The evil engineers! Not the managers, CEOs and so on, but engineers. The true root of evil.
Finally someone recognizes who's really at fault </sarcasm>
I, for one, hope more engineers involved in fraud (eg VW), privacy breaches (eg Facebook) etc get tried and punished. It might help make programmers realize that yes, your work actually affects real humans and yes, you're partly responsible for getting it right.
If your boss makes you write evil crap, quit and get a better job. No need to be all courageous and write an angry blog post, most of us are wimps and that's fine. But that doesn't mean you can't vote with your feet. We need engineers to stop being willing to work anywhere as long as the pay is good and the tech is cool.
This horrible precedent and pushes the blame for everything downstairs. Meanwhile, corporate execs have the very corporate shielding you're advocating that engineers don't. Maybe you think they too shouldn't have such protections, but how you can advocate for personal liability for programmers without first implementing personal liability for executives is beyond me.
This so incredibly short-sighted.
It’s already been set in other industries, the financial industry springs to mind.
Everybody in a bank is responsible for detecting and preventing money laundering. Failure to report money laundering if you suspect it is a criminal offence (this is true in the UK, I assume similar laws exist in the US). If your boss refuses to acknowledge your report, then you’re obligated to whistle blow.
There is no reason why a similar framework can’t exist elsewhere. A requirement that engineers report abuses of data, or corrupt behaviour, and an obligation to whistle blow of management refuse to acknowledge the issue.
These laws of-course place a heavy burden on C-suite execs, making it clear they can be held criminally liable for the misbehaviour of their organisation, even if they weren’t aware of. The simple act of not being aware of criminal behaviour is criminal.
It sounds to me that you're misreading my comment on purpose, to make an us-vs-them argument that I fundamentally disagree with. This isn't about engineers vs bosses, it's about doing the right thing no matter what's on your business card.
The argument "if we can't shift the blame up, it'll automatically go down" simply doesn't make sense to me. You, and you alone, can choose to stop building evil shit.
And I'm not misreading your comment on purpose, trust me I had to read it 4 times just to make sure I wasn't crazy and I was actually reading what I thought I was: someone advocating that bottom of the food chain employees be criminally liable for code they write.
You are making an us-vs-them argument, to be sure. Your "us" is consumers and your "them" are employees, rather than corporate executives that make the decisions.
I'm not a lawyer. I expect if I'm being asked to do something, it's been vetted by our corporate legal team. I should not be expected to know every aspect of criminal and civil law to protect myself from my employer.
What you are suggesting is absurd, but fortunately, I think most would agree with me on that.
Getting the same result in different ways can legal or not:
Saving a x amount of money from taxes using a legal loophole is legal.
An exact equal company trying to save the exact same amount of money by lying to is doing something illegal.
Far less obvious example:
Around here (and possibly elsewhere, I don't know) if you make a drink from wine and spirits you have to pour the spirit first because increasing the strength of wine is illegal, but decreasing the strengt of spirits are OK.
I thought it was an old joke, but someone I have reason to believe said it was true and you could get in trouble for it.
Consider the example of engineers getting the details of tax compliance in a payroll system wrong because their boss provided the wrong instructions. To my mind, they should not be at fault for this unless they demonstrably knew what they had been asked to do was illegal.
That's you. I've quit jobs before because I was not willing to do something that went against my principles. I think it's pretty simple to ask yourself how you'd feel if you were on the opposite end of some questionable corporate action and later found out that you had been deceived or exploited.
Which is exactly why this is such a horrible idea.
"I have been only following orders" had stopped being a valid defense quite a long time ago.
But even then, the programmers working on ICEs can find a different job in a heartbeat.
I'm not asking the other people working at these, or any, companies to do the same. I'm asking people with top in-demand skills to start considering the ethics of their jobs.
Not even close.
As a former embedded software engineer for the automotive sector, moving to another industry was a very difficult task, as in automotive you pidgenhole yourself in some tech that's specific to this industry and is outdated or not used everywhere else.
Thank God I got out in time.
