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Thread: "Today’s tech oligarchs are worse than the robber barons"

  1. #1
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
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    "Today’s tech oligarchs are worse than the robber barons"

    What do you all think?

    There is a rising tide of concern, including from such progressive icons as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, about the extraordinary market, political, and culture power of the tech oligarchy. But so far, the oligarchs have played a brilliant double game. They have bought off the progressives with contributions and by endorsing their social liberal and environmental agenda. As for the establishment right, they are too accustomed to genuflecting at mammon to push back against anyone with a 10-digit net worth. This has left much of the opposition at the extremes of right and left, greatly weakening it.

    Yet over time grassroots Americans may lose their childish awe of the tech establishment. They could recognize that, without some restrictions, they are signing away control of their culture, politics, and economic prospects to the empowered “tools.” They might understand that technology itself is no panacea; it is either a tool to be used to benefit society, increase opportunity, and expand human freedom, or it is nothing more than a new means of oppression.

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  2. #2
    Administrator U-Ute's Avatar
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    I think that it is not far off the mark as I think that there are moments of concern by those who identify on both sides about the power of the tech elites. But overall I think what is happening in technology is a Good Thing. Their maverick attitudes keep these technologies from being immediately co-opted by the existing power structure allowing things like mass public encrypted communication to happen and allowing social change to happen. The "cultural conservatives" don't appreciate the openness technology changes have brought and the "techno liberals" feel uneasy about any of these companies cozying up to the government, but overall I think these are Good Things.

    Frankly, I think most of the discomfort stems from the fact that most of these guys who became instant [m|b]illionaires are unaccustomed to being in positions of political power. Guys like Mark Cuban who would throw temper tantrums on the sidelines of Maverick basketball games. I think you're seeing a lot of that right now with Zuckerberg. He's not sure who he is right now so he isn't sure how to wield his power.

    So yeah, there is a lot of awkwardness by these people which makes them unpredictable by the power structure, which makes them feel uncomfortable. I don't necessarily see that as a negative though.

  3. #3
    This may be a sidebar to all of this, but I've always chuckled at people concerned about the NSA and government surveillance but who at the same time freely give this information to Facebook, Apple, Google etc., all of whom have a privacy policy that contains a version of this phrase, "We reserve the right to change this policy at any time, for any reason, without notice."

    Don't get me wrong, government intrusion into our privacy is very concerning to me, but I think the era of true privacy is largely over.

  4. #4
    There is a Supreme Court case coming up about someone who was convicted because of cell phone location data. They were able to prove that he was in the area at the time of the crime. The defendant is claiming that acquiring the cell phone location data requires a warrant before they could get that data.

    https://www.aclu.org/news/supreme-co...on-data-case-0

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by LuckyUte View Post
    There is a Supreme Court case coming up about someone who was convicted because of cell phone location data. They were able to prove that he was in the area at the time of the crime. The defendant is claiming that acquiring the cell phone location data requires a warrant before they could get that data.

    https://www.aclu.org/news/supreme-co...on-data-case-0
    Utah already requires a warrant, other than for exigency circumstances. And cell companies are often reluctant even in a life or death situation to give a single last known location, let alone location history.


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    Administrator U-Ute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LuckyUte View Post
    There is a Supreme Court case coming up about someone who was convicted because of cell phone location data. They were able to prove that he was in the area at the time of the crime. The defendant is claiming that acquiring the cell phone location data requires a warrant before they could get that data.

    https://www.aclu.org/news/supreme-co...on-data-case-0
    Yeah, that information is not publicly available, so it should be behind a warrant. Similar phone records.

  7. #7
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
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    Trump Damaged Democracy, Silicon Valley Will Finish It Off

    Joel Kotkin always writes sober, thoughtful and well-sourced stuff. This is worth a read.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-d...-finish-it-off

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by LA Ute View Post
    Trump Damaged Democracy, Silicon Valley Will Finish It Off

    Joel Kotkin always writes sober, thoughtful and well-sourced stuff. This is worth a read.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-d...-finish-it-off
    Working in Info Tech and having a BA in Economics from the U, I have a conflicted view of technology.

