Three Ways To Understand Power in The Digital Age

VIDEO: Danah Boyd on Our Broken Information Ecosystem (CNN) 

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I’m most likely going to write a full piece on this topic. In my view it’s the most fundamental and pressing question of our time. Whatever the problem; Climate collapse, rising authoritarianism or wealth inequality how can we solve anything until we address the fact that we are consuming and exchanging information online in a way that is fundamentally incompatible with coming to compromise, cooperation or a common good?

Until information is liberated from the attention economy then our problems and divides will surely only continue to deepen? Emotion is far more attentive than reason. And as long as information continues to be valued by the attention it can extract rather than the substantive value of what is being said then politics will continue its dark descent into a shouting match of anger and fear.

Anyway – enough ranting. This interview with Danah Boyd does a much better job than I in explaining the information ecosystem’s breakdown and the possible paths to a better future:

Danah Boyd on the Spread of Conspiracies and Hate Online

COLUMN: Lessons From History on Corporate Power:

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Give this excerpt from William Dalrymple’s new book ten minutes of your time. You won’t regret it. A fascinating look at the violence of the East India Company and how we often neglect the role of private companies in colonialism. We still think the British government invaded India when in reality it was an unbridled corporate entity that:

” The East India Company began seizing chunks of India in the mid-18th century, a dangerously unregulated private company headquartered in one small office, five windows wide, in London, and managed in India by a violent, ruthless and mentally unstable corporate predator — Robert Clive. India’s transition to colonialism, in other words, took place under a for-profit corporation, which existed entirely for the purpose of enriching its investors..” 

https://www.ft.com/content/0f1ec9da-c9a6-11e9-af46-b09e8bfe60c0

PODCAST: Surveillance Capital: Are We Just Raw Material? 

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Shoshanna Zuboff is a writer we should all be listening to right now. Why does it matter that our data is being captured? How is our behaviour being monitored and modified by tech companies? And how do we reclaim privacy rights as citizens in the digital age? The author of the mammoth book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” sits down with Roz Urwin here to answer these questions and more:

https://play.acast.com/s/intelligencesquared/942b5c25-afe0-4c65-9e34-3f5462338065

 

Also because this is my website and there’s no rules, here’s a tiny desk concert I’ve been listening to this week that’s fucking amazing:

 

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The Corporate Capture of Social Change

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”

Anand Giridharadas isn’t afraid of controversy. His debut book Winner Takes All is a blistering take down of the faith put in the biggest beneficiaries of capitalism to lead capitalism’s reform and change the world for the better.

Be it the next Silicon Valley start up or philanthropic foundation, the underlying assumption pushed by the rich is always that business, entrepreneurship and the private sector are the most efficient and effective means of tackling society’s collective problems.

Giridharadas describes how even the language of social change which has historically been associated with grassroots movements, social justice and mass protest has been colonised by market logic and the billionaire class.

Rather than discussing social change as being rooted in rights, justice and systemic reform, the new corporate conception of social change sees inequality, climate change and poverty as a set of technical problems with market solutions. For these people  fixing the world is not about challenging powerful interests and overhauling a rigged economic system but about empowering “global leaders and opinion formers” to leverage “capital, data and technology to improve lives.”

What this actually means is cutting the public out of decision making for what the future should look like. Instead of community leaders, unions and businesses engaging in dialogue to decide whats best for their communities, we are instead told to look to McKinsey consultants and Goldman Sachs analysts to crunch numbers and provide reports on how to “restructure” the economy, to prepare for “inevitable” disruption and spur economic growth.

The glaring contradiction of putting the winners of our broken economy in charge of its repair is that the winners are actually quite comfortable with the status quo. Why would Goldman Sachs want solutions to social change if social change threatens their status, money and power?

By capturing social change within their control they are able to ensure social change is not pursued at all. Angel Gurria secretary General of the OECD describes the top down approach as “changing things on the surface so that in practice nothing changes at all.”

[END of part 1]

 

 

Why Technology Changes Who We Trust

Trust is the foundation of all human connections. From brief encounters to intimate relationships, it governs almost every interaction we have with each other. I trust my housemates not to go into my room without asking, I trust the bank to keep my money safe and I trust the pilot of my plane to fly safely to the destination.

