90 Miles From Tyranny : The Great Disruption

Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Great Disruption

How Big Tech’s obsession with control is tearing us apart.

Of the 10 wealthiest men and women in America, 8 of them made their money in the tech industry. Of these, only 3 made their fortunes from companies that predated the internet era. The rest made it the 'new-fashioned' way, by developing and deploying internet platforms.

The great disruption of the internet made college dropouts into the wealthiest men in America, made the West Coast, for the first time, the equal of the East, and transformed the economy from manufacturing tangible items to reselling access to data and outsourcing manufacturing.

The men of the great disruption were libertarians, if not necessarily by politics then by cultural inclination. The original disrupters had been engineers and hackers who didn’t fit into conformist environments like IBM and were chasing the dream of doing their own thing. They set up shop in garages and basements, in small California, Oregon, and Washington towns, and a few cities, dressed casually, watched Star Trek, dreamed utopian ideals, and were bad at business.

The new disrupters were less interested in hardware or software applications than in using the power of the network to suck up the data of our interactions and turn it into a service. Their insights, building a search engine around link popularity, or a college face book by grabbing pictures of women, might be trivial, but were part of an emergent vision of the new data order.

The original disruptors had been concerned with empowering the end user to command the system, but the new disrupters were reversing the process that had taken users from terminals to personal computers, instead reducing a multitude of devices to terminals leaking data that made them easier to profitably manipulate. The early internet was empowering, but the internet of the Google, Amazon, and Facebook era is disempowering by design. It works by limiting your options and then using what it knows about you to push you in the direction it wants you to go.

Early computers had practically demanded programming skills. The new setup programs you.

As companies went public and college kids became billionaires, they stopped being disrupters and became concerned with maintaining the new order that they were building.

Every revolution ends with a pledge to make sure that no other revolution will happen again.

Google, whose empire was built on search because Yahoo, Netscape, Microsoft, and an array of other companies that allowed it to disrupt its way to power had failed to account for the importance of search, has spent a generation working its way from...

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