Capitalism can work for the people

We are headed down a path toward complete automation.  I have not met a person who disagrees that if we stay on our current path, at some point in the future, be it 5 or 500 years, we will automate the creation and distribution of our basic needs.  If we keep our course, corporations will control all aspects of the automation.  That would put people in the position of not being able to provide enough value to create an exchange with these corporations for the necessities of life.  Instead of pondering the future of our current path, I am suggesting that we take an alternate path.  This new path is the path of the people.  We do not always need to agree, but we can agree that we can do it better than “they” can.  When “they” are doing something better, it means they are increasing their profit.  Increasing profit means either cutting costs or increasing prices.  Usually these things have the negative consequence of laying off a workforce or gouging the customer for more money.  While those two examples may be extremes, the idea is that their best interest is only your best interest if your best interest is to help them maximize their profits.

Companies like Facebook have one thing that creates their value.  Your data.  It’s a scam.  They take YOUR data, and allow you to share it with your friends, along with their ads.  They not only legally steal your data, but they also legally steal your time (your attention).  In return they pay the storage costs (negligible) for your data.  The reason these companies are worth billions of dollars is only because of your intention to return to them.  If you exhibited your intent to leave them, then they would take a hit.  If you collectively stop giving them your data, they will cease to exist.

Data ownership is getting closer to the source, to the creator.  The person who creates content should receive the most value from the use of that content.  The creator should be able to properly manage what value means to them and have access to tools which can be used to derive value from their data.  Data includes past, present and future data.  Present data is access to a person’s real time attention.  Anything that does not divert their attention is past recorded data or future data that does not exist.  Future data can be a scheduled event, the promise of future data, etc.  Making capitalism work for the people starts by allowing people to control their data.

The idea of taking control of our data is just part of the purpose of  Taking control of our data will lead to taking control of our purchasing and distribution of physical goods.  This will get us closer and closer to the source.  The closer to the source, the more efficient the transaction should be.  Technology is making this possible.  From physical goods to raw resources.  People need to collectively control our resources.  We should not give up this control to the few who continue to let us down.  Let’s just head down this other path and see what happens.  It’s their game, let’s beat them at it…let’s break it.

13 thoughts on “Capitalism can work for the people

  1. Pingback: Assumptions | Made Open

  2. There is the idea, advocated by people such as Ted Nelson of Jaron Lanier, that everything on the web should involve micropayments. So whenever I read a news article or cloned a git repository that would involve (perhaps automatically) making a micropayment to someone. The idea is that with such ubiquitous payments a sort of popular capitalism could flourish.

    However, I’m rather sceptical about that approach because it’s one which to a large extent has already been tried and found wanting. Google’s Adsense and the Great Blogrush of the early 2000s is perhaps the best example. Some people were able to make a living out of this form of immaterial labour, but the numbers were vanishingly few and the content of the most commercial blogs was generally low quality and uninteresting. Most people who tried to become professional bloggers found that the advertising income fell far below anything which might be considered a viable subsistence.

    • I am familiar with Lanier’s “solution” using micropayments. Unfortunately his are half-baked ideas. It is difficult to intelligently discuss these ideas because there are so many assumptions that need to be agreed upon. That is where I digress from their theory and am trying to put some of this into practice. For example, while it may be difficult to charge people to access my data in a simple way, it is easy to charge people to access me directly. Incremental steps are critical. Too many times people look for the final solution rather than the incremental solutions that end up being the final.

      So like you I am skeptical about THEIR approach. I find that if a potential solution leaves me with more difficult problems than when I started, I should probably start elsewhere. There is a lot to learn in the space of micropayments that will be useful. But not in the way its advocates would have you believe. I will be posting an article with incremental steps and how I think we can open things up for better solutions. It all starts by controlling the platform.

      • I agree with Madeopen on the need for incremental progress. I would love to see a solution that proves one aspect/function/concept. There is no way to breach this issue with one swift project. I would also like two see the discussion develop in a way where the lay user of Facebook realize the monetary value of heir data and future potential.

