The libertarian iCapitalists wouldn’t have anything to do with the state … would they?

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The libertarian iCapitalists wouldn’t have anything to do with the state … would they?” was written by David Priestland, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 19th June 2013 17.58 UTC

As Google reels from stinging condemnation for its tax avoidance from Margaret Hodge’s parliamentary committee, and the hi-tech companies are embarrassed by allegations of state surveillance, the general response has been one of astonished disbelief.

But we should not be surprised. The “iCapitalists” have long been zealots for a radically neoliberal vision of capitalism. It is their skill at making this harsh approach palatable to the modern zeitgeist which will probably save their skin – though with potentially disastrous consequences for our economy.

Big tech, originating in California’s Silicon Valley, has always been about more than cutting-edge engineering. It embodies a value system that merges a counter-cultural 60s romantic individualism with a cold-eyed commitment to free markets. Apple’s Steve Jobs, the Zen Buddhist of canny entrepreneurialism, captured the worldview with Apple’s famous 1997 slogan: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers …”

And it is this rebellious pose that reconciled a whole swath of the educated professional classes – the “creatives” – to free-market capitalism. In the 1980s, it was besuited corporates who were in the vanguard of Thatcher’s and Reagan’s neoliberal revolution – people such as the hard-faced, downsizing financier Mitt Romney. The iCapitalists, however, presented a far more appealing vision to liberals – one of denimed democracy, of gender-blind and colour-blind egalitarianism. For many of us, Google’s own Big Brother house-style offices, with their Play School sofas and pool tables, seemed the very epitome of a creative, “happening” workplace; while Facebook’s Silicon Valley HQ was a mini-utopia of subsidised gyms, dentists, and personal stylists.

But this is an egalitarian utopia only for the networked and highly educated, not for the many. For the iCapitalist culture is not so much liberal as libertarian, and is founded on the belief that we should be led by elite hi-tech businesses and their shinily packaged semi-conductors and microchips; the state, a lumbering, bureaucratic drag on creativity and innovation, has a minimal role.

This worldview lies behind Eric Schmidt’s defending Google’s tax affairs with reference to the company being “a key part of the electronic commerce expansion of Britain, which is driving a lot of economic growth for the country.” It is not necessary, it seems, to worry about taxation, and indeed the state, as long as company profits are trickling down to the rest of us. The PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has taken this anti-state view to its logical conclusion, and contributed funds to “Seasteading” – a project inspired by the libertarian writer Ayn Rand, to create mobile “islands” of entrepreneurs on cruise-ships and oil-rigs, where they can be free of tax and state regulations.

As the iCapitalists have become richer, they have aspired to project this libertarian vision beyond their sunny, frisbee-friendly Californian campuses to society more generally. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has set up FWD.us to lobby American politicians. It has been pressing for looser rules on immigration – a cause his critics argue is primarily driven by company’s appetite for foreign tech-engineers, and a cheap alternative to improving the American education system.

Of course, we need hi-tech, and Britain should be investing more in the sector. But the iCapitalist vision of society is deeply flawed, and potentially destructive. It is based on the false premise that the tech industries are a triumph of and justification for pure laissez-faire economics – refusing to acknowledge, of course, that the US department of defence drove the development of Silicon Valley. Also, it erroneously assumes that economic growth can be driven by a small group of super-wealthy, highly educated individuals, producing technologies that allow employers to cut wage costs for the majority, while resisting taxation and redistribution. This was precisely the highly inegalitarian economic model that led governments to maintain consumption by allowing a debt build-up among us lesser mortals – contributing to the crisis of 2008.

Since the financial crisis, the iCapitalists, like the bankers, have come under more scrutiny. They will clearly now have to pay more tax, at least in the UK, and they are under pressure elsewhere.

And now we have the possibility that the tech companies have allowed the US government wide access to their users’ data, something that they have denied. If true, it leave them open to the charge of gross hypocrisy; for despite their much-vaunted libertarianism, it seems, they can also collaborate with an overbearing state.

