owners/Twitter users to contest being tossed in the “unsafe/can’t retweet” gulag; users must click through a bunch of “contact us” screens, none of which have an option for contesting being tossed in the “unsafe/can’t retweet” gulag.

When you give up and just send Twitter Support a “report on spam,” i.e. that your own site is wrongly being labeled spam, you get (of course) an automated response in which Twitter promises to do nothing and tell you nothing.

If original content that is obviously not violating the Terms of Service/User Agreement can be arbitrarily banned from being retweeted without any evidence or due process, how is this not censorship? This is straight out of Kafka: an unaccountable, all-powerful, completely opaque bureaucracy arbitrarily bans your Twitter followers from retweeting a link to your original, copyrighted content.How is that not flat-out censorship (by a privately owned and operated entity with extra-legal powers)?

This is exactly like the Soviet Union, where citizens were routinely tossed in the gulag for having “anti-Soviet thoughts.” 

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“Alexa, How Do We Subvert Big Tech’s Orwellian Internet-of-Things Surveillance?”

When every device in your life is connected to the Internet (the Internet of Things), your refrigerator will schedule an oil change for your car–or something like that–and it will be amazingly wunnerful. You’ll be able to lower the temperature of your home office while you’re stuck in a traffic jam, while your fridge orders another jar of pickles delivered to your door.

It’s all in service of convenience, the god all Americans are brainwashed to worship. Imagine the convenience of turning on the light while seated on your sofa! Mind-boggling convenience at your fingertips–and since you’re already clutching your smart phone 24/7, convenience is indeed at your fingertips.

It’s also about control, and as we lose control of everything that’s actually important in our lives, the illusion of agency/control is a compelling pitch. Imagine being able to program your fridge to order a quart of milk delivered when it gets low but not order another jar of pickles when that gets low! Wow! That’s control, yowzah.

The Internet of Things is indeed about control–not your control, but control over you— control of what’s marketed to you, and control of your behaviors via control of the incentives, distractions and micro-decisions that shape behavior.

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What’s Left to Monetize?

Advertising has always monetized consumers’ time and attention, what we call engagement today. Newspapers and periodicals publish advertisements, radio/TV networks and stations air adverts, movie theaters run trailers/ads, billboards occupy our mental space while driving and websites and apps post adverts. The more media you consume, the more adverts you see/hear, and the more time you spend consuming media, the greater your exposure to advertising.

Monetizing our time and attention has a long history, as does the monetizing encroachment on what was once private time / attention. Time spent on the telephone escaped monetization until the advent of telemarketing, a particularly invasive and galling conquest of what was once a private domain. Now thanks to voicemail and robo-calling, our phones are increasingly the domain of intrusive monetization. (Is anyone else getting endless voicemails pitching services in Mandarin Chinese?)

No visual space has been left unmonetized: shopping carts display adverts, the plastic dividers between customers’ groceries in the checkout display adverts, even the floors of stores display adverts.

Many forms of communication have been rendered essentially unusable by monetization. Many people no longer look at their email since it has been taken over by spam, and many of those with landline phones no longer answer their phones due to the constant robo-calls.

Big Tech has generated billions of dollars by monetizing other forms of engagement and privately owned capital/assets. Google has monetized web search, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have monetized social media, Uber and Lyft have monetized privately owned vehicles, as are on-demand delivery services (Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats) and Amazon. AirBNB has monetized privately owned or leased homes and flats.

Many startups have attempted to monetize other privately owned assets (“it’s Uber for bicycles,” etc.) with varying results.

The spare time of the under-employed or unemployed has been monetized by Task Rabbit, Fiverr, et al.

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Is the Tech Bubble Bursting?

Is the decade-long tech bubble finally popping? Tech bulls are overlooking the fundamental reality that the drivers of Big tech’s phenomenal growth–financialization and expansion into mobile telephony– are both losing momentum.

