Beware the Tech Cartel and People Who Speak in Code

Beware the Tech Cartel and People Who Speak in Code

We follow Max Levchin on Twitter. Last week, he posted an interesting series of tweets, based on an Edelman Trust Barometer Report that was released at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.

For the record, Levchin was co-founder and CTO of Paypal; former Chairman of Yelp; founder/CEO of Slide (acquired by Google and shut down); currently, founder of Affirm, and a long-time WEF attendee.

His tweets, in descending order:

Max Levchin‏Verified account @mlevchin Mar 1

1. Technology (75%) remains the most trusted industry sector and Financial services (54%) is the least trusted sector. And there is where I see a challenge and opportunity for @Affirm.

2. Nearly 2/3 of people say they want CEOs to take the lead on policy change instead of waiting for government. 69% believe building trust is the No. 1 job for CEOs, surpassing producing high-quality products and services (68 percent).

3. The collapse of trust in the U.S. is driven by a staggering lack of faith in government and media which experienced the largest decrease in trust.

According to NBC News, who are late to the game, Silicon Valley faces make or break moment amid big tech backlash Gone are the glory days of glowing praise and good PR for big tech companies. “The technology industry could be in the midst of the biggest corporate backlash in decades. While big banks were the targets of scorn after the financial crisis, public contempt is now focused squarely on Silicon Valley and big tech,” reads the piece, which also points out how “A number of early employees from Facebook and Google launched the Center for Humane Technology… with the goal of “reversing the digital attention crisis and realigning technology with humanity’s best interests.”

In case you missed it last week, there was Facebook’s vaguely worded face recognition “announcement” that coincided with a legal setback. “It seems the purpose of this new Facebook post isn’t so much to herald new face-recognition features, but to disclose vital information–namely, that you can opt out of face recognition,” reads the Fast Company piece.

Here’s the announcement which was no doubt on your timeline.

The question is, why is it always opt-out, rather than opt-in, which would no doubt be the choice of an ethical, truly trust-worthy company.

The Agenda

Given the series of tweets from the aforementioned captain of industry, it seems the road forward is clear: time for the tech cartel to take its rightful place as the national if not global uberlords, especially considering their scope and reach of global citizen-members, and their control over their empires – and our data. We will remind you that back in 2016, Quartz noted thatNancy Kim, a law professor at California Western, refers to internet giants such as Google and Facebook as “quasi-governmental actors” for their ability to regulate every aspect of our lives, up to and including our freedom to speak. (Facebook is, after all, not a public space.) She describes terms of service contracts as a form of “private legislation,” which “reorder or delete rights otherwise available to consumers.” The Guardian reported in 2016 that Facebook and Google: most powerful and secretive empires we’ve ever known. And their power has only expanded since then, when we first flagged it (Trust, Transparency and Totalitarianism).

Eric Schmidt recently warned that Terminator-style artificial intelligence scenarios are just “one to two decades away.

“So let’s worry about them, but let’s worry about them in a while,” he said.

Technology now makes up a quarter of the stock market, its biggest weighting since dot-com bubble. Software is eating the world, its appetite is seemingly insatiable, and while Levchin’s logic may not track, the agenda unmistakable.

The time to worry about them – and the overreach of the tech cartel – is now.

With both Facebook and Twitter having the ability to track you, no matter if you never post on either platform, and the unbridled censorship practiced by the two and Google/YouTube, it’s apparent that the platforms are now weaponized.  Given the Silicon Valley echo chamber, in case you haven’t noticed, you’re no longer merely the product.

You are now clearly the target.

When leaving office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the American public to beware the military-industrial complex. Frequently overlooked in Eisenhower’s address was yet another caveat: “We must also be alert…that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.” In this age of tech, time to pay closer attention to that part of his speech.

And to especially beware the tech oligarchs who speak in code.

Onward and forward.


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