It may be this scandal, rather than the tax-dodging, that undermines faith in big tech.

But there is little sign of any rebellion yet. For the iCapitalist vision of liberation and creativity still resonates with many of us, and particularly the young. British polls show that those born since 1979 are more likely to be socially liberal on race, gender and sexuality, but also more pro-market and anti-state than their older peers. They are also less likely to engage in boycotts of companies guilty of tax avoidance.

One explanation may be that this generation came of age when the iCapitalist vision seemed to be working and jobs were plentiful. And it may be some years before the hollowed-out neoliberal economy takes its toll and the flaws of iCapitalism are finally exposed.

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Boot up: Google Glass privacy, Facebook video ads, iOS 7 apps threat, Kazam smartphones and more

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Boot up: Google Glass privacy, Facebook video ads, iOS 7 apps threat, Kazam smartphones and more” was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 19th June 2013 06.30 UTC

A quick burst of 10 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Privacy authorities issue Google a ‘please explain’ on Glass | ZDNet

Josh Taylor:

In April, Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim requested a briefing with Google on the device, and today he, and nine of his colleagues from Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Mexico, and Switzerland, among others, have written to Page asking for detailed information on Google Glass, stating that their knowledge on it comes "from media reports, which contain a great deal of speculation".

The commissioners state in the letter that Google has not approached them to discuss the associated ethical issues with Google Glass while the product is in early testing stages with developers.

They have asked Google eight questions around the associated privacy issues, including asking Google to explain how Glass complies with data protection laws, what the privacy safeguards are, what information Google collects through Glass, who that information is shared with, and whether Google has undertaken a privacy risk assessment.

The suspicion is that Google itself doesn’t understand all the ethical issues yet: that’s partly what the early tests are for. It’s a reminder that outside the early-adopter bubble, Glass’ privacy implications will be on the agenda for politicians as well as the public.


Facebook’s Video Ads Now Likely Delayed Until Fall >> Advertising Age

Cotton Delo:

As of late last year, Facebook was prepping video ads for their debut in the first half of 2013, but the launch was pushed back to the summer. Now it’s unofficially been pushed back until mid-October, according to a source familiar with the product. The given reason is that there are new features Facebook wants to release concurrently with video ads, and they require more software development.

Facebook needs to tread very carefully with this one to avoid a big user backlash, even if its sales teams are champing at the bit as AdAge suggests. I’m intrigued to see how video ads are handled on mobile, to avoid users hurtling through their data limits.


Radical iOS 7 Design Is Threat To Some Existing Apps >> ReadWrite

Brian S. Hall:

iOS 7 is a truly audacious redesign of Apple’s chief operating system. I have been using the beta version since last week and it’s abundantly clear that Apple is determinedly focused on ensuring that iOS–the software underpinnings of the iPhone and iPad–remains the simplest, purest OS on the planet. It’s also obvious that the new iOS 7 design and enhanced functionality will kill off many non-Apple apps, including some good ones.

Weep for the flashlight-app makers. The claim that "iTunes Radio should choke off all but the very best most-entrenched streaming music competitors" is debatable too – or, at least, there are plenty of other reasons why the not-so-best competitors will fall by the wayside.


Kazam Is Another European Startup Hoping Against Hope To Inch In To The Smartphone Hardware Market >> TechCrunch

Natasha Lomas (hat tip to @modelportfolio2003):

Details of how exactly Kazam plans to assault the Samsung and Apple smartphone duopoly were not forthcoming when I asked. Atkins declined to answer the bulk of my questions — including such specifics as whether Kazam’s planned smartphones will run Android and be skinned with a custom UI or keep the experience familiarly stock. Instead, he trotted out a repeated PR mantra: "Today we are just announcing that the Kazam brand is here, for the rest you will have to wait and see."

Remember the days when the UK had its own smartphone manufacturer, Sendo? That didn’t end so well. Now Kazam, launched by two former HTC executives, is having another crack at the market, with plans to launch devices later this year. But for now, it’s all brand and no (public) hardware.