Sure, executives will always try to push the blame downstairs. That's why you should be willing to sell them out if necessary.
This is the entire point. If the "corporate decision" involves doing bad things, and then you go ahead and implement those bad things as an engineer...you deserve to be held responsible for your part in it.
No, I don't think that makes a lot of sense. Many young engineers can't see societal potential in what they do. They see solving the technical problem and completing the task.
Senior engineers with a lot more experience have insight into "why" but that's often the point when they're given responsibility to guide others.
The "should we do this?" question rests on the shoulders of those with insight that faces the outside world, and not just the programmer's editor on the screen. That's management.
What do I know about it? Was an engineer (programmer), and now I run teams of engineers. I often have to direct them on how not to solve a problem, for reasons of customer privacy, security, or responsibility, as much as to what problem we must solve.
Responsibility increases the higher up you go in the management chain.
If you had worked at Ford and designed, say, the steering wheel or transmission of the Pinto, you might well be excused for not appreciating the flaws in its design. But if you were one of the engineers that was asked to put the gas tank up near the rear fender where it was much likelier to rupture in the event of a wholly foreseeable collision, then you had a responsibility to consider and push back against cost-saving measures that were likely to jeopardize riders' safety.
In general, if a manager is telling you not to worry about something, it's shady.
Then they are defective citizens. Citizenry before a job is just not that complicated.
Everyone is complicit in dirty work and I've very happily fired clients and quit jobs for being dirty. Do thou likewise or have your fellow citizens find you wanting for it. It's not hard.
Seems HN is primarily comprised of people without families that can just quit their job and it's not big deal, all in the name of their particular set of moral standards. You can tell when they say things like "it's not hard" when deciding to quit their job.
For the fast majority of people, it is hard. Most peoples ethical guidelines shift rapidly when the alternative means harming their loved ones.
It's definitely not hard to proclaim things aren't hard. Reality is often different.
I worked in free to play games for a time and I rationalized you could get entertainment value up to a point and if you wanted more you paid. However, we all know certain people can't stop at that point. Same reason why casinos flourish.
Ethics CAN be clear cut but even things like drones or surveillance equipment can have both good and evil applications.
... as long as you are aware of it or should have been aware of it.
Where do you draw the line? Maybe your company makes software that is nice but it is sold to companies using it for evil? I think this is too vague and not solvable by engineers unless in clear cut cases like you mention; not many of those really.
There are not infinite jobs either; most companies will, at some stage, do things that you might consider evil.
It is generally management that should be blamed; they have the oversight and make decisions about client base etc. In rare cases where an engineer knew they were wrong very clearly but still did it, then sure, punishment is ok.
Edit; I see you are from Eindhoven; I was born close to there and studied at the TUE under Dijkstra pupils. We had a little group at the time that believed in Dijkstra like thinking; software has to be proven correct and we added that it has to be ethical. It was an idea to somehow make software dev a gild. Then we grew up and saw nothing like that is possible unless you want the world to grind to a halt. The Netherlands would be a likely candidate for this kind of experiment though; you cannot really die of poverty there unless mentally ill, so it is easier to ‘just quit’ if you think your boss went satan on you.
I'm mostly just frustrated that vast swathes of developers, most of them like me living a comfortable life in a comfortable place with plenty of options, are happy to condone and support the evils their employer commits. Plenty of people look at me like I'm an alien when I say I refuse to work for a weapons manufacturer. So I get worked up when people hide behind their bosses and pretend that developers, perhaps the most influential people of the next few decades, are nothing but amoral code machines. No we're not, we're people and we have a choice.
It's not very black and white at all. I personally wouldn't work for Google of Facebook for moral reasons, but I understand that some people say "well, we're targeting ads, not cluster bombs" and they have a point. I'm asking that people consider whether their work fits their own personal ethics. I'm asking that people look around for better jobs when they discover that, deep inside, when they really think about it, no, their current job does not fit with their own ethics. I'm convinced that large numbers of developers would go and look for alternatives if we make it common to just do this thought exercise. I think many people simply don't consider it. After all, there's a fun team and exciting tech!
