learning all we can from the digital-economy shitshow
Jeepers, the internet is crashing, wh– wh– what’s happening?
So yeah, not really the internet crashing of course, just some trouble and confusion we’re seeing much of a set of economic arrangements we all once too quickly got used to thinking of as what the internet’s there to provide for continue tortuously to undergo. This belongs, it’s important to say, to a larger story of economic conditions under contestation, in which some of our moment’s elements are repeats of earlier moments’ and some arguably really new and different. One of the people today doing useful work to help us sort out what to push for practically at our own point in this tumult of many decades, generations long, is Cory Doctorow. At end of this post, below, video of a podium talk on his popular ‘enshittification’ theme given at a big tech event last month. Here’s a bit from the middle of it:
The Federal Trade Commission and the DOJ have published new merger guidelines which ban anti-competitive mergers that have been the norm for 40 years. Now, if you’re only cursorily paying attention to this, you might have gotten the impression that the amazing chair of the FTC, Lina Khan, is thrashing indiscriminately and losing big tech mergers — like the Activision-Microsoft merger that she tried to block. But the reality is, Khan is trying to make new law after four decades of complacency and a bias in favor of monopolies. She is taking swings no one has taken since the Carter administration. . . . But it takes a long-ass time to do these breakups. It took 69 years to break up AT&T. I don’t want to wait that long for a new, good internet. And we don’t have to, because tech is different. It’s universal, it’s interoperable. And that means we have options that we’ve never had before, when we were fighting rail barons and oil barons and the Whiskey Trust. Those options are interoperability-driven, and they will devolve control over technology from giant companies to small companies or co-ops or nonprofits or communities of users themselves. Interop is how we seize the means of computation.
You can read a policy study on Amazon by pre-FTC Khan (whom I knew of thanks to the work of Stacy Mitchell and ILSR) and listen to quite a fine Douglas Rushkoff talk, an interesting companion to Doctorow’s here, among posts in my short-lived ‘Notes’ series from several years back.