China's growth is slowing and its leadership will always have the specter of Soviet collapse haunting them. The actual potential for Chinese growth and innovation will always be out of reach because creative destruction is unacceptable to entrenched interests.
The CCP aren't the future, they're dinosaurs clinging to relevance by using technologies usually invented overseas as crudely wrought instruments of power.
For those of us in the USA, seeing increasing militarization of local police, plus PRISM etc revelations, the CCP looks like it might be our future.
Are all of your fairly extraordinary predictions of the future here not also completely based on assumptions derived from an extremely small sample size of simplistic examples from history, and assuming those outcomes can be accurately projected into the future despite massive changes in the value and number of variables involved?
but we also have the technical capacities to descentralize it (federate it?)
interestingly enough, it is getting more centralized. Is this due to economic incentives?
I got on the internet in the 90's back when netiquette was still a thing. Nowadays, most things are all about money: either how can a closed platform get monetized or how to game any communication method for personal enrichment. I often reminisce on the polite and open internet of the past, but that is no longer the reality available to us.
Interstingly enough, for enterprise, the trend seems to be in the opposite direction. I work on Webex Teams and one of the features is clients owning their own decryption hardware, running on their own servers. Cisco may be the one moving the messages around but we have no clue what's inside of those messages (and we certainly don't want to know).
In this federated model, 2 separate companies can communicate, relying on key management running under their own control, each applying their own retention policies, etc. Of course these systems are a lot more complex than the naive "big store of data + 1 gatekeeper" approach.
I believe decentralization in theory could work. But our current situation is so chaotic that there's no clear solution. However, the key here is to understand the full picture.
In the book I argue that there's a big shift going on--not only an economical shift, but also geopolitical and social. And this is going to be a surprise for a lot of people, but this shift is coming from social credit systems and the establishment of a new economic model based on social behavior.
Now, I know this is too complex to explain in a paragraph, but that's why we have books.
> a new economic model based on social behavior.
this reminds me of China's social credit scores. It seems to me that this is (in a way) automatic-money. Imagine if instead of having to manage your own balance your "wallet" does it for you. One just shows up at the store and they tell you what you get. No "visible" transaction takes place.
Few people know this but money was invented to keep track of debt. In fact, what most economic textbooks say is that money comes from barter. It turns out there's no single evidence that this ever happened in history! (David Graeber has a phenomenal book call Debt that explains all of this.)
Now, the shift we're seeing is that social credit system--or as I call them Social Debt Systems--are going to be "the new money."
Lots of people talk about the data economy and the fact that we need a way to put a dollar value on information.
And what we're seeing with social credit systems is that that value is not 'on' information. It's 'in' information. And that's creating a new economic logic we're not able even to conceive yet
I think you're conflating two different usages of the term "money". Wikipedia calls them "money of account" and "money of exchange". Money of account appears to be older, and was, as you say, invented to keep track of debts. But when economics textbooks talk about money being invented to solve the double coincidence of wants problem, which is the main limitation of barter, they are talking about money of exchange.
Debt is older though. It goes back 5,000 years--at least:
"Money of exchange" is, yes. And as I said, that is what economists are talking about when they talk about money replacing barter because it solves the double coincidence of wants problem. Money replacing barter has nothing to do with debt.
I'm glad to see you chimed in here with this additional detail, because after reading the overview:
> There’s currently a geopolitical arms race taking place to merge biotech and infotech to hack humankind. Technological disruption is creating an unprecedented realm of opportunities for authoritarian regimes to flourish.
...I got the impression that you thought the main issue with mass data collection was somehow to provide an advantage in biological engineering, when the most obvious advantage seems to me to be analysis of human behavior such that it can understood (to the best of our current but ever improving capabilities) and shaped in various ways. Some of the shaping techniques may be considered (by Westerners) to be nefarious I imagine, but I see no reason why such shaping has to be nefarious, but rather if done properly, may very well be in a way that can be overwhelmingly aggregate net positive to those being shaped.
I've been thinking about how in the long term an authoritarian China with a fully modern technological surveillance state coupled with wise leadership and a (correspondingly) supportive citizenship might have a massive advantage over traditional democracies. The typical thinking on the matter seems to be roughly: because all historic authoritarian states eventually collapsed while democracies tended to flourish, then therefore a completely risk-free assumption can be made that this pattern will persist into the future, always and everywhere, without exception, and therefore there is absolutely no need to consider the possibility that this historic pattern may not materialize. To me, this seems like very dangerous thinking based on extremely poor logic.
I'm curious what your thoughts are on the matter, and whether this is a theme you touch upon in your book.
I cover all these points in the book. But just to be clear this isn't just about China as the bad guy--the US is in the same direction.
I agree on your point about that in the past democracies ended up winning. But today we're seeing that the technological disruption is killing the very essence that makes democratic society democratic. The fact is that liberal democracies have to evolve or Data Dictatorships are going to take over.
Why not make the data public? If data is power, you criminalize the hoarding of data, and require it to be shared openly with all. We would still be headed toward a surveillance state, which comes with a high risk of authoritarianism, but at least we would have a shot at keeping it democratic.
But the point here is that there's data that shouldn't be collected in the first place. And that data, especially biometric data, is what allows data autocrats hack human beings. And you don't need a lot of data to hack a human being. Just enough to know someone better than that person knows himself or herself.