    • Jaron Lanier has an essay in the New York Times this morning:
      You make a valid point about low returns to labor with adsense and blogging. I agree that it would probably be the same with personal data on the web. However, Lanier points out another benefit: it would balance the power of government. “When information is free, there is no cost to gathering information about citizens.”

  3. Don’t you think this view is a little extremenist though? I hear you say it’s a scam but, in all reality I don’t think Mark created Facebook to steal peoples data, he created something that everyone liked and now gets the benefits of it just like you can. I mean don’t you want someone to profit off a free product that you use and enjoy?

    • Andrew,
      I would argue that its not an extremist view, but rather progressive or evolutionary. I am not arguing original intent, possibly impossible, and completely irrelevant. The “free” service you speak of is NOT free, and no, I do not want someone to make money off of MY data, particularly without my knowledge. Data is much more valuable than you are giving it credit for. You are trading hundreds of dollars of data for a few cents worth of storage space. Now that you know, is it worth it? How about in a couple years when your data is worth thousands? Still fair? The point is not that Facebook is evil or wrong. It’s just that its NOT worth it. We live in a time of very fast change. These changes are going to continue to question the way things are done. To assume we are doing anything right, is to miss an opportunity to do things better. I am glad for the questions Andrew. Keep digging and you will find the answers to future questions. And for the record, I think Mark gets a few more benefits from what he created than you or I ever will.

      • Thanks for the response! Before going further with this conversation I would like to state that I am a fan of your idea but, also skeptical in some aspects/// Maybe I just don’t full grasp it yet but, it’s a conversation that I would love to have.

        The benefits that Mark gets is from creating a good product. As an entrepreneur it is our dream to reach that status of creating a product that everybody loves and can’t get enough of. When you achieve that you reap the rewards.

        As far as the data goes – to me, we are trading data to be able to use this product that he created and invested money + time in before it was profitable at all because he believed in it.

        Instagram without data is nothing, they have no type of advertising (that I know of) .//yet and everyone loves their product / wants to use it. So with your platform how will it effect them?

        Will it also hurt capitalism knowing that you’re taking away a potential revenue source for most new companies to make money from? They create products and invest a lot of time + money, shouldn’t they be rewarded?

        • Andrew,

          Again, thank you for the conversation. The discussion will be heating up real soon around here and these questions help to clarify where we are failing with the message. You have some really good questions if we assume things will remain the same. So while you do not fully grasp it, the fact you are willing to ask questions is where the learning begins. I am going to keep this short, because I am getting ready to post more material that will explain my point here in more detail and if I do not answer your questions be persistent. I will.

          Data. Data exists in three phases: past, present and future. Facebook and everyone else wants your past data. They want your pictures, videos, images and text. Please note these are the only four data types that exist. Why do these companies want your past data? They don’t. Not really. The most valuable phase of data is the present. I call this Attention. Your Attention is the only phase of data that makes purchasing decisions. So while you are at Facebook, they have your Attention and can serve you ads, recommendations, request data from you, etc. This is what they all really want, your Attention. So why bother having to cover costs to store your past? Well, so that you intend to return. The third phase, future data, is all about your Intentions. Why do people go back to Facebook over and over? They go back for their past data. EVERYTHING on Facebook is past. As soon as a person posts, or uploads a picture, the present is past. Past data has the least value. But, it IS the reason you INTEND on returning to Facebook (or any other social network). And your Intention to spend your future Attention is all they care about.

          So how are we trying to change this behavior? Well, by allowing you to OWN your data. There is no middleman to direct your Intention or Attention. And since you OWN your past data, you OWN all your data. That is liberation. When you OWN something, you possess it and can pass on possession to others (sharing OR selling).

