So cruelly misunderstood

I’ve long wondered what Evgeny Morozov is actually for. As a deep thinker he seems to be one of the cast offs from a Douglas Adams rewrite. For his latest idea is that we should nationalise all data and then reinvent the market in its exploitation. It would seem very much simpler to just not do the nationalising and leave the market alone. If we don’t value the things that we get by handing over our information – the services of Facebook, Google and the like -, then we’ll not hand it over, will we?

The proposal is:

Finally, we can use the recent data controversies to articulate a truly decentralised, emancipatory politics, whereby the institutions of the state (from the national to the municipal level) will be deployed to recognise, create, and foster the creation of social rights to data. These institutions will organise various data sets into pools with differentiated access conditions. They will also ensure that those with good ideas that have little commercial viability but promise major social impact would receive venture funding and realise those ideas on top of those data pools.

Seriously, a Belarussian arguing that the State should organise things?

Sigh.

The purpose of all of this is to:

In a nutshell, instead of letting Facebook get away with charging us for its services or continuing to exploit our data for advertising, we must find a way to get companies like Facebook to pay for accessing our data – conceptualised, for the most part, as something we own in common, not as something we own as individuals.

Many other parties interested in working with that data and building services on top of it– from universities to libraries, from institutions of the welfare state to public transport agencies, from entrepreneurs to municipalities – can have their own conditions of access, sometimes free and sometimes heavily subsidised including, perhaps, by dedicated state-run venture capital funds, which might also focus on ensuring that key capacities to take full advantage of that data, like the development of artificial intelligence, is lavishly funded.

He seems to think that’s an alternative to the market. Without realising that that is the market. For there’s a market in forms of organisation just as much as there is in anything else. It’s entirely true that shareholder driven capitalism isn’t the appropriate, profitable, efficient method of organising all matters. Which is why we have a market in forms of organisation, so that we can find out.

That still doesn’t answer the question of what Evgeny Morozov is for of course but our market explanation works. There must be a market for pieces which demand that the state does ever more for whatever reason, good or bad. And Evgeny has decided to supply it. More power to his elbow of course but it’s a pity that so many of our fellows demand such, isn’t it? It’s like finding that there’s a societal demand for apparatchik porn, sure, human sexuality is pretty weird but really, that weird?

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10 COMMENTS

  1. “If we don’t value the things that we get by handing over our information – the services of Facebook, Google and the like -, then we’ll not hand it over, will we?”

    There’s a problem there. The opposite side of the ledger. How much do people value the information they’re exchanging for the services? A problem of asymmetrical information or let’s call it bone idleness & stupidity
    Look, I have a mate. Nice enough bloke if he wasn’t a self described c*nt. Well he must be if every communication from him carries the appendix “Sent from my iPhone”. That he hasn’t invested the two minutes necessary to find & eliminate that function indicates he also hasn’t disabled the iPhone function defaults to save the GPS locations of places he visits regularly as “My favourite places”. Which no doubt some of them are. Trouble is, that data he’s sharing with Apple is probably worth to him somewhere in the mid six figure range. Or will be if his wife ever finds out. And this is a bloke with tech savvy kids who could open his iPhone up to the world in the time it’d take him to open the curtains. But not enough sense to tie his own shoelaces.

      • Not a minor concern. One asks for an address, c*nt sends you a Googlemap link. Click on it. you’ve just shared your location, your destination & your phone’s IMEI number with the Alphabet Soup. Not to mention leaving yourself open to them strip-mining your contact list.

  2. So, it looks as though the usual leftie solution can be applied to big data: Instead of an untidy mix of separate companies, siphoning off profit and paying the bondholders, we will just move everything to the capital “for safe keeping” and government will do the same job, only “better.” Doesn’t Morozov need to provide one example of a case where this model has worked?

  3. Get your filthy Socialist hands off my private data!

    My private data is my private property, to do with as I like. If I choose to use my private data to purchase money-free access to chatting with my nephews in Hong Kong, that is my bloody choice.