Posts Tagged ‘survival of democracy’

From Wealth of Nations to Wealth of Data

September 2, 2019

Our Declaration of Independence is not the only hallmark document of the year 1776.

There was another one: Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which Wikipedia refers to as a magnum opus.

Magnum opus means pretty doggone important idea, as the multilectic development of our dialectical ideas shape  history.

Smith’s groundbreaking insights propelled our modernizing world into the age of Economics, a new time when the effects of money and industrial productivity began to channel human culture in ways that outweighed traditional institutions.

The Church, the Royals, such ancient paths of power were, in the long run of history, outmoded by the power of the buck.

Freedom to gather wealth was being distributed widely among new, rising enterprisers in society, instead of being controlled by the purse of the Popes or the money of the Monarchs.

Now the tide is turning again, in a major way.

But it’s turning back the other way.

Oh, not back to the Church or the King, but back to another select group—the data mining Social Media.

Now Wealth of Nations morphs to Wealth of Data.

And it seems it happened in the blinking of an eye, so to speak.

All our data that we generate through ubiquitous universal social media gets scooped up and recycled as fodder to generate future wealth, for somebody.

For Whom? Who is gathering the new Wealth of Nations through our electronic and wifi conduits of the Wealth of Data?

Robber barons, monopolists, capitalists, opportunists, daytraders, speculators, hedgefunders, algorithmists, hackers, gamblers, midnight ramblers?

Future wealth, for somebody. . . for whomever is using the data as a field for harvest —to skim new wealth, through  their privileged knowledge of out trendy, predictable human habits. . . our fashions, fetishes, foibles and infamous freedoms.

Freedom to spend, mostly. Especially with all the cardswiping that you see in every spending venue these days.

It’s so easy to spend money nowadays.

Even if you don’t have any!

Using the data streams to  anticipate where the “markets” are headed, where the money’s going . . .those watchful, AI-wielding movers and shakers behind the scenes can know exactly when and where to lower their clickbait nets, and scoop up a big mess of digital debits or financial fish.

“Markets” being the main concentrations of consumer and business wealth that are being spent every day as we live and breathe and spend.

A lot of people are starting to figure this out, about now.

Some have been noticing the profit potentialities for awhile. Others have known from the beginning. They are the ones who have been establishing data-mining as the latest phase of capitalism.

I learned something about this, this morning, when I read Karin Petersson’s report about it on the Social Europe site.

   https://www.socialeurope.eu/politics-in-the-age-of-data

Karin’s opening statement got my attention in a big way.

“It’s impossible to change the world if you don’t understand the forces shaping it.”

That is so true, Karin.

I went on to read her concise treatise, which consisted of an insightful cautionary statement about the three main problems of this data-mining development. I will list those three here, while recommending that you read her article in order to get her thoughts from her article—not mine.

Karin’s list of the three problems:

~~Rage machine

~~Winner takes all

~~Survival of Democracy?

She is calling into question the survivability of democracy in these new social media conditions that have overtaken our way of life.

You should read it.  https://www.socialeurope.eu/politics-in-the-age-of-data

Now I do have something to say about her opening statement:

“It’s impossible to change the world if you don’t understand the forces shaping it.”

So true.

But I confess that my free-thinking mind dropped the KM bomb on me. That is. . . Karl Marx.

. . . not that Karin is a Marxist or anything like that.

My point is that even if you DO understand the forces shaping the world . . . odds are you still can’t change it!

Oh yes, maybe you can make some beneficial contributions, maybe some helpful new ideas, but convincing yourself that you can change the world based on what you know or understand about it . . . that is a dream that will never come true.

Take the Karl himself, and his idea: The factories and businesses of industrial production are owned by a few rich people.  If the regular working people—the proletariat— could take over that means of production and do a fairer job of running it— then society could distribute the wealth in an equitable way. Everybody would have a piece of the pie and we could all live then in an egalitarian commune.

Happily ever after, as they say.

Certainly I am oversimplifying this scenario, but I do it for the sake of simply making this point: You can’t change the world, even if youdo  understand the forces that are shaping it.

My layman’s reading, for instance, of Marx/Engels Communist Manifesto led me to the conclusion that their analysis of capitalism as it was developing in the mid-19th century was, for the most part, accurate!

They predicted, for instance, the alienation that would indeed later take hold of many workers as a result of having to perfoem repetitive production tasks.

So Marx, Engels and others later went on to prescribe a fix for the problem: dictatorship of the proletariat.

When Lenin, Trotsky and others got a hold of this concept they acted on it.

But look what happened. Things got bloody. By the time Stalin got hold of the new development, the formerly fresh thrust of worldwide communism turned into prison gulag.

And it did not recover until the time of Gorbachev, Yeltsin, etc.

That’s one small idea for a man . . . and one giant, very hard lesson learned for mankind.

You can’t change the world, even if you do understand the forces that are changing it.

In the present context of data mining, this principle would perhaps translate to: find a way to regulate the data-miners, but don’t try to take the whole damned machine away from them. This is merely capitalism in its emerging 21st-century form.

DataMining

Neither the technocrats in Brussels, nor the bureaucrats in Washington can stem the tides of history. You just have to regulate those who control the Wealth of Data, insofar as it is Constitutionally  possible, and leave the rest to each individual citizen’s free will and judgement.

The same principle applies, btw, for Climate Change.

Education, for whosoever is willing to learn, is the remedy. Not control. We all need to be convinced to to the right thing.

Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness must be assured for all, in spite of all the data-miners  who lurk behind our keypads, sucking the hot air out of our collective social media balloon.

Glass half-Full