          As for your questions about whether or not these people “deserve” the benefits they are getting. The answer to me is clearly, NO WAY. There is this notion that the owner of the company should see the biggest benefit. That is not leadership. Great leaders put their people before themselves. There are so many examples of poor leadership that it becomes acceptable…almost expected. Mark sits in a position that is unique because he is both the creator of his technology and also STILL leads the company. It is an impressive feat to get into the shark tank and become a shark. It is more impressive to get in the tank and survive without adapting (or selling out). But he and his company are not the reason people go back to Facebook. They go back for their past data. As soon as better options exist, people will quit Facebook and all the others. And for that reason, I believe all of these companies will cease to exist as quickly as they came into existence.

          We cannot imagine a world without these things…until it is here. And then we will categorize that part of history as a necessary evil to get us where we needed to get. History repeats itself. Jump in, this is going to be interesting!

  4. I think the title of you article is either dishonest, or it reflects your limited understanding of what capitalism is and how it works.
    Capitalism can never work for “the people”, it will always work for small subset of “the people” at the expense of the majority.
    If “the people” you refer to are the peoples of the world, then you clearly do not know how captialism works. On the other hand if “the people” are a subset the industrialized world, then you are accepting the exploitation of the majority. Either way the article is a philosophical and moral fail.

    • I am referring to people, all people. I see you twice say that I have a limited understanding of what capitalism is, or that I do not know how it works. The only thing you state regarding your understanding of capitalism is that “it will always work for small subset” and “at the expense of the majority”. Since that is the basis of your argument, it is probably where we have differing assumptions.

      If you are working on the assumption that it can never get better than working for a small subset, then please get out of the way so other people can solve problems to which you cannot see solutions. Our time refers to people like this as “haters”. I am not saying you are a hater, I am just saying that there are ways to express your opinion…and there is what you wrote here.

      I will be speaking at DEF CON 21 this weekend to explain what it means to hack capitalism and how that hack WILL work for the people.

  5. I want to first appologize for this being so long; but this is a rather involved issue.
    1) Capitalism is a currency based system. Currency based systems are inherenetly flawed because currency is an abstract human contrivance: It exists without direct association to the carrying capacity of the Earth. As long as we have currency, our consumption cannot be efficiently regulated based on sustainability. Even today, fights for sustainability fly in the face of even entities with the best of intentions (Apple, Whole Foods, EFF). Currency based false-economies are not sustainable. We need to replace currency with cybernated regulation. Let the data about the worlds resources work for us, always build the best version of a product, make it as robust and recyclable as possible, and remove the artificial scarcity introduced by over-scaled currency systems. Capitalism was an awesome invention and it took us far, but government and economics have not kept pace with scientific discovery. We need to re-invent the economy, remove monetary motivation, and provide equally for all of our species while neutralizing our impact on the species we share this planet with. Such a system has already been engineered…it’s just not monetarily profitable to implement.
    2) Automation…it has the potential to free humans from mundane, routine tasks. The problem is that automaiton in capitalism leads to a division in society: The skilled laborer, and those forced into the service sectors. As tuition costs rise in the US fewer people are completing college. As automation replaced the unskilled laborer, the service sector (retail esp.) becomes overpopulated and people are left without gainful employment. This trend encourages financial segregation which increases from social unrest to unplanned teen pregnancy (which encourages poverty). Automation presents a paradox for capitalism: Automate too much, and you lose a consumer base due to unemployment which requires further exploitation externalization of costs to drive prices down, or hold back technology and keep people enslaved in mundane tasks. Neither strives to improve the quality of human life, and as mentioned earlier neither is sustainable becasue these decisions are monetarily biased.
    Cease proliferation of automation, and it becomes increasingly difficult to compete. We need to “Open Source” society.
    As long as currency exists, it will be a motivation. As long as it is a motivation, it will influence people’s decisions. As long as it influences people’s decisions, it will be the focus of society. If it is the focus of society, people will be corrupted by it and nothing is gained long term.
    I have citations for all of the points present, but this posting is already too long. Either way, I look forward to the presentation later this morning at DEFCON21.

  6. I just wanted to make a point on currency where speed is incorrect.
    Historically currency has been within direct association to the carrying capacity of the Earth. ie Gold, Silver etc.
    Fiat-currency is what you are referring to in your comment, and has nothing to do with capitalism.
    That is all, for now.

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