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Rentiers.

What matters above all else is something central to the operation of capitalism today. As profits become harder to find through the textbook route of investment and the creation of new markets (whether for goods or services), capitalism in general is turning towards various forms of rent-seeking. It’s significantly easier to enforce property rights on what has been created elsewhere, and demand tribute for access, than it is go through the costly and risky business of creating new value yourself.

James Meadway on value extraction.

From an article specifically about platform technologies (e.g. Amazon, Facebook, Apple) and the Future of Capitalism™.

2019-04-28T17:46:54+11:0028th September, 2019|Tags: economics, tech|

Surveillance facials.

Tl;dr the surveillance capitalism selfie boom is powering the facial-recognition surveillance state.

One of the closest encounters I’ve (knowingly) had with this was in the Conrad casinotel in Macau. The staff there always knew who we were, in particular always greeting us by name whenever we walked into the lounge.1 There was a long, narrow corridor between the elevator and the lounge with seemingly no purpose; I assumed it was basically just a very luxuriously appointed mantrap, long enough for the camera to match any approaching guest against the ID photo they’d had to provide during check-in. If you want to experience firsthand that uncomfortable intersection between “cutting-edge customer service” and “vaguely threatening surveillance state,” luxury casinos are pretty much your Ur-examples.

  1. At one point, I “snuck” a friend—who was traveling with us but staying at a neighboring hotel—into the lounge. The hotel clerks called my husband to let him know his “wife and son” had arrived for breakfast. []
2019-07-31T09:39:49+11:0025th September, 2019|Tags: privacy, tech|

Ubiquitous, tedious, inscrutable.

So my Baby’s First Graduate Rotation when I first started working was in the team that ran my organisation’s SAP install. If you’ve never done backend corporate logistics and/or HR work, you may have never even heard of this beast, but even if you haven’t heard of it, it’s definitely heard of you

2019-04-08T09:08:14+11:0023rd September, 2019|Tags: culture, tech, work|

¿Por qué no los dos?

Digital companies work the same way as their extractive forebears. When a big box store moves to a new neighborhood, it undercuts local businesses and eventually becomes the sole retailer and employer in the region. With its local monopoly, it can then raise prices while lowering wages, reduce labor to part-time status, and externalize the costs of healthcare and food stamps to the government.

The net effect of the business on the community is extractive. The town becomes poorer, not richer. The corporation takes money out of the economy—out of the land and labor—and delivers it to its shareholders.

A digital business does the same thing, only faster. It picks an inefficiently run industry, like taxis or book publishing, and optimizes the system by cutting out most of the people who used to participate. So a taxi service platform charges drivers and passengers for a ride while externalizing the cost of the car, the roads, and the traffic to others. The bookselling website doesn’t care if authors or publishers make a sustainable income; it uses its sole buyer or “monopsony” power to force both sides to accept less money for their labor. The initial monopoly can then expand to other industries, like retail, movies, or cloud services.

Such businesses end up destroying the marketplaces on which they initially depend.

Douglas Rushkoff blames capitalism.

2019-03-25T10:56:53+11:0014th September, 2019|Tags: economics, tech|

Upside-down to whom?

Cute little anecdote about the orientation of the logo on the back of Apple laptops.

Reminds me of the bat ring I used to wear,1 and the girl in high school art class who couldn’t deal with the fact I wore it so it appeared “head up” for other people looking at my hands. She was convinced rings should be worn so they appeared “correct” from the point-of-view of the wearer, not the viewer, so used to physically grab my hands and switch it around on me.

High school was wild, man.

Also, I will note Microsoft solves the “which way does the logo go” problem by having a logo on the backs of its Surfaces that’s both horizontally and vertically symmetrical. Hah! Take that, Steve Jobs!

  1. For like fifteen years. Eventually the cheap metal got so bent—the “ring” was basically in the shape of a D—it got too uncomfortable. []
2019-03-25T10:31:52+11:0013th September, 2019|Tags: apple, design, tech|

Dirty, boring, legislated.

Tech isn’t just software anymore. They’re coming for ag, food, & manufacturing- & they’re bringing a negligent attitudes towards risk & safety that they learned in the cushy world of apps.

[…]

Those “ossified corporate structures” [in non-tech industries] that Silicon Valley hates so much because they “keep you from moving fast”? Yeah, a lot of them exist to keep top brass from doing hideously stupid things.

SV doesn’t see the need, because the mistakes that SV understands- broken code- can be fixed with software patches. Why do you need a social structure in the company that prevents errors, when you can just move fast, break things, & fix them?

Dr. Sarah Taber on industries.

This is totally one of those “Twitter threads that should be a blog post” but, mostly, I do think Taber glosses over the fact that all Really Real World industries have developed things like safety standards because governments made them.

Silicon Valley now is basically where manufacturing was in the late 1800s, with depressingly similar problems, as any disaffected former techgrrl1 who has, for example, just sat through all fifty-ish hours of Capital: Volume One would be forced to admit…

  1. Not naming any names or anything. []
2019-03-25T10:24:05+11:0012th September, 2019|Tags: culture, tech|

Reactoring.

So I find stories like this kinda wild because Davey’s job in the SPACE DEMONS book is basically buying alien films and TV shows, and “redubbing” them with human actors for distribution in human-controlled space.

And it’s like… the tech to do that didn’t really exist in 2017 when I wrote the manuscript for that book. And now it totally does.

(more…)

2019-09-03T11:58:57+11:003rd September, 2019|Tags: SPACE DEMONS, tech|