I don't think that's too much to ask. But when we propagate the idea that developers are mindless robots that turn money into code, we're letting psychopaths take more advantage of us than necessary. Let's try to move the needle, just a bit.
Sidenote: yeah TUE with the Dijkstra apostles was fun, loved the handwriting :-) When were you there? 2002-2008 here. I recognize how the Dijkstra ideals could be extrapolated to ethics by a particularly zealous crowd, but I agree with you that it doesn't hold up to the real world for a long while :-)
Evil vs. non-evil being not that clear is not a problem. That's why we have the court system: to sort those types of things out.
As for "needing to put food on the table", how far are you willing to take that logic? It seems you could use it to justify virtually any behavior, as long as you get paid doing it.
Evil isnt the same as immoral, excepting a subjective interpretation of equivalence. Whats worse is a lack of standardization (or even distinction) between terminology to describe behaviors (eg pernicious, evil, immoral, corrupt, dangerous, et al). What is evil to you is certainly not the same as what is evil to me...much less how a legal doctrine is worded. It is a HUGE problem that people dont agree on what constitutes undesired action.
You can't do this without a lot of ethical backing, supportive law resources, whistleblower protections, and better controls on letting people into the industry.
It will be an utter disaster if you don't have those protections.
Edit: I love downvotes without rebuttal.
That would fall under criminal negligence then.
Claiming ignorance, incompetence or other factors that might lead to unintentional harm does not get you off scot free.
Also, I would wager that about 75% of bugs come from the seems of integrations where two peoples duties overlap. In that case who's fault is it if they both built half a bridge that doesn't line up?
Doctors should be punished if their patient dies for reasons caused by doctor's own fault or by some unintentional action or inaction. That's why malpractice insurance is a thriving industry.
> In that case who's fault is it if they both built half a bridge that doesn't line up?
The chief engineer or the architect, the ones who signed off on the project. And again, that's why those industries have professional liability insurance.
The job market isn't exactly great for recently fired engineers either. Nobody is above the law, and it is more than likely that some unlucky 'git-blamed' junior is going to face such a case some day instead of the boss who ordered it. But i hope in that case a judge will take the migitating circumstances into account.
Everywhere else around the world, it's just a regular job people do to put food on the table.
Should we boycott people who work in the defense industry as well?
The poor benighted developer--engineers have expectations upon them that participants in this thread are clearly all too willing to abrogate, the term is invalid--will be just fine.
Sure it's impossible to be unemployed as a developer one could say by the number of search results from the keyword software in the job portals in my area, but after closer inspection, if you've been around the block a few times, you can easily tell that over 90% of those jobs are shitty micromanaged fake scrum-driven burnout meat grinders where you wouldn't last more than a couple of months.
So, the remaining 10% of jobs worth applying for are incredibly picky, and, without a prestigious resume (top companies, top school) you're not getting your foot in the door, even though you might master leet code.
Therefore, it took me 6 months on unemployment to find a quality workplace that would take me in and only because I invested in some certs in that time.
The machine stops when we say "no". It's what we must do.
It certainly does limit new engineer throughput for society because of training times and increase salaries though.
I find this push of responsibility to the engineers encouraging. Finally may come the legislative framework through which I can shoot down an employer's design knowing that in all odds anyone else with a license at stake won't cave to mere financial coercion.
You definitely wouldn't need a lawyer on retainer.
"follow the money" is a time tested and highly reliable heuristic.
I am with you on an individuals responsibility despite embedding within systems designed to provide legal shielding for amoral choices.
In some ways the fast food worker is even more directly responsible for the end-product. Burgers require regional labor; software can be made by somebody in Australia or China.
In my experience, it really is the managers who often are to blame for a lot of evil practices. To generalise, I'd say 80% of engineers are rarely evil, but 80% of managers are rarely not evil.
It is the only option for the morally compromised. The solution is to refuse to be so compromised--and we can do it in this industry.
