Information is everywhere. Society behaves like the yin-yang of a Huxley-Orwellian prophecy. And big tech won't fix itself. Where do we go from here? Oakland, California has taken a big step in the right direction—may they be the drop that becomes the ocean.
Here at the blog, we are optimistic about technology but realistic about the current corporations who exercise the most control over its development, implementation, and use.
Technology is a tool. A marvelous, magical tool. It is the human or collection of humans (company/institution/government) who decide whether to wield the tool as a home—for creation, connection, inspiration, production, and love—or a weapon.
If we, the people, are ever to have our good faith and interests preserved, nurtured, and looked after, then we will need technology to be decentralized and its power dispersed from the fingers of the superrich elite.
If we wish technology to be a shield for humanity, rather than a weapon aimed at it, then we need it to be decentralized and our companies demonopolized.
And here's why:
Centralizing technology and companies (acquisitions and mergers) removes competition and creates a singular point of control (company, group, government, or individual). Authoritarian, tyrannical, oligarchical, monopolistic, et al companies and regimes want a centralized point of control because it grants them power. That power enables them to create a decentralized public, a public with less control and therefore less power.
Democracies, on the other hand, the idea of democracy, creates a multivariate point of control. Meaning, democracy grants a dispersal of power across a group of individuals, companies, or governments (in the vein of a democratic world society). In doing so, democracy warrants decentralized technology that disperses power to the public. In doing so, democracy ends up, perhaps counter-intuitively, centralizing the public through its decentralization of technology (and demonopolization of companies). Meaning, it grants power to the public.
Privatization, in a monopolistic society (America, the world today), is centralization. This is contrary to the paid-for (literally or psychologically) remarks by media pundits, politicians, and business leaders who desperately want the public to believe privatization is the holy grail to freedom and wellbeing. It is the holy grail to their freedom and wellbeing, albeit transiently, as their satiation continues to come at the expense of natural disaster and safe drinking water (and this one—check this website to see if your tap water is safe).
Well, if it's not big business then it's big government, right? Wrong. The answer to big government is and was—perhaps weirdly foreign to many elites—the very essence of the constitution that formed America: regulation.
Regulation, checks and balances, four branches (yes, you are responsible too media), oversight—definition: n. watchful care and management, supervision—not the same thing as overreach—was how government protected itself and businesses from becoming anti-democratic. Regulation was how government ensured that it and business worked in the service of the public—in the service of humanity's wellbeing.
If you want evidence that a society is losing its humanity, its democracy, then simply look no further than the privatized, centralized, nature of that society (or company). [This is not to be confused with our human rights to privacy that we at this blog advocate for. Privacy enhances democracy, fights the privatized-mutant-capitalism we refer to, and works to ensure a decentralized elite, and re-centralized humanity.]
If you want evidence that the elite have usurped the media, then read Manufacturing Consent or this article discovering how graduates of elite universities (perhaps elite indoctrination machines) represent that majority of positions at the NY Times and Wall Street Journal. This doesn't mean that we don't need the media, it's quite the opposite actually. We desperately need the media and we need it to have some integrity (same goes for education).
What is the price (data—see our post sandbox) of integrity?
UCLA Law professor Eugene Volokh plays fast and loose with statistics, leading to politically charged, factually incorrect statements and, perhaps, policies. In this interview, statistician Donald Richards briefly explains the errors in The Washington Post opinion piece on homicide rates and state gun laws (here's Richard's paper for further study).
We have plenty of smart people, we just need more with integrity. Otherwise, what we're left with is this:
Mark Zuckerberg is questioned by senators and house of representative members who've received payments from Facebook (here and here). Our world is governed by the billionaire class and the businesses they control. The Bayer-Monsanto acquisition is underway, market consolidation is everywhere, and these monopolizing powers are harming the public¹. Amazon is coming for you. And this is how Jeff Bezo's Amazon actually treats the majority of its employees—the low-wage, 'public' representation of its company.
It's a lot of, well, frankly, sh*t.
And if you think Amazon or Google actually cares about privacy, or privacy concerns are nonsense or unwarranted, then they wouldn't have rendered privacy messaging app Signal's censorship circumvention technique obsolete and Mark Zuckerberg wouldn't pay people to guard his trash.
From smart walls to Amazon home security, consumer behavior—our behavior—needs to check the power of monopolistic companies fast, before we end up with the digital-home equivalent of Roundup in all of our food.
And we can do it. Just ask Ralph.
We've heard of numerous issues of accountability with VPNs, from double-charges to lying about keeping logs—even respected ProtonVPN/ProtonMail's blog requesting html5 canvas data in an apparent fingerprinting tracking technique—so here's a few options below to help you protect your privacy without having to rely on these rather dubious companies:
Orbot—Android (connects through your existing web browser)
Tor Browser—Windows, Mac, and Linux
Signal—Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android (still the best app for private/secure messaging)
Briar App—Android (Direct, encrypted messaging between devices with or without internet)
The Gig—Public Controlled Internet (proof democratized internet is better for people)
¹ Wessel, David. Is the Lack of Competition Strangling the U.S. Economy? Harvard Business Review, Mar-Apr 2018.
² Bloodworth, James. Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain. Atlantic Books, Mar 2018.