Digital Life: Stage 1 – Surveillance Capitalism + Re-engineering Humanity

From IIW

Digital Life: State 1 – Survelliance, Captalism + Re-Engineering Humanity

Day/Session:Wednesday 3B

Convener:Doc Searls

Notes-taker(s): Scott Mace

Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion: action items, next steps:

  • A high level thing. I do a thing in NYC called rectangle bingo. Everybody else in subway car is on their rectangle. Take a pano of the whole subway car.
  • The point is these things changed us. We are not the same animals we were before. That’s a very human thing.
  • A whole lot of literature coming out now.
  • Re-Engineering Humanity, Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger – ends on note of optimism, references Customer Commons
  • The Age of Surveillance Capitalism – The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power – Shoshana Zuboff. Currently in German. English version out in January 2019.
  • Lab Rats – How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us – Dan Lyons – best title of the three
  • Shoshana, Zuboff’s Laws. 1. Whatever can be digitized. 2. Whatever can be informated. 3. Every digital application that can be used for surveillance and control will be used for surveillance and control.
  • Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, The Extensions of Man. He meant technology when he said media. Humans are unique among animals in that we extend ourselves through our technology. We invented privacy tech (clothes) 50K years ago, haven’t done it online yet. We shape our tools and they shape us. Every new medium works us over completely.
  • He & his son Eric (who just died this spring), came up with the laws of media. Every new medium/tech does four things. Enhance, retrieve, obsolesce, reverse. Every new tech has negative outcomes especially as they get to ubiquity. It reversed into complete weird isolation. A way of understanding what media did to us.
  • What happened to blogging. No publication would hire me. I wasn’t in the business as a writer of hawking whatever company was buying ads, or vendor sports. By 2003, I had up to 50K readers per day. In 2006, Twitter & FB came along, my readers went down to dozens a day. Now 24K followers on Twitter. But a parking space makes that many impressions.
  • What did social media do. Obsolesced all of journalism, retrieves gossip in a gigantic way. Enhances conviviality. Reverses tribalism. Everybody can now be a journalist.
  • Blue Feed, Red Feed. Done by the Wall Street Journal. Take any topic, they have a fake character on FB that starts out slightly liberal or conservative, these are the news feeds they get. Not on the same planet.
  • Go back to a stone tool. It had a lot to do with the human diaspora.
  • The four causes of a table (from Aristotle).
    1. Efficient (a carpenter made it)
    2. Material (it’s made of wood)
    3. Final (we need a surface to work and eat on)
    4. Formal (its form is a table)
  • The form of a table is its own cause. What as a formal cause did print, speech, TV do. Each of those has a kind of major effect we’re not especially aware of. McLuhan saw computers & satellite communications coming. About TV he said it’s largely about fantasy and storytelling. Even journalism. The format of journalism is the story. An assignment editor will say what’s the story. Stories aren’t necessarily what’s happening in the world. The formal cause of the bombs is probably digital life. Find out how to make it online. The Center for Digital Life who knows more about McLuhan, their claim is what digital life is about is memory. We use it to remember things. We rely on this to know stuff. One of my favorite moments, wrote about in my book The Intention Economy, Jeffrey asked him to look stuff up even when driving. I think we’re living in world where we’re remembering things in a whole different way we did before. My mind is not made up about this.
  • TV antenna with birds on it. Over the air TV is a pro forma thing. Nobody is looking at that much anymore. More people watching YouTube than are watching cable TV at this point. Netflix has more watching than all of cable TV. McLuhan says the media gets obsolesced not the content. Radio obsolesced by podcasting.
  • The collateral damage of adtech is massive. Tracking-based advertising. Wants eyeballs. More content to see more eyeballs, that’s what it funds. GDPR is meant to obsolesce adtech, as is AB375 in California. But they already have negative effects.
  • GDPR, I think it enhances consciousness about privacy, reverses into all these cookie notices. Obsolences little adtech, enhances big adtech.
  • Not sure we will ever solve this. Joyce has a wonderful metaphor. Digital, the internet has no gravity. It’s not a place. Not a place. Also no distance there. Not compatible with privacy. So you throw memory into that. A weird new mix in this non-space we created to occupy. Even the history of what we did here, SAML, federation, now we’re at self-sovereign. We are the human entities present with each other, how do we control or assert the polyhedron of identities. Everyone who issues me an identity calls me David. Others call me Doc. How do manage all that? That’s what SSI is all about. Doing that in a way that brings together identity-providing entities is the primary challenge. What are the outcomes of that? It’s really early.
