Remember the 1980s?
I mean, the walkman, MTV, Michael Jackson. What do we have now, really? Well, really, we have so much more than could have possibly been conceived of in those so-called vaunted 80s, and yet, it all seems rather hollow.
I think when it comes down to it, it is that while our technology has advanced so much, it really has at its core a strong tendency to push up riches, fame, control, to the very top—as most of these media make clear.
So what to do?
Jaron Lanier in Who Own’s the Future talks about getting paid for allowing these corporations to use our data, as if this alone would be some kind of grand fix.
Simon Head, in Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans, actually gets much more into where some of all of this has been leading when talking about CBSs (computer business systems)—these are control technologies chiefly produced by Oracle, IBM, and where many of my past colleagues have ended up in Montreal: at the Germany-based SAP.
These huge computer systems, along with mega retail giants like Walmart and its online counterpart Amazon are in fact based on military principles, and are even more implicated in these centralization tendencies than the advertising and consumer-oriented Google and Facebook as they much more directly affect people’s livelihoods.
Indeed, CBSs, Head explains, were themselves wrapped up in the tentacles of places like several investment banks allowing them to sell uber complex investments ultimately as a kind of swindle which basically wrecked the economy circa 2008.
Even at Oxbridge (Oxford/Cambridge), the UK government has implemented CBSs to evaluate professors based on strict metrics leading what had been free intellectual exploration to serve narrow technical processes built at the behest of faceless corporate senior management and their abiding technicians.
Astra Taylor pretty much retreads other ideas I already talked about in quite a few previous posts, but with a bit more gusto—basically showing au contraire to the great proliferation of artistic opportunity for the common creative that the Internet promised, in fact, it has allowed a hyper-consolidation in just a few media outlets and web companies with everyone else scrounging for peanuts.
Imagine we really open sourced things, but not just in the source code, but entire businesses including most importantly their economics.
Just imagine the kind of incentive this would give to open source contributors. No more trying to please your immediate superior at a commercial software company for a yearly bonus that may never come, and no more contributions strictly on weekends for nothing.
Of course such a radical change from 3oo years of industrial civilization, with all the baggage of stock markets and corporate Taylorism will surely resist such a thing, but with all this amazing new tech, and yet all this malaise, it seems to me (rather blatantly actually) that it is time for real radical change which has everything to do with getting paid fair and square.
Let the collaborations begin.