    On the one hand, the Information Revolution put unimaginable amounts of information at everyone's fingertips.

    But without any doubt, technology also widens economic inequalities.

    This article is slamming US tech giants, but the troubling reality is technology is widening economic inequality... even in the Scandinavian nations. Finland had Nokia, formerly a giant in the cell phone industry. Canada had Blackberry. Both made enormous amounts of money for a few, and both are now long gone, the worker bees in those enterprises displaced and doing something else, now.

    In the late 90s I had a short stint at Microsoft, and I was blown away at how much raw brainpower I interacted with, and even more so, how hard those folks worked. It was crystal clear to me that Novell and WordPerfect were going to be demolished, and that's exactly what happened.

    One of my colleagues I'll never forget. He taught calculus at Texas A&M, at 19. When I worked with him he was in his late 20s, would get up at 6:00 am, worked until about 8:00pm, went home and studied until about midnight. No kids, wife was also a high end consultant. Legitimate photographic memory. This guy alone was probably more productive than 20-50 Novell engineers... combined, due to his ability to compound his intellect widely, with a drive / stamina that wasn't possible for the family guys at Novell & WordPerfect. It was spooky.

    Technology amplifies the value added by extremely smart people, in ways we've never seen before, in Economics. Think about the algorithms that sift through the mountains of information to get a bead on your preferences and place ads conveniently where they're likely to lure you, online. Those algorithms weren't created by thousands of people, yet they produce many $Billions in value. Think teams of 5-10 *extremely* bright people, like my former colleague.

    The winners get rich beyond their wildest imaginations, and the losers find something else to do.

    The inequalities prompted by technology helped lay the foundation for Trump, without a doubt. And we'll be tempted as a society to push back, as the Luddites tried. Which will only hurt our nation, in the longer run.

  9. #9
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ma'ake View Post
    Working in Info Tech and having a BA in Economics from the U, I have a conflicted view of technology.

    On the one hand, the Information Revolution put unimaginable amounts of information at everyone's fingertips.

    But without any doubt, technology also widens economic inequalities.

    This article is slamming US tech giants, but the troubling reality is technology is widening economic inequality... even in the Scandinavian nations. Finland had Nokia, formerly a giant in the cell phone industry. Canada had Blackberry. Both made enormous amounts of money for a few, and both are now long gone, the worker bees in those enterprises displaced and doing something else, now.

    In the late 90s I had a short stint at Microsoft, and I was blown away at how much raw brainpower I interacted with, and even more so, how hard those folks worked. It was crystal clear to me that Novell and WordPerfect were going to be demolished, and that's exactly what happened.

    One of my colleagues I'll never forget. He taught calculus at Texas A&M, at 19. When I worked with him he was in his late 20s, would get up at 6:00 am, worked until about 8:00pm, went home and studied until about midnight. No kids, wife was also a high end consultant. Legitimate photographic memory. This guy alone was probably more productive than 20-50 Novell engineers... combined, due to his ability to compound his intellect widely, with a drive / stamina that wasn't possible for the family guys at Novell & WordPerfect. It was spooky.

    Technology amplifies the value added by extremely smart people, in ways we've never seen before, in Economics. Think about the algorithms that sift through the mountains of information to get a bead on your preferences and place ads conveniently where they're likely to lure you, online. Those algorithms weren't created by thousands of people, yet they produce many $Billions in value. Think teams of 5-10 *extremely* bright people, like my former colleague.

    The winners get rich beyond their wildest imaginations, and the losers find something else to do.

    The inequalities prompted by technology helped lay the foundation for Trump, without a doubt. And we'll be tempted as a society to push back, as the Luddites tried. Which will only hurt our nation, in the longer run.
    Thoughtful post. Thanks.

    I kind of see the tech giants as the modern equivalent of the robber barons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I wonder iif they'll be broken up like the robber barons of old were?

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by LA Ute View Post
    Thoughtful post. Thanks.

    I kind of see the tech giants as the modern equivalent of the robber barons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I wonder iif they'll be broken up like the robber barons of old were?
    There has been a lot of debate in IT about this, but, for example, when it appeared Microsoft had achieved monopoly status in a broad range of IT areas, the whole landscape shifted rapidly, to the Internet, to Google, Apple made a big comeback with personal systems, iPods, iPads, iPhones, and Facebook capitalized on a new paradigm of what Internet customers wanted. Microsoft very quickly looked like it's better days were behind it, no longer a serious monopoly threat.