That's not a "for thee but not for me" judgment; I've left a six-figure deal on the table because the client was scum. It requires some grit but is within (almost) all our grasp--and we would be in a better place as an industry (and as people) were this behavior the norm, not the exception.
Maybe since engineers are expected to have such good judgement, companies should strip their legal and HR departments and just put related matters for vote in Jira.
It is an excuse. If my livelihood depends on it, my children's health insurance depends on it (especially if you have kids that need continuous care), my kids university tuition depends on it, etc, etc... So, personally that's a very narrow view to take. Unless there is a support system that can maintain comparable quality of life for engineers who speak up and quit it's not going to happen. I know I wouldn't care unless someone really made it worth my while to do so.
This mentality is appalling.
To be clear, those engineers' quality of life may be dependent on working at big tech companies. But their ability to make a living and support their families is not. They have made the decision to contribute to abuses of human rights in exchange for a larger salary (and prestige, among other factors), and at least in my eyes, they're just as responsible for the consequences of that decision as their managers are.
There's no software equivalent of a software engineer coming to someone's house to fix the code in an Alexa controlled light bulb - the responsible party is the lightbulb company.
The problem of course is that most people paint themselves into a corner from which it becomes incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to actually act as a free agent (and therefore a moral being).
I don't really know how they can live with themselves - I guess I'm just not wired that way - but they do.
As far as software devs go specifically.. If you're 21 or whatever, fair enough. If you're 30, in good health, and you're still using this excuse that you just can't survive without always taking the maximally profitable job and sucking up to whatever bossman says, sorry, that's just not right.
After 30 you're probably looking to settle down, get a house and have kids and unless a generous inheritance is waiting for you, there is no way you can afford kids and a mortgage in any major city without constantly taking the highest salary because other people will, pricing you out.
I think your example is a bad one because to be honest most people are priced out of that anyway. I don't know anyone who has or expects that life any more. The economy broke.
Amongst my "old friends", I'm the only one that could even theoretically afford it, and I've noped out of major metropolitan areas entirely, at least for the time being, because it precisely means either living in a microscopic shoebox or conforming to an economic system that is deeply flawed.
Ultimately, you own the consequences of what you're doing. If you don't care about the ethics of what you do because it feeds your family and that's what you want, great. I don't have to respect that; and in fact I reject the premise.
It is important to guard against these types, by ensuring our laws reflect our shared norms to those who will ignore norms unless compelled.
Don't doubt for a second that MS knows what it's doing when it adks for this. Facebook as well is doing the same, asking for more regulations. They're trying to capitalize on what is called Regulatory Capture, which will entrench their market power through government force.
Sometimes this is more obvious, such as the case in finance where industry leaders smoothly swap roles as both profiteers and technocrats, and sometimes it is less obvious, as is the case now with big tech.
I am a resident of a swing state and I vote in primaries.
Disclosure: I work at MSFT.
(NPR could have misstated Smith’s intent, but imma need a citation.)
I understood that if I refuse to do something, there is a substantial possibility that nobody else will do it. If I accept contributing to something malevolent, it makes me complicit.
What we know is rare.
Many engineers are not at all familiar with privacy and security laws. When there are hackathons for instance I always wonder about the amount of legal oversight in organizations.
Engineers want to build cool things. The Internet made it possible that anyone's small app can have worldwide reach and impact.
That impact however also has consequences and responsibilities that the builders can't hide from or transfer to someone else either.
So what do people mean when they say this? The NPR piece says Smith suggests "the Internet giants will cannibalize the very fabric of this country". This metaphor seems hyperbolic as well. To use "cannibalize" means that something will eat itself. So, they Internet giants are the fabric of the country and they will eat the fabric. Something is missing there.
The next paragraph then negatively describes Smith's regret of his previous calls for deregulation. This seems firmly unrelated to democracy, as all forms of government have regulation, and regularly adjust regulation to get better effects. However, it does seem related to the power of government over organizations such as Microsoft. Is the "threat to democracy" really meant to indicate the loss of the power of the government over individuals relative to increases of power of other organizations?
