I recently finished reading Hannah Fry’s book Hello World: How to Be Human In the Age of the Machine. It’s a clear, non-technical, myth deflating look at AI and the digital, similar to Tom Chatfield’s book How to Thrive in the Digital Age (2012) and the radio show The Digital Human, both of which I’ve extolled the virtues of.
Jonathan Zittrain, a law professor at Harvard University and author of The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It said: “To me, the most important function of the contract is to remind people that the web we have isn’t the only one possible. That’s both a warning – including about how aspects of the web have become – and an opportunity. The contract seeks to get those wielding the most power online to commit to some boundaries in how they treat their users.”
Some online ills can be traced back to the reliance of certain businesses on advertising, with the pursuit of better revenues spawning clickbait and fake news. But Berners-Lee said companies are looking at how to combat those, and sees other reasons to be hopeful: “People in the big companies are concerned about truth and democracy. They don’t want people to look back and say theirs was the platform that misled people to vote against their own best interests,” he said.
It’s good to have a bit of optimism, I guess, but I do like mine with accompanying pessimism / realism:
The Digital Legacy Association has assembled together a number of ‘end of life planning tutorials created to help you address your digital estate’. Really rather useful I think. I found out about the DLA through the radio programme We Need To Talk About Death, which I highly recommend listening to.
Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff calls it “surveillance capitalism.” And as creepy as Facebook is turning out to be, the entire industry is far creepier. It has existed in secret far too long, and it’s up to lawmakers to force these companies into the public spotlight, where we can all decide if this is how we want society to operate and — if not — what to do about it.
Schneier on Security – Facebook and Cambridge Analytica
If you’re on Facebook, you are living on Mark Zuckerberg’s bounty.
This is of course a choice you are free to make. The problem comes when, by living in conditions of such dependence, you forget that there’s any other way to live—and therefore cannot teach another way to those who come after you. Your present-day social-media ecology eclipses the future social-media ecology of others. What if they don’t want their social lives to be bought and sold? What if they don’t want to live on the bounty of the factory owners of Silicon Valley? It would be good if we bequeathed to them another option, the possibility of living outside the walls the factory owners have built—whether for our safety or to imprison us, who can say? The open Web happens outside those walls.
Reading the recent reporting on Facebook’s data breach, I returned to this thoughtful essay in The Hedgehog Review by Alan Jacobs. There’s not much of it, if any, I find myself in disagreement with; and in the suggestions he makes towards becoming ‘a citizen of the open Web’ it feels quite useful and significant.
[Spotify] has struggled to make money due to the harsh economics of music streaming: Spotify and other music streaming companies pay the majority of their sales back to the big music labels to use their songs. It reported an operating loss of €378m in 2017, compared with €349m in 2016.
In a letter to investors, founder Daniel Ek alluded to ambitions beyond simply piping songs into smartphones, citing a vision to become a “cultural platform” where artists can “break free” of the constraints imposed by gatekeepers such as record labels and traditional radio.
Spotify files for unconventional IPO (FT sub only)
- If Spotify struggle to make money, it must be really difficult for the musicians and bands;
- In his book To Save Everything, Click Here, Evgeny Morozov writes about Amazon’s ‘forays into publishing’:
If Amazon’s dream of a world without gatekeepers becomes reality, then the company itself will become a powerful gatekeeper [… it] might be a reluctant gatekeeper, but it’s a gatekeeper nevertheless (p. 171).
As Daniel Ek espouses the same line as Jeff Bezos, but with ‘record labels and traditional radio’ in place of ‘traditional publishing’, it’s not too outlandish to feel Morozov’s conclusion about Amazon can be applied to Spotify too.
This week, in their ongoing quest to put movie stars on the moon, Elon Musk’s SpaceX sent a car into space. I over simplify I know, perhaps misunderstand the motives, but the why and wherefores are not my primary concern here. My concern is the music.
It was reported the car’s radio was set to play “a David Bowie soundtrack on a loop”. I’m guessing here, but did ‘Space Oddity’, along maybe with ‘Starman’, make up that entire soundtrack by any chance? I like David Bowie. In fact there’s a nice documentary currently on the BBC iPlayer about him. And I like ‘Space Oddity’ and ‘Starman’. But let’s mix it up, let’s broaden the range, let’s make it even odder.
I already offered up a while back one song to play, which amazingly hasn’t yet (to my knowledge) been taken (literally) up. Nevertheless, in a moment of optimism, I’m suggesting another:
Can you hear me, Elon Musk? Can you heeeeaaaaarrrr me?
Reading: To Save Everything, Click Here, Evgeny Morozov