Cory Doctorow: On Conspiracy, the Internet and all the rest.
I think this is an excellent analysis by Cory Doctorow: How to Destroy ‘Surveillance Capitalism’
Figuring out what we want our tech to look like is crucial if we’re going to get out of this mess. Today, we’re at a crossroads where we’re trying to figure out if we want to fix the Big Tech companies that dominate our internet or if we want to fix the internet itself by unshackling it from Big Tech’s stranglehold. We can’t do both, so we have to choose.
What’s more, I think that her incorrect diagnosis will lead us down a path that ends up making Big Tech stronger, not weaker. We need to take down Big Tech, and to do that, we need to start by correctly identifying the problem.
Some tech companies want to lock their users in but make their money by monopolizing access to the market for apps for their devices and gouging them on prices rather than by spying on them (like Apple). Some companies don’t care about locking in users because they’ve figured out how to spy on them no matter where they are and what they’re doing and can turn that surveillance into money (Google). Facebook alone among the Western tech giants has built a business based on locking in its users and spying on them all the time.
A decentralization movement has tried to erode the dominance of Facebook and other Big Tech companies by fielding “indieweb” alternatives — Mastodon as a Twitter alternative, Diaspora as a Facebook alternative, etc. — but these efforts have failed to attain any kind of liftoff.
Fundamentally, each of these services is hamstrung by the same problem: Every potential user for a Facebook or Twitter alternative has to convince all their friends to follow them to a decentralized web alternative in order to continue to realize the benefit of social media. For many of us, the only reason to have a Facebook account is that our friends have Facebook accounts, and the reason they have Facebook accounts is that we have Facebook accounts.
As to why things are so screwed up? Capitalism. Specifically, the monopolism that creates inequality and the inequality that creates monopolism. It’s a form of capitalism that rewards sociopaths who destroy the real economy to inflate the bottom line, and they get away with it for the same reason companies get away with spying: because our governments are in thrall to both the ideology that says monopolies are actually just fine and in thrall to the ideology that says that in a monopolistic world, you’d better not piss off the monopolists.