"For one, he argues, it's time to reform the U.S. law that says Internet platforms are not liable for just about any of the content running through their pipes"
This would dismantle the Internet. Did he forget to read https://www.amazon.com/Twenty-Six-Words-That-Created-Interne... ? It would force your ISP to become a censor. It's the complete opposite of the idea of moving power towards an elected government and away from corporations.
Anyway, I was worried for a bit reading the headline, but it looks like our elected government is safe for the time being and this is just more hyperbolic bullshit.
- If the elected government punishes people who voted the wrong way once it gets in power, then it's not really a democracy.
- If the elected government doesn't have any real power, and all the important decisions are made by warlords or corporate heads, then it is not really a democracy.
- If your boss can stand behind you while you cast your ballot to make sure you vote the right way, under threat of being fired, it's not really a democracy.
- If the only information you have on which to base your vote is the official state-run news, then it's not really a democracy.
- If all the government's power is concentrated in one person, who is elected for life, it's not really a democracy.
What would you consider a threat to democracy?
New limitations on which citizens can vote.
Interference with the vote collecting and counting processes.
Not respecting the outcome of an election.
Those would all be threats to democracy. What isn't a threat is Google, Facebook and Amazon trying to guess which ads you'll click on.
Elections may be necessary to democracy, they are not sufficient. Most authoritarian states have elections, too.
Senators and governors might be in a very distant second and third place for legitimate scrutiny by the electorate, house representatives in fourth, maybe in some very rare circumstances someone pays attention to state house or senate races, and maybe you care about your mayor once every other decade.
Every other race is simply pay to win. You pay the most, get the most ads in front of constituents faces, and get yourself political power for as long as you can afford to keep it. The voting public does not have the patience, time, or willpower to scrutinize a dozen+ races per election cycle in a way paramount to preserving the institutional integrity of the government. Its why people are always so pessimistic about government solving problems - they really aren't practically electing the people writing the laws or testing their legitimacy. You vote for judges on paper, but in aggregate the elected judge is almost always the one with the most donors.
Its all intentional and structural, of course. It helps preserves the two party duopoly and lowers the cost of buying legislation for private interests. If voters only had one person to elect whose job it then was to do all the other appointments and elections they would otherwise do, but whom the electorate scrutinizes as much as the president and whose conduct is all over their personal media feeds every day, we might actually have something reminiscent of the will of the people showing up in government again.
The political polarization might not be caused by technology but instead only amplifies it.
One example where the tech companies are "guilty" is by having everyone live in their own confirmation bias bubble which is enabled by the algorithms they created.
What we seem to forget is that we all lived in confirmation bias bubbles before the internet.
We all believed our own local version of what the United States was until the various points in history where the dissonance was interrupted.
Now globalization and social media have shown people how different their respective views happen to be, feeding the polarization even more, and we find it easy to put the blame on technology.
Yes, and doing the same as always just more efficiently can be reason enough for regulation.
Consider fishing. Mankind pretty much always did it. Over time we got more efficient, but the core mechanism of extracting fish from the sea always stayed the same. Along the same line of reasoning there should not have been any need for fishing limits. But if we look at all systems and mechanisms interacting, just pushing this one variable at some arbitrary point can make the system collapse.
Afaik fishing is a lot better understood than filter bubbles. But the history examples of strong political polarization I can remember usually heave lead to bad outcomes (as in bloody), thus we probably want to stay on the safer side for now.
Kind of sad that the Chinese way of dealing with this might actually produce better outcomes, if our western "free societies" won't find a way to deal with it.
A really cool causal factor (e.g. Green, Palmquist, and Schicker, 2002, ) is the effect of civil rights and voting rights acts in the 60s. Essentially, young conservatives subsequently started primarily joining the Republican party and it took 30 years for the effects to really be visible (kind of like messing with pH levels where the color eventually just changes).
There are claims that Facebook staffers directly help political campaigns micro-target specific audiences using "dark posts" .