    All of this happened too quickly for regulators and lawyers to address the previous monopoly situation. Though Silicon Valley has some of the markings of the Robber Barons, things change so fast that by the time actions are taken to address monopoly power, the entire landscape is completely new.

    The Europeans are much more aggressive in trying to hold dominant Tech companies to account (Microsoft, Apple, Google), but there's very little evidence it's having the desired impact.

    At least that what it looks like to me.
    Last edited by Ma'ake; 08-27-2017 at 10:56 PM.

  11. #11
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
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    A leading Google critic’s firing from a Google-funded think tank, explained

    https://www.vox.com/policy-and-polit...le-new-america

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

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    Administrator U-Ute's Avatar
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    One could argue that this is the reason reason tech giants are in the crosshairs now that the Republicans are in charge.

    What makes Google somewhat unusual for such a big company is that it’s fairly closely aligned with the Democratic Party. Dozens of people moved from jobs at Google to jobs in the Obama administration, and vice versa, over its eight-year span. Schmidt was a major Hillary Clinton donor. More tellingly, Schmidt owns a company called Civis Analytics that does an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes data work for Democratic Party campaigns. This alignment grows out of both cultural affinity between Democrats and Google on social issues, and also years of regulatory struggle that often saw Google, Democrats, and consumer groups on one side pitted against telecommunications industry incumbents.

  13. #13
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by U-Ute View Post
    One could argue that this is the reason reason tech giants are in the crosshairs now that the Republicans are in charge.
    If it is true that Google has aligned itself with the Democrats the way that article says it has (making the entire company a Democrat activist, in effect), then they've been foolish, IMO.

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  14. #14
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
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    Great read:

    A Serf on Google’s Farm

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/...n-googles-farm

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

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    Administrator U-Ute's Avatar
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    The story behind "Project Alamo" and how Silicon Valley is available to the highest bidder.




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  16. #16
    Administrator U-Ute's Avatar
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    Why governments should protect us from barely-taxed tech monopolies

    https://www.theguardian.com/technolo...g-tech-privacy

  17. #17
    Administrator U-Ute's Avatar
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    Related podcast from Freakanomics: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/thin...nsive-who-pay/

  18. #18
    Apple caught up in a second big disclosure of tax havens: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41889787

    What are the chances of money being repatriated from tax havens? If so, how many high paying blue collar manufacturing jobs will blossom with lower tax rates for the corporations? (Or will the money simply be moved around between tax havens?)

  19. #19
    Administrator U-Ute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ma'ake View Post
    Apple caught up in a second big disclosure of tax havens: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41889787

    What are the chances of money being repatriated from tax havens? If so, how many high paying blue collar manufacturing jobs will blossom with lower tax rates for the corporations? (Or will the money simply be moved around between tax havens?)
    I don't think they will repatriate the money until tax laws are changed. Why pay a 35% tax on the money when you can just keep it wherever it is tax free?

    But even after we change the tax laws to 0%, repatriating the money won't turn into jobs. It'll turn into stock buybacks to inflate stock prices (similar to what you are seeing now) or other giveaways to stockholders.

  20. #20
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
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    Really interesting Maureen Dowd piece in the NY Times today:

    Mr. Lanier believes that Facebook and Google, with their “top-down control schemes,” should be called “Behavior Modification Empires.”
    “The whole internet thing was supposed to create the world’s best information resource in all of history,” he says. “Everything would be made visible. And instead we’re living in this time of total opacity where you don’t know why you see the news you see. You don’t know if it’s the same news that someone else sees. You don’t know who made it be that way. You don’t know who’s paid to change what you see. Everything is totally obscure in a profound way that it never was before.

    “And the belief system of Silicon Valley is so thick that my friends at Facebook simply still really believe that the answer to any problem is to do more of what they already did, that they’re optimizing the world.
    Soothsayer in the Hills Sees Silicon Valley’s Sinister Side

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

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