Things I’m Reading This Week: 12/26/2017
Just some longform media I’ve been reading you might find of interest.
Ma Bell In Pixels?
Are big tech companies really making the world “a better place”? Or are they just maximizing profits and pursuing monopolies? Some really pertinent questions, as we watch our democracy erode.
“What has the greatest collection of humanity and IQ and financial capital been brought together to accomplish?” Galloway asked the crowd. “To save world hunger? To create greater comity of man? I don’t think so. … Their singular mission, simply put, it’s to sell another fucking Nissan.”
Today’s technologists work at for-profit businesses, doing what for-profit businesses do in America—maximizing shareholder profits by acquiring functional control of markets, as well as intimate details of our lives. Big Tech makes aspects of daily life more convenient (if more fraught), but that’s not the same as making the world a better place. Mainly, the goal has become making more money, via more monopoly.
We already know these firms have crippled entrepreneurship, by either buying out competitors or copying their features and using overwhelming market share to destroy them—tactics that would be familiar to the authors of the Sherman and Clayton antitrust acts. We already know they’ve concentrated economic gains in a few small enclaves, leaving large swathes of the country behind. We already know they religiously avoid taxes and cut special deals with intimidated public officials, burdening the rest of society. We already know their surveillance capabilities rival any in history, handing over a comprehensive profile of your every waking moment for advertisers and behaviorists to exploit. We already know the addictive qualities of their products have undermined social relationships, expanded divisiveness, and transformed what it means to be human. We already know their drive for profits ignores how their platforms can be weaponized, scarring millions and undermining democracy.
The rest of this article explores actual answers and options, which is really useful as a blueprint. We ignore this at our own peril. Included is a detailed look at European data privacy laws coming into effect next year, net neutrality, and more. The whole thing is worth a good read.
Expand Your Perspective
If there’s something we all should be doing, it’s stretching our comfort zones, and our minds. I am giving this book list (46 Books By Women of Color to Read in 2018) a thorough going through, to find some things to put on my commuter train rotation.
There Is No Bottom
There’s so much horrible news coming out of #45’s “administration”—everything from nearly eliminating two national monuments in Utah, to the world’s biggest tax gift to the super wealthy, to his war on sensible climate change mitigation—that it can be hard to keep up. Every day, though, there seems to be some little very uncontroversial protection for the vulnerable that he destroys, seemingly just for the joy of hurting little people. Here is one such:
The Trump administration is scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury, part of a broader relaxation of regulations under the president.
The shift in the Medicare program’s penalty protocols was requested by the nursing home industry.
If business—any business—asks, it will receive from this “administration.” I mean, it’s not like it’s commonplace to hear horror stories of seniors in nursing homes being abused or even dying from neglect, or anything.
When you think there’s a bottom, don’t look down, because you still haven’t hit it.
No, Jeff Flake Is Not The Center
In case you missed this excellent as well as entertaining Vox video on what the Overton Window is and how Trump is shifting it to the far right, it’s worth a watch.
Star Wars: The Middle Child
Todd VanDerWerff at Vox has a nice write up summing up the backlash to The Last Jedi from many fans, from a number of different directions. The article is super spoily, so I am not going to quote it at all, but it goes nicely into the issues some have, and why this particular critic liked the film.
Non-spoiler: I kind of liked it. Especially after sitting on it for a bit. It actually touched on themes I’ve long seen as potential and under the surface of the Star Wars universe, so in that respect it delivered some things for me that I’ve long thought in my head.