And though I agree without reserveration that technology doesn't cause that per se, the way we use it for the most part (and which we seem to have accepted as the way to go, or at least as somehow unavoidable), turn things into headlines and TLDR and memes, and those into things to "share" or "like", seems like an already existing problem put on steroids to me.
Since election interference is widely reported and understood to have been an intel operation aimed at polarizing U.S. public opinion with legitimate and illegitimate information, I dont see how treebeard is irrelevant.
Sidenote: It's still unclear, to me anyway, just how effective the influence was. In these crazy times, I should clarify that I'm not denying it occured.
I suspect not but this all sounds reactionary "something must be done" where the utility of the something is always downplayed.
The subject of the article is not too well-defined, which reflects our inability to come to terms with the associated Big Issues. So, yeah, it's difficult for me to imagine forward thinking regulation coming out of the current conversation--such as it is, in main editorial media and government.
In my personal life, having a productive conversation about the current and future impacts of data (non)privacy is next to impossible due to the inherent complexity of integrating the subject with pre-existing ideological frameworks. I do not think I'm brighter than them, just happen to have a long-standing interest. Based on observation, politicians seem no better equipped.
One should look at the various democracies in power across Europe and the various regions of the United States and consider just how much control they wish those governing bodies to have on what is allowed to be said, not said, and how it should be said. Additionally, consider what sorts of governance may potentially be in power in the future as well.
By the time that a society recognizes that a new medium has changed them, it's too late.
Looking at newspapers prior to (let's say) WWII and that statement might be worth reconsidering.
We don't really do objective reality well beyond the scope of our own immediate shit. We're like the six blind men and the elephant. We each have our own little fact about the elephant, but no one is able to see the elephant as a whole, and trying to paint a complete picture out of the disparate bits of information can yield outcomes very different from objective reality.
Things really went south and nobody noticed.
Before the internet Sanders, Trump, AOC, Yang, they would never have gotten anywhere. The ruling class is pissed off that people aren’t doing what they’re told and they want to stuff the communications revolution genie back in its bottle.
Good political instincts, ability to speak extemporaneously (a rare ability in the modern era). I expect that he could have picked up a House seat fairly easily on the way to a Presidential campaign as sort of a Williams Jennings Bryanesque character.
I do agree though that the internet has changed the character of politics (painfully obvious). Anything that breaks the back of newspapers and broadcasters as gatekeepers isn't such a bad thing, the trick is to avoid having youtube/facebook/etc. become activist successors to the NYT and CBS.
And to be honest, as someone who's both done independent journalism and known people who do the same, it's honestly kind of worrying. I suspect the old guard despise the new media sites and creators the internet has brought about, and the competition it's giving them, and are trying everything they can to try and make them go away.
Big tech companies off-load that burden by saying "our users are arseholes and it's impossible to police what they say". The most extreme example are the lengths BackPage went to in order to keep taking money to place ads for children that had been kidnapped and drugged and were being offered for rape.
Microsoft should sell their stake in Facebook and publicly announce they are distancing themselves from FB. The dominos will just start falling automatically, one by one. For sure, it will start some serious soul searching among the companies whose primary business is data exploitation.
But of course, this will not happen, because Microsoft desperately needs Facebook to be strong so that its AI team can actually challenge Google's dominance in AI (Tensorflow).
So we keep hearing these weird platitudes by folks who probably are never going to be affected in any big way by this so called "cannibalization of the fabric of this country".
It will be much harder, however, for new platforms with less resources to comply. They may have to shut down instead.
Never the less, whatever happens when the elephants wrangle, it’s good for end users.
Wake up people. China is the canary in the coal mine. If big tech doesn't step up and provide some sort of a shadow government, pressuring our real government, we are actually really screwed. Going forward, the government NEEDs to be undermined by the private sector, this is the only way to provide a power balance.