I just don't think that's feasible. The cat cannot be put back in the box (so to speak).
I think the solution goes more in line with open transparency. Yet individual privacy is really important.
The only way through, I think, is to guarantee individual privacy but enforce institutional transparency.
It's not feasible because there's a huge economic logic behind that data collection. While the truth is that most services (even innovation) would still work with a few data points.
I mean, Google Maps doesn’t need to collect all the data it collects, but it sells us the benefit with an imminent long-tail of problems.
If by democratic you mean freedom to form outrage mobs then I'd agree, but I don't think that would be a good thing. Having thousands of people in some community screaming for the head of some kid who said something dumb about his school and his dad's rifle on a Call of Duty discord is not going to end well for the kid.
I'm not sure I believe in completely open data because entire populations with access to it are not completely rational.
> If by democratic you mean freedom to form outrage mobs then I'd agree, but I don't think that would be a good thing.
I don't think it would be an objectively good thing either. I only think it may be better than the alternative. Given a choice between an authoritarian dictatorship and an authoritarian democracy, I lean toward the latter.
Additionally, I think you may not be giving people enough credit. Devolution of democracy to mob rule is certainly a danger, but I don't know that it's a foregone conclusion. I don't how to go about preserving individual liberty without privacy, but as long as the common man has power it should be possible in theory.
You're fully aware of the danger of what's coming. Just be aware, authoritarian democracy with full open access to the totality of everyone's data is not really authoritarian democracy.
It's totalitarian democracy. Just that small nit pick but other than that, if you know what you're getting into, go for it.
I just disagree with that trade off.
certainly not. but we are at the beginning of a cultural shift in line with the renaissance and the age of enlightnement which vastly changed the cultural mindset quite a bit. before these previous 'cultural revolutions' what people considered rational was different.
It's exactly this cultural shift that I'm worried about. What exactly does crowdsourced school security look like in an environment of radically open data?
I just think you're being very optimistic.
regardless, I don't think it's optimism because I don't think I will leave long enough to see such a world, at best we will leave through the roughest part of the shift. this level of cultural transformation takes more tha a few of generations.
in any case, I see something else regarding the way in which individual humans are aware of the relationship to their supporting society which translates up to the way in which a distinct society sees itself as a component of a larger system.
where do you think this is going?
Also too, I think the software-as-a-service and cloud model has created a certain expectation among society, that everything is handed off to someone else. Decentralized tech requires a bit more involvement, that might be more familiar to older experienced users but not newer ones, or might require native users who gravitate it as their first choice for various reasons.
Finally, there are limitations with decentralized tech; I suspect that any eventual equilibrium will always be in flux and will include some centralized, decentralized, and federated technology in various proportions depending on societal circumstances.
Everything can be cast in terms of economic incentives perhaps?
We have the technology but I think it's still very specialist, we need a more generalised framework for the average developer.
> interestingly enough, it is getting more centralized. Is this due to economic incentives?
Decentralised has the ability to scale better and work out cheaper in the long run. However it's current state of being so specialised means the real cost is in hiring people to build and maintain it.
Hopefully as the tools to decentralise become more generalised to the point where every developer can use them properly the initial cost vs long term cost will tilt into decentralised favour.
That's exactly why I wrote the book. You can't change people with a tweet. Sometimes not even through an article. But that's the magic of books.
Is it all gloom and doom? That depends on how we react. But I have the feeling that if we don't spend some time thinking about these issues--collectively--then it'll be gloom and doom for sure.
But I do want to create "buzz" around the conversation. We need it. The book? That's secondary. I don't make any money of out it. That's why I'm giving it away for free.
But again, I can't answer that for you.
Just because democracy might be a little bit better, getting there includes civil war, violence, and other costs people aren't willing to pay if their lives aren't incredibly bad.
Better data collection and monitoring alleviate both weaknesses and prolong such system's longevity.
Stalin? Misunderstood. USSR killed more people than the nazis? Impossible.
things were Horrible. i had relatives who were killed in the streets because they didn't aspire to the latest communist trend. and no travelling outside the country, or even outside your city in some circumstances. at least not without being part of the party.
what about food? queue for 2 hours for a pint of milk, and meat only once per month because the party doesn't want to be indebted to capitalist countries.
the famine and the pain that the communists brought is in a different world than the massive opportunities that we have today (and food, food is available everywhere now).
i guess this teaches us something very important: history needs to be taught since the first school years.
Invoking fear and doubt in people's heads doesn't produce imagination, curiosity or empathy. And those are the tools that produce new solutions. What fear and doubt produces is defensiveness and mindless reactions.
Propaganda has always had large societal influence and I am not denying that better data could in theory be used to make it worse. But just as in practice targetted advertising works about as well as trying to seduce someone with information gathered by digging through their garbage practice seems highly dubious.
Dictatorships are kind of dysfunctional shitholes because the concern is holding onto power for the few over advancement for many as loyalty trumps competence. The succession lines are intentionally horrible just toand vagur just to reduce odds of assassination. Overcoming that with "data" isn't even a plan - especially since the dystopian vague data tools can be jacked or dismantled by the successors.
Not to mention the arguement ad inevitability. Disclaimer - not having read beyond the initial pitch page: To be frank this seems like an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist to sell alarmist books on topics they know little about that will have less shelf life than Y2K books in 1999. Not exactly the best impression.