The Humble Bundle with Android 6

The latest games bundle for Android devices:

Pay what you want for the underwater fantasy action-adventure game Aquaria; the chromatic minimalist puzzler Fractal: Make Blooms Not War; the retro zombie survival game Organ Trail: Director’s Cut; and the nail-biting stealth strategy platformer Stealth Bastard Deluxe. You’ll also receive a bonus game: the rhythmic audio-visual game Pulse: Volume One. If you pay more than the average, you’ll also get the intense tactical combat sim Frozen Synapse and the classic mystery point-and-click adventure Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars – Director’s Cut!

Many games developers criticise Android for its users’ perceived unwillingness to pay for content. Yet with 13 days to go, more than 68k people have stumped up just under 0k for the latest Humble Bundle. There’s life beyond the Google Play store…


Premium Smartphone Market: Why the Apple vs. Samsung Duopoly is Misleading >> Tech-Thoughts

Sameer Singh (hat tip to @HotSoup):

The chart above shows the ratio of premium (0+) smartphone shipments from other vendors to Apple’s and Samsung’s shipments. While the share of "Others" in the premium smartphone market doubled from 7% in May 2012, to 15% in May 2013, the pattern with respect to Apple & Samsung is quite interesting. In May 2012, premium smartphone shipments from "Others" were just 10% of Apple’s shipments and about 35% of Samsung’s shipments. By May 2013, the shipments from "Others" had grown to nearly 40% of Apple’s shipments and remained at 32% of Samsung’s shipments.

A smart look at the data, but do you agree with the conclusion that "the 0+, premium smartphone market may begin to lose its relevance in a year"?


Musical Identity >> The Echo Nest

From the music technology company’s new Musical Identity blog:

Can your music taste predict your taste in other forms of entertainment (books, movies, games, etc)? This post focuses on some (hopefully) amusing, interesting examples of what our Taste Profiling technology can uncover about the relationship between one’s taste in music and one’s taste in movies.

BREAKING: Fans of romantic comedies also like Céline Dion. But there are some interesting insights here, and implications for how the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google may be able to learn from our preferences in one area to recommend things in others.


Rihanna Passes Justin Bieber as Most Viewed Artist on YouTube >> The Hollywood Reporter

William Gruger:

Some time early Tuesday morning, June 18, Rihanna passed Justin Bieber as the most-viewed artist on YouTube. The 77 videos on Rihanna’s official VEVO channel now have a combined 3.784 billion views in total, surpassing the total view counts of the 79 videos on Bieber’s official VEVO channel by roughly two million views.

It’s all about the subscribers, apparently: Rihanna has 8.73m while Justin has 4.9m. Still, Bieber remains Twitter king with 40.6m followers. Perhaps he should start tweeting more YouTube links at them.


One year later, the Nexus 7 has gone from the best to worst tablet I’ve ever owned >> Android and Me

Dustin Earley:

I don’t remember when it first started happening, but most say it was when Android 4.2 began hitting devices. The new features and changes in Jelly Bean, 4.2, were certainly welcome additions, but my Nexus’ new found love of life in the slow-lane was not. I have not spent a full year using the Nexus 7 as a daily driver, only the last six months. So at first, I didn’t notice just how bad things had gotten. I thought maybe it was an illusion from using so many high-end Android phones. Until I started asking around.

Commenters suggest (a) SSD hitting the end of its read-write life (b) Google Currents sucking up resource (c) too little free disk space (d) he’s been mistreating it.


Why can’t Facebook help Emma Watson with her naked photo problem? >> Graham Cluley

So, if I’m seeing these messages, and readers of this blog keep seeing these messages, why isn’t Facebook’s security team seeing these messages?

Or is it that they *are* seeing the messages, but they either:

a) don’t care?

b) aren’t capable of doing anything effective to stop them?

Whatever the explanation, it’s disturbing to continue to see spams and scams spreading so effectively across the world’s most popular social network.

There aren’t any nekkid pics. The app pretending there are will take a lot of liberties, though.


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