Example of the current status of France:
- We don’t have protected freedom of speech, there are penalties for insults, defamation and hate speech (against the protected groups only) (statistics about ethnicities are forbidden, which means no statistics about crime and ethnicity) (applied only for influential people, it seems), people have an expectation of what is said has been verified so they are not used to checking the info so they are... gullible (sorry, no better word). So I would say there is no tradition of free speech here, with the usual required education that goes with it (about the fact that people can freely tell lies).
- The new law is about to enter in action: Platforms must remove « hate speech » content, and keep it (I don’t know how much time) so the police can build a case if they want to attack.
Recently, stories about the books published by our minister of equality using a false name (books about advice for sexual life) have been removed, using the « hate speech » procedures. So pretty much everything is hate speech. We have no protection for political dissidence here. Everyone’s a progressive, everything else is « hate speech » and problems grow because they are not addressed.
Only if it comes with full regulation of said platforms as publishers, which they would then be - and imo already are today.
Enough with this having it both ways.
>Today, the tech giants — whose tools have been used to interfere in fair and free elections — are posing a much bigger threat to the political stability of many countries, including the U.S.
"Democracy does not work because people are easily manipulated by propaganda, so we need enlightened overlords to create better propaganda that will manipulate people to support my interests... uh, I mean, to support what's good for them."
>Smith has proposals that are not popular in Silicon Valley. For one, he argues, it's time to reform the U.S. law that says Internet platforms are not liable for just about any of the content running through their pipes — hate speech, death threats and ads for counterfeit goods or illegal guns.
"I love censorship. Let's have more of it!"
I say... *that’s great.” Privacy advocates can get one of the world’s most powerful companies as an ally, just by a common self interest. I don’t mind that this is self serving from Microsoft, I hope they are successful. Other allies could be the media companies hurt by Facebook, advertisers bidding up each other on Google, etc. there should be a selfish coalition of privacy defenders just to protect their own businesses.
The problem is a weak economic model. In the online economy software (products) have little or no value. The value is placed almost entirely upon media and data transactions. Those two are symbiotic but they are neither the same nor codependent. This economic model is what needs to be fixed.
Entrepreneurs out there if you want to do good for the world, make absurd money, and be disruptive then that economic model is what you should disrupt. Go, disrupt the shit out of it.
I don't want ten unregulated facebooks who all leak my data, I want one facebook that plays by reasonable rules. The dynamics of social networks which don't deliver value if they're fragmented has made the competition focus obsolete. When Zuckerberg makes this point he is obviously speaking in his self-interest but he is absolutely right and the dominance of his platform proves it.
The world isn't better off if half of the information is on bing and half of the information is on google, the world is better off if those large companies which do deliver benefits to end consumers by virtue of their centralisation are bound by law to implement reasonable standards.
As a hint, when a large company asks for some regulation, it is very likely that it is of the kind that brings all those problems.
If you've ever read a story about the evils of hairdresser licensing (for instance), it's from them. They have been on a crusade against regulation since a lot of their fights with the environmental protection agency.
The top 10 countries in the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation economic freedom index doesn’t even include the US: https://www.heritage.org/index. (It does however include the entire rest of the Anglosphere.)
They absolutely are not. They're capitalists, neoliberals, in all senses. There are no left wing economic policies being created anywhere in the western world right now.
If you've ever read a story about the evils of low taxes (for instance), it's from them. They have been on a crusade for regulation since a lot of their fights with the environmental protection agency.
Great comments. Lets keep this up!
(This comment is intended to show that simply pointing out that a group advocates for something doesn't make it wrong and dismissable because of that.)
It's not though. They make a case for certain kinds of regulation and they don't try to tell a "all regulation is good" story.
The premise here is incorrect. The idea is all information would be available on both Google and Bing, and searchers are free to query their engine of choice.
At this point you should be wondering if it should be run by the government.
