Day 113: The Serfs 2

There are many reasons to feel trapped by technology. Giving up email would make the modern job search very hard. Giving up Social Media would distance you from your social group even for those who only check when notified. Giving up the smart phone once again would make the job hunt harder, the job harder possibly, and navigation impossible without a map on hand. Without a computer and Office, well you would need more manpower and effort to maintain the current workload. However, I feel Farhad Manjoo’s NYTimes piece missed the hold of tech on us.
Maybe it is because I am too poor to enjoy the glory of the internet. I can’t afford an Echo let alone to pay anyone to install anything in my home. I am the Taskee not the Tasker. I think the internet means different things to different people. I personally hate Yelp to me it is a collection of attention grabbers and whiners. I wouldn’t flag people on the street for recommendations, why would I trust someone who is compiled to force theirs on me. Same goes for Amazon reviews. One example: My A/C broke a few weeks ago. I went to Costco and saw they had a budget model. I google’d it at my girlfriends request. A few reviews said it was so noisy, the reviewer couldn’t sleep. I bought it anyway (Costco returns are so easy, unlike online). It ended up being significantly quieter than my last one (which was 15 years old). Youtube for me is a memory of pre-21 in high school and college hanging out awkwardly in some basement with friends waiting for booze to arrive or parents to leave and kinda wishing I was home.
Instead the internet controls through smoke and mirrors. In this month’s Atlantic, theres a great article about how online prices especially the list price are framed to only make you perceive you got a deal while possibly paying more than other users. Twitter flurries appear as mass reaction even though it is an small percentage of users commenting let alone a small percentage of the population as a whole. Facebook encourages echo chambers which had no small part in electing Trump.
I do agree with Manjoo’s fear of the comfort tech creates. It is another illusion. To click and receive. Yet as cyberattacks especially ransomware increase, the comfort becomes a security flaw. Alexa is not a personal assistant but the property of Amazon on loan. As we give control of our lives to these networked systems, we don’t increase our practical knowledge of them. It is no different than magic and we become marks for wizards, who are always waiting in the virtual. We are sold gadgets and apps on the notion, they give us tools to gain control but the only tools of control exist in coding.  
The only way out is to stop selling ourselves into serfdom. It begins with reclaiming ownership of the self. An act as simple and rebellious as buying a physical day planner at Staples.
-E.C. Fiori

Day 30/31/32/33/34/35: I Call the Thimble

Last week Facebook announced and released a new mission statement. If the debate of Facebook as an utility was iffy before it certainly is no longer. It envisions itself as the global social infrastructure and its billionaire owner has climbed down to re-educate us the user in his own image. Making users effectively citizens in a dictatorship no one asked for.

By streamlining our old tech communication tools (aim, group email, evites, rss feeds, etc), weyy have concentrated power. Facebook is one of mine only remaining social apps as it has become for others. I knew the cost in privacy for myself but not in terms of ad revenues and other economic standards. I will most likely be deleting my account soon. I try not to support Monopoly.
Barry C. Lynn published a piece in Washington Monthly illustrating that robber barons are indeed back just not perhaps as always visible as the old captains of industry. Yet even Sanders, the Good Socialist himself, ignored the inherent monopolistic tendencies of the modern internet. At what point does a social network become infrastructure and what power does that give the people. The tech stewards of course believe their souls to be pure and thus they are their own best watchman. The hidden algorithms that both feed their wallets and manipulate our realities cannot simply be transparent as the code is the only value of the network itself besides the data it sells. The debate of de-concentrating the web isn’t simple. Concentration is most of any one sites power not the content as some contest. Perhaps it should be treated like the national grid but nationalizing an international network isn’t possible. Breaking up the railroads challenged a previous generation, today we must grapple with the importance that the virtual has become. The Man has come for Liberty Valance.
-E.C. Fiori