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?
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?