Rachel Botsman describes trust as “a confident relationship with the unknown.” The bridge that allows us to cross from a position of certainty to one of uncertainty and move forward in our lives.

Throughout history, trust has been the glue that allowed people to live together and flourish in cooperative societies. An absence, loss or betrayal of trust could spark violent and deadly consequences.

In recent decades the world has witnessed a radical shift in trust. We might be losing faith in global institutions and political leaders but simultaneously millions of people are renting their homes to complete strangers on Air BnB, exchanging digital currencies like bitcoin or finding themselves trusting bots for help online. Botsman describes this shift as a new age of ‘distributed trust.’

Instead of a vertical relationship where trust flows upwards from individuals to hierarchical institutions, experts, authorities and regulators, today trust increasingly flows horizontally from individuals to networks, peers, friends, colleagues and fellow users.

If we are to benefit from this radical shift and not see a collapse of our institutions, we must understand the mechanics of how trust is built, managed, lost, and repaired in the digital age. To explain this new world, Botsman provides a detailed map of this uncharted landscape and explores what’s next for humanity.

Watch below:

And for a more detailed account listen here: https://play.acast.com/s/intelligencesquared/rachelbotsmanandhelenlewisontechnologyandtrust

 

How To Be A World Class Public Speaker

It’s about learning the organic process of connecting with people not mechanical box ticking of things  “you’re supposed to do”

American actor, director and screenwriter Alan Alda has had quite the illustrious career. Streching four decades, not only has he picked up seven Emmy’s, a Golden Globe and an academy award nomination he’s also learned the tricks of the trade in effective communication.

In this conversation with Big Think, he explains why you should be weary of ‘tips’ on public speaking. Methodical steps like ‘take a pause after every paragraph’ or ‘walk from one side of the room to the other’ may sound good on paper but in practice, nothing will lose an audience quicker than the speaker mechanically following pre-planned pointers and movements.

Alda believes you should first and foremost focus on relating and connecting with the audience. That will inform you in the moment when to pause or when to walk. By learning to react to the audience you can sense whether they understand the point, whether it needs further explanation or whether you can tag on something extra to give it meaning and value.

Most importantly, connecting with an audience on a meaningful level requires an adept knowledge and deep understanding of the subject.

Alda eventually cedes towards the end of the clip and admits there are some ‘tips’ which may be useful in adding a bit of flair and compelling edge to speech after the groundwork is complete.

This is an honest and informative clip that offers intriguing insight without sounding preachy or pontifical.

Watch the interview below:

 

What Makes A Video Go Viral?

What makes a video go viral? Is it a formula or is it just something elusive and unpredictable? trying to make content that will go viral can be a dangerous game for content creators, limiting their creativity or trying to tailor their talents to what they think people like, rather than just trusting their gut with what is actually good content.

Unfortunately we have an online system that prioritizes vitality over quality. Videos such as “Charlie bit my finger” or the salt bae meme show that these things are almost impossible to predict and that trends change often, if you become good at what you like, it is likely the trend will follow you rather than the other way around.

What Would Elon Musk Be Working On If He Was 22?

Inventor, Entrepreneur and Englineer discusses what he views as the most important work to be doing if he was a young person in 2017.

Musk has been at the centre of the conversation around artificial intelligence and sustainable energy consumption over the past 15 years. He is ranked the 21st most influential people in the world and his current company SpaceX are working on a project to eventually allow humans to colonise Mars.

What Do Humans Really Want?

Are humans just naturally lazy, comfort and pleasure seeking beings? Or do we really want dignity and fulfilment?

in this riveting excerpt professor Noam Chomsky discusses how the billions upon billions of dollars spent on advertising has been used to psychologically manipulate are ideas of what we want.

Tracing trends from the industrial revolution of the 1800’s to the educated poor in the 1930’s, Chomsky argues that what we really want is a sense of belonging and dignity in our work, not evermore accumulation and consumption of products.

What are your thoughts?