Why Facebook can’t get it right

Rana Foroohar for Financial Times:

Truly analysing platform design decisions would also underscore the total asymmetry of information and power that is at the heart of what’s wrong about surveillance capitalism (a topic that I get into in my latest column, where I argue that the government should rebalance the playing field by turning online platforms into utilities, starting with platforms for gig work). Until there is equal access to information between Facebook (or any online platform) and its users, and a shared understanding of the nature of transactions, there is no efficient or fair market. That’s Adam Smith 101.

Turning the spotlight again on the social media technology, it is essential to curtail their “powers”- but it won’t happen soon. Despite their professed love for connecting “friends and family”, there is a progressive creep over your financial (and healthcare) data. It won’t stop. Despite the quixotic notions of turning their information asymmetry into an all encompassing platform for gig workers, as Rana seems to suggest, it is better to shut them down. There are interesting analogies to “rail-road barons” and how the monopolies were split up but these platforms serve the surveillance agenda. The legalese and geopolitics is beyond the scope of this blog; therefore, I’d have to restrict myself to these generic statements alone.

There’s an engaging presentation linked in FT write up, and I managed to dig up the PDF which I have uploaded here. It suggests an entirely new market framework, which I believe will be adapted to the use case in healthcare markets too.

[embeddoc url=”https://radoncnotes.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/INET-Jim-Balsillie-Event-Slides.pdf” viewer=”google”]

His take on the platform economy? It’s the latest and most nefarious fallout from the “IP maximalism” that began with trade deals such as the 1988 Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act, the 1995 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (or TRIPS deal), TRIPS-plus, and so on. “Rather than spreading competition, these agreements have spread monopolies,” he says, noting the concentration of corporate power not only in platforms and software but healthcare — note issues including the recent debate over vaccine nationalism and rents on patented pharmaceuticals.

Vaccines are just one aspect. I believe that AI will accelerate the monopolisation of delivery systems and it won’t be hard to imagine life care being “taken” away from “unworthy”. Especially, as AI steps into decision-making roles. Those are debates for some other time.

Social media is only normalising the thoughts which would have been taken as out-of-the-place. It is normalising behaviour. One can’t avoid it altogether, but it is critical to understand it’s potential impact.