  • How many people block ads at this point. PageFair’s 2017 Adblock report: at least 11% of the world’s population is now blocking ads on at least 615 million devices. GlobalWebIndex: 37% of all mobile users, worldwide, were blocking ads by January of 2016, and another 42% would like to. With more than 4.77 billion mobile phone users in the world by 2017 (GlobalWebIndex) at least 1.7 billion people were blocking ads already: a sum exceeding the population of the Western Hemisphere. This doesn’t fit the story format anymore.
  • Google, FB, sell their consumers to advertisers. Amazon getting into advertising could be a problem. Prime is crack.
  • Joyce: The prediction racket. What Surveillance Capitalism is really about, if you want to buy real estate, always buy in the past. That’s what all this SC is doing, honing the opportunity to predict our futures. Critical to stop these aspects of it. Now these big companies can predict the future. We want to determine our own future. You’ll feel like your agency is feeling I want this. We did a panel in New York last week on advertising. Doc was billed as a heretic. We used to worry about totalitarian governments. Now we worry about totalitarian marketing.
  • Q: My quote when I do keynotes is Orwell was an optimist. The big thing for me, in 2010, we switched from a causation-based society to a correlation-based society, by inference. I don’t think members of the society understand yet. AIs sit next to judges predicting the repeat offense possibilities of an offender.
  • Q: There’s a surveillance society.
  • Q: Social credit scoring.
  • Q: Chicago data science research center, bail risk technology in courtrooms. If you measure AI against a Cook County judge, a monkey could do better. To promote idea AI is better.
  • Q: MS found we can turn AIs into rating Nazis in 48 hours.
  • Q: Kathy O’Neill’s book, Weapons of Math Destruction.
  • Doc: Thing in Oregon with high-level business analytics people, how to lie with statistics.
  • Q: Referencing books, The Known Citizen, it is early days, point repeated in book. Tech can do some stuff.
  • Q: We all need to become polymaths, look through tech, econ, regulatory, cultural/moral, political. Often we default to the tech piece.
  • Q: How to leverage the “big company” concern?
  • Doc: Won’t help to break them up. Tim’s idea came up once on Monday and was dismissed on technical grounds. Big PR. I love Tim but stay in the clouds.
  • Joyce: You can’t repeat the big bang.
  • Doc: He simplified something.
  • Mike: We understand what’s going on, but most people have no clue. Recruiting people to the cushion is the tricky bit. How do we make all the heartbeats realize all this is possible, there are massive data profiles, they need to pay attention. D&D, remember if you had a familiar, that was so cool. Why don’t we start a company that sells digital familiars?
  • Doc: Talk to Joyce. This whole memory thing.
  • Mike: Auditing, checking my digital profile.
  • Q: If we read all the privacy policies, would take 75 days and cost the U.S. economy $781 billion.
  • Q: They’re not going to break up Palantir.
  • Sal: If signals out there are crap, it’s still crap for the AI too.
  • Joyce: I had this dream 5 years ago, if I had a thing that could crawl my own email, surface for me, I want to be able to dice and slice my own information so it can give me intelligence. The business plus on that is so much business to create a thing to work on my stuff.
  • Q: I was talking about my digital profile outside my domain.
  • Doc: Both of them are memory functions. Educating is too hard. The history of tech is not the history of finding a need & filling it. It’s invention is the mother of necessity.
  • Jeff: I hope education isn’t a lost cause.
  • Q: It’s low-return investment.
  • Jeff: We teach people if you walk into the street without looking you won’t last long. The word free in people’s heads is no dollars or cents, but there is a cost. Don’t sign up for every thing. Free is part of human nature. Top 10 flashlight apps, all were malware. So much noise in your life, you won’t be able to hear yourself scream.
  • Kai: Let’s put SSI in the middle and imagine what goes wrong. Potential to reduce the noise. Not to provide high quality data to the wrong actors.
  • Doc: Idea is to enhance independence. Be a fully respected individual. Obsolesces every large identity provider. Reverses to utter chaos in the marketplace. I don’t know. Clay Shirky said every good technology has bad uses. A sure sign of a good tech is you can imagine bad uses for it. 99% of email is spam but we can’t live without it.
  • Q: How can you decimate yourself on the digital landscape. If SSI gets coopted, think of the revolution that could occur. Can you prevent people destroying the value in their SSI?
  • Q: Shortly after The Intention Economy came out, I came to Doc, if Google split into blue and green teams, one half did intent casting. Other, if we have enough information about you, we’ll figure out what you want before you even know it. We need things like intent casting to drive out this stuff.
  • Doc: If I had to reissue that book now, I’d change the names of the companies, most of which are now dead. Customer Commons helps us set the terms.
  • Q: It will start out with privacy being a luxury good.
  • Q: Good Wired interview last month, Tristan Harris and Yuvall Harrari who runs Humane Tech. Touched on this idea of a personal AI sidekick to help you make good decisions. Predict your own future, probabilities, counteract negative algorithms such as the ones that make you watch YouTube longer