A third dynamic–Big Tech monetizing privately owned assets such as vehicles and homes– has also reached saturation and is now facing regulatory barriers.

Let’s start with market saturation: of the 5.3 billion adults on earth over 15 years of age, 5 billion now have a mobile phone and 4 billion have a smartphone: The end of mobile (Benedict Evans). As for teens between 10 and 15, only the truly impoverished don’t have a mobile phone of some kind.

As I discuss below, the primary dynamic of the past decade has been the integration of web-based services into mobile telephony. By any measure, that cycle is now complete.

I recently explored technology’s ties to financialization and deflationary trends in prices and profits: Two Intertwined Dynamics Are Transforming the Economy: Technology and Financialization

Technology Is Not Just Disruptive, It’s Disastrously Deflationary

The basic idea here is that the tech bubble has been inflated by a unique set of circumstances:

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Two Intertwined Dynamics Are Transforming the Economy: Technology and Financialization

The two dynamics transforming the economy–technology and financialization–are intertwined yet widely viewed as unrelated. Critics and proponents of each largely ignore the other dynamic: critics of institutionalized fraud and other manifestations of financialization implicitly assume the economy will return to some golden age if we get rid of financialization’s skims and scams.

They are largely blind to the reality that the speed with which technology is transforming the economy is increasing: there is no golden era to return to. The economy they long for (strong unions, full employment, rising wages, declining inequality, political bipartisanship, financial stability and security, etc.) has already slid into the dustbin of history.

They are equally blind to the reality that the central state they revere as the “solution” to financialization is itself the source of wealth/power asymmetry and the enforcer of Big Tech and Big Finance domination.

Proponents of technology implicitly assume that financialization’s skims and scams have no impact on technology’s golden promise of glorious advances which both enrich the few who own the technology and free the many to enjoy robots doing their work and endless entertainment (for a modest monthly fee, of course).

They are largely blind to the inconvenient reality that replacing tens of millions of workers with robots and software means there is no longer a mass-consumption economy for all the technological wonders, as the supposed solution–Universal Basic Income (UBI)–can’t provide either paid work or enough income for the millions who will be receiving UBI subsistence to borrow or spend enough to keep the consumer economy afloat.

Financialization’s solution–creating more credit / debt– simply insures that the UBI recipients will be devoting much of their subsistence income to debt service rather than tech toys.

In reality, both dynamics reinforce the disruptive effects of the other on non-elites. Financialization concentrates wealth and political power in the hands of those closest to the sources of cheap credit–central banks and private-sector banks.

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Hell Hath No Fury Like a Liberal Scorned: The Media Turns on Facebook and Google

Of the many remarkable trend changes of the past year, few are more striking than the fawning embrace of Facebook et al. by Big Media turning to an enraged sense of betrayal. Facebook and Google–by their own self-definitions, shining beacons of liberalism and goodness (we’re not evil, we’re fantabulous!)– were viewed by the famously liberal Big Media as allies in the fight against Trump, illiberalism, populism, deglobalization, etc.

Now, to their horror, Big Media has discovered that not only did their Big Tech sweethearts betray their affection and trust, they’re just another bunch of predatory profit-maximizing monopolies who will stab anyone and everyone in the back who gets in their way to higher profits and more power.

It would be sad if it wasn’t so pathetic. Poor Big Media, so anxious to be hip and with it, so anxious to impress social media while trying to exploit its reach to prop up their own dying business model. Big Media, so easily seduced by Big Tech: we’re liberal, too, and together we’ll lead the world out of darkness into light, blah blah blah.

Then Big Media discovered its virtue-signaling liberal sweetheart, Big Tech, is just as threatened by liberals as by conservatives, and it turns its firepower on liberals with the same savage abandon as it does on independent and conservative media.

The bitter rage of the previously besotted and now betrayed suitor is evident in these recent articles in The Atlantic, New York Times and Washington Post, all bastions of virtue-signaling self-righteous defense of the state-cartel Empire, a.k.a. liberalism.

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