Intermediated of the world, unite! | Radio Bruxelles Libera

I have the pleasure to report here the English translation of the article that Stefano Quintarelli, a pioneer of the Italian Internet, wrote for Il Foglio some days ago. I have been astonished by t…

Source: Intermediated of the world, unite! | Radio Bruxelles Libera, by Innocenzo Genna
English translation of: Intermediati digitali, unitevi | Il Foglio, by Stefano Quintarelli (Italian)

We can no longer limit the analysis to capital and labor, we must also include information in the equation and the digital revolution that expresses it.

In just a few years, the traditional capital-labor conflict has been wrapped and dominated by another conflict, a conflict with information that, through the control of intermediation, presses on both. … We are observing a monopolization in the domination of the relevance of the immaterial dimension over the material dimension, in the creation and distribution of wealth, with a rising conflict between intermediaries and intermediated, with the compression of rights and guarantees for large social bodies and with a significant political influence.

The info-plutocracy of the intermediators is based on a centralized control of information, both in terms of data (privacy implications are an epiphenomenon) and of processes with which such data are collected, processed, communicated and used.

Beginning in the 90s of the last century, … By choice, no pro-competitive rules were introduced because it was believed that they would slow down and possibly stall development. Rules were introduced regarding intellectual property and system violation, editorial responsibility, child protection, and investigations of justice, but not in terms of user contendability and competition. Entrepreneurs have learned to exploit this regulation to their advantage by using intellectual property laws to impose restrictive contractual conditions for their users, exploiting network effects … to limit the mobility of users.

The conflict between intermediators and intermediaries induced by the digital revolution of the twenty-first century develops in the relationship between information and production (understood as the product of capital and labor) and is starting a social confrontation between a model of management of centralized information that has developed in recent years (and supported by large technological multinationals) and a decentralized model promoted by some avant-gardes (philosophical, technological, political, etc.), a debate with profound differences between those who advocate closed systems and environments and those who fight for decentralization, to foster greater competition and the possibility for users contestability.

In some cases it has been proposed to build “state champions” (such as a public search engine, or a social network or a public platform for professional bidding). In other cases it was also proposed to consider social networking as a non-duplicable social infrastructure and someone even proposed nationalization. These are hypotheses that bring to my mind the Soviet response to the pressures of industrialization through state-owned companies.

I believe we need to respond as Western society has responded to the industrial revolution, that is, with more market oriented interventions, favouring less concentration of information and regulation of negative externalities. I believe we should not give in to the logic of the inevitability of closed systems and we must stand firmly on the side of openness.

To tackle the digital revolution we need a comprehensive package of measures that are based on the principles of what we have already done in the period of the industrial revolution: new forms of taxation, innovations in welfare, workers’ rights, public guarantee controls for consumers and, fundamentally, increased competition, procompetitive rules, user contendibility, interoperability of services, etc.

But this can hardly happen without an awareness of this new conflict of intermediation between information on the one hand and production (that is, the combination of capital and labor) on the other and without this awareness becoming translated into political action. In order for this political action to take place, it is necessary for the intermediaries to demand it by coalescing into awareness: “Intermediated of the world, unite!”.

Scientists Have Uncovered a Climate Change Precedent | The Atlantic

Source: Scientists Have Uncovered a Disturbing Climate Change Precedent

Looking at evidence about the environments on earth 50 million years ago, it is likely that the earth then had 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), arctic and antarctic environments similar to today’s tropics (e.g. the Sahara desert and Amazon rainforest), and possibly dead zones with temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in the tropics.

You can also see a rendering of the earth [here].

The Stock Market Is Shrinking. That’s a Problem for Everyone. | The New York Times

Source: The Stock Market Is Shrinking. That’s a Problem for Everyone. | The New York Times, by Jeff Sommer

When I say “shrinking,” I’m using a specific definition: the reduction in the number of publicly traded companies on exchanges in the United States. In the mid-1990s, there were more than 8,000 of them. By 2016, there were only 3,627, according to data from the Center for Research in Security Prices at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Because the population of the United States has grown nearly 50 percent since 1976, the drop is even starker on a per-capita basis: There were 23 publicly listed companies for every million people in 1975, but only 11 in 2016, according to Professor René Stulz.

In 2015, for example, the top 200 companies by earnings accounted for all of the profits in the stock market, according to calculations by Kathleen Kahle, a professor of finance at the University of Arizona, and Professor Stulz. In aggregate, the remaining 3,281 publicly listed companies lost money.

Traceability | Communications of the ACM

Source: Traceability | Communications of the ACM, by Vinton G. Cerf

The ability to trace bad actors to bring them to justice seems to me an important goal in a civilized society. The tension with privacy protection leads to the idea that only under appropriate conditions can privacy be violated. By way of example, consider license plates on cars. They are usually arbitrary identifiers and special authority is needed to match them with the car owners (unless, of course, they are vanity plates like mine: “Cerfsup”). This is an example of differential traceability; the police department has the authority to demand ownership information from the Department of Motor Vehicles that issues the license plates. Ordinary citizens do not have this authority.

If we are to accomplish the simultaneous objectives of protecting privacy while apprehending those engaged in harmful or criminal behavior on the Internet, we must find some balance between conflicting but desirable outcomes. … In most societies today, it is accepted that we must be identifiable to appropriate authorities under certain conditions (consider border crossings, traffic violation stops as examples). While there are conditions under which apparent anonymity is desirable and even justifiable (whistle-blowing, for example) absolute anonymity is actually quite difficult to achieve and might not be absolutely desirable given the misbehaviors apparent anonymity invites.

The 3 Levels of Wealth | A Wealth of Common Sense

Source: The 3 Levels of Wealth | A Wealth of Common Sense, by Ben Carlson

On a recent episode of How I Built This with Guy Raz, Butterfield was asked how this enormous wealth has impacted his life. He told Raz, “beyond a certain level of wealth it doesn’t make your life any better.”

He went on to list what he considers to be the three levels of wealth:

  1. Level 1. I’m not stressed out about debt: People who no longer have to worry about their credit card debt or student loans.
  2. Level 2. I don’t care what stuff costs in restaurants: How much you spend on a particular meal isn’t impacted by your finances.
  3. Level 3. I don’t care what a vacation costs: People who don’t care how expensive the hotel is or which flight they go on.

This was a new way of looking at this and it got me thinking about where most Americans find themselves on this scale.


How might you list wealth classes based on lifestyle and quality-of-life features?