Competitive markets are the closest thing we have to a panacea for every problem. There’s lots of things the US and Europe don’t agree on. But one thing they do agree on is deregulation to enable competition. That’s why even Macron in France is trying to privatize SNCF. That’s why Denmark abolished its version of the FCC. That’s why nearly every Western European country has deregulated markets for wholesale electricity, allocates public airwaves through auctions, etc. Thats why Vietnam, which is still technically a Marxist-Leninist country, has 95% of people supporting market capitalism: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/03/13/vietnam....
That is not to say that market failures don’t exist. But we should think extremely hard before we try non-market solutions, identifying exactly why the market isn’t working and addressing those specific issues in the least invasive way.
Edit: Downvoters please elucidate?
As for why you’re being downvoted, it usually means people don’t agree with you (not that you’re wrong). However, we’re not supposed to downvote simply because we disagree here, but it happens.
And seeing you’re a “green” account, it could also just be people who downvote all new users (yes, those exist).
However the big tech does need regulation and this regulation is called GDPR. We need laws that make it a criminal offense to use user data without an explicit written consent in a standard form set by law per each use of this data.
No. We don't need "guardrails" at all. We have an existing legal system that works quite well to discourage companies from profiting from ventures we don't like: we simply make those ventures illegal. Companies have been able to make a profitable business out of harvesting personal data, abusing consent, etc., because these things aren't illegal. GDPR et al is the start of laws in this area, but a financial penalty is simply a business cost. If I can make $500B with a 25% chance of a $5B fine, the rational action is of course to proceed.
If there was a law about certain types of consent being legally required for certain types of data, THEN an engineer, manager, or exec can decide to either a) report the violation to authorities or b) become complicit themselves. When breaking these laws comes with real penalties (jail time, not fines), then the business can choose between a) do something illegal and government puts everyone in jail and takes all assets or b) don't do something illegal, which is exactly what we want.
Bottom line: No special regulation is required here. Simply make a law extending the personal data productions afforded by existing regulations and let the system do its job.
> And what? Use ‘Linux desktop’? No thank you.
Yeah, it's pretty amazing. My wife uses it. I've used it for the past decade. XFCE is fully featured, smooth, and very light-weight. Others have been great too. Want software? Just install it with the package manager. Games? I used to run them in a windows VM when I really wanted to.
It's not naive, it's just difficult. But it's worth doing.
What worth do I get? I get expertise. I get knowledge. I'm a programmer. I don't have a OS sending my information to Microsoft. I don't have to worry nearly as much about malicious software. I don't have to run an Antivirus (AV) and AV scans constantly to feel confident in my computer's security. I get access to powerful open-source software. I get to keep learning about even more powerful software - repeatable environments and builds, that give me even more confidence in my ability to create value for myself and others. I get a lot of value for it.
I’ve also yet to see a Chromebook with good specs that couldn’t be matched by a Windows laptop for the same price. Windows laptops can have Linus installed much more easily (I.E. no jailbreaking)
Don’t get me wrong, I use Linux extensively. I spend nearly half of my computer time on a SSH terminal. I just hate the graphical part of it.
Why are you accusing them of some kind of hypocrisy here?
I also don't want ANY of my products, paid or unpaid, to spy on me. Assume if someone calls out a particular vendor for a particular instance of privacy violations, they are not explicitly or implicitly giving a free pass to everybody else.
What's weird is, why there is no great rumbling against China's big tech within China. By now Chinese big tech should have wrecked the same unintended consequences and damage as American big tech. Whats going on there?
I am guessing once things blow up there then we see global consensus on regulating Big Tech.
Though in many places governments aren't great at preventing theft and violence. That's why even in developed countries, many companies hire private security, citizens learn self-defense, and some people carry pepper spray, knives, or even firearms.
Even in the case of a dictatorial and lifetime head of state, separation of powers is baked into the cake by groups with common interests, sometimes organically, sometimes on purpose.
Of course any sufficiently big organization does have competing departments with conflicting agengas, but also there are nuances.
Personally, I think that the government vs. industry split becomes rather academic when you are speaking of monopolies, especially monopolies that spy on you. I expect that there's a slow motion merger into a GoogleFacebookMicrosoftApple.gov body with the companies acting as cabinet branches.