"We have a choice: Keep using platforms that widen the wealth gap, or build tech platforms as commons."

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Quote from article in The Nation with mini-essays on 5 Ways to Take Back Tech.

Summary of the 5 ways:

  • Co-bnb/Munibnb/Allbnb (first two obvious, last adds resident dividend)
  • End secret profiling, algorithmic transparency regulation for labor and other ‘sharing economy’ intermediary network platforms
  • FairCoin and other tech-coop concepts
  • DemocracyOS/liquid democracy
  • Coop alternatives to intermediary network platforms

I left a comment, as follows…

“digital revolution that enriches us all—not just the wealthy”

Well put.

From the intro, “changing the habits of financing and governance that have come to rule the tech industry. It also means changing how we, the users go about choosing what we use” is also great.

Many interesting ideas in the essays. But I feel two mundane but powerful and practiced ideas that just need to get bigger always ought be mentioned in the context of tech-driven inequality. These get to precisely what the intro statement says.

  1. Choosing what we use. This can be done at all levels, from government to organization to individual. At the government level, often called procurement policy. Free/open source software should be mandated. Government should not support with funds and network effects the creation and maintenance of wealth-concentrating and algorithmically opaque monopolies. Example: http://upsilon.cc/~zack/blog/posts/2014/10/Italy_puts_Free_Software_first_in_public_sector/

The Nation could set a better example. uBlock shows 35 blocked requests on this page, majority from one of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, showing disrespect for readers and abetting these opaque proprietary network surveillance platforms. This very discussion is running on proprietary Disqus. The Nation could switch to open source Discourse.

  1. Working toward the abolition of property in information, ie patents, copyright, etc. These are massively inequality-creating and access to wealth-denying regimes, both within the US and to an extreme internationally: IP licensing revenue flows almost exclusively from south to north, poor to rich, and those who cannot afford to pay are simply denied access, eg to medicine and medical information, and everything less essential. The best way to work toward abolition happens to be (1), as mandating open source (and other opens for knowledge other than software) destroys the concentrated interests which maintain and expand the info property regimes.

Deeply problematic network platforms would probably still exist even if all software were mandated to be open source and info property regimes abolished, necessitating initiatives such as those described in the essays above. But unless proprietary software and knowledge as property are directly attacked, initiatives such as the above will remain at the idea stage or marginal in implementation forever.


I scanned the article for this point, and I want to share an odd experience I had recently. Our home has a Kindle in it, and I couldn’t stomach having my reading habits tracked, even if I can compromise on all the other dumb things a Kindle does, in exchange for convenient way to read a lot. So I ordered a Kobo reader, which has been lauded as an “open” ereader.

Well, in my rush to get that set up and not spend a lot of time thinking about it, I failed to realize that despite having a setting not to track my reading, their TOS says that doesn’t apply to them, and that on top of it, they use Google Analytics of all things to do the tracking (there is a way to disable it, but I prefer my devices to not have to be hacked to work as expected).

So the Kobo was sent back, and now I am looking at ereaders that either run Android, or a select few in Europe that seem to be legit. But this experience made me do some napkin math with ereader stats, and we are not in a great situation.

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