Creepy cult TED talk by Beth Noveck. Especially laughable is the notion of the Russian state-owned bank's "crowdsourcing" -- and her preaching against civil society's "antagonism" with government when it gets "transparency".
Let me unpack what I mean by this tweet of yesterday:
If you ever want to see the seeds of totalitarianism, just look at this!
What Could Bring Totalitarianism Via the Internet?
Basically, I mean these six premises, creating the circumstances where an "advance guard" of revolutionary intellectuals take power of the state through their networks and rule it with "science":
o The gov 2.0 or "open government" movement has never really been democratically decided or sustained any liberal democratic critique; it is a movement of technolosts benefiting themselves first and foremost
o the reputational systems that this movement wants to use for various "Better World" purposes, generally those maintained by Wikipedia, Facebook or LinkedIn, are highly flawed and have technological and political limitations and little ability to opt-out or appeal their tendentious results;
o the "social pressure" that these goverati want to harness through social media can range from the vigilantism of their political networks to Anonymous hacking, and is itself a coercive means of bringing change, usually according to a revolutionary agenda;
o the "automated processes" invoked are decided by coders, without much democratic input, according to the ideology of the network in power;
o the allusions to "participation" or "more voices" are highly stylized and often consist of models like Code for America, which are just ingroups getting together with their networks to force changes without scrutiny or political process;
o there is no grown-up oversight, public or private, of these ideas, as they are mainly concocted in certain think -tanks and railroaded into government offices untouched by any critical process.
All of those things contain the seeds of totalitarianism in them.
Big Brother in Your House -- And Whom Morozov Doesn't Mention or Criticize
First, some more context. I was looking through Beth Noveck's Twitter feed and the mentions of her on Twitter, such as this apt characterization by David Golumbia about her as "smug and glib" in a video on "open government". Indeed, "open government" should really be re-labelled, as I said in Second Life, as "closed society of coders" -- and their professor ideologues. Another commenter says:zerg_rush @zerg_rush01 5h
@dgolumbia Sounds more like Big Brother in your house as opposed to you firing bureaucrats.
Well, exactly. I've been jumping up and down and yelling about Beth Noveck and her ideas for eight years now. For this reason. It's the seeds of totalitarianism. Everybody needs to fight it or we really do lose our freedoms, as this isn't just some professor -- it's somebody on Obama's transition team who occupies the White House Office of Science and Technology for some years before returning to academe and still remaining a beloved guru of the State Department tech set and many other influential networks.
So...I went to look up Beth Noveck -- I can't keep up all the time! -- after noticing a troubling thing: in his Evgeny Morozov's enormous critique of Silicon Valley, it's as important to see who he doesn't talk about, or mentions in a half-line as it is to see he obsesses about (like Jeff Jarvis or Tim O'Reilly). I guess part of it is "Silicon Alley" doesn't capture his attention as much -- he spent a lot of time in California. Beth Noveck, based in New York City, is eclipsed for him (or in fact he likes some of her ideas). Fred Wilson, who is the entrepreneur who should be mentioned in any great study of technocommunism as the praxis master bringing actual money, thought, and action to a lot of the wacky ideas that would remain in the can without him, gets no mention by Morozov; AnneMarie Slaughter, better known for her "can't have it all" cry against certain kinds of feminism, but actually among the key Twitterati intelligentsia, and now to head the New America Foundation is not mentioned at all; Rebecca MacKinnon, also at NAF and on the board of CPJ, gets just a brief mention of her Internet-centric notions of politics; and Beth Noveck gets only a paragraph or two, although she is an example of someone actually getting to a position of power with these ideas -- she was assistant director to the White House Office on Science and Technology, and is now back at New York Law School (not to be confused with NYU Law School) and very influential.
I first became horrified with Beth Noveck's writings here in 2005 and here, where I talked about the coming collectivization on Web 2.0, and here, where she was speaking in Second Life from her perch at the White House. Last year, I saw her in person at Tech@State and even managed to get a question from the audience through a horrible Twitter backchat filter (the conference hired a live team of geeks to sort through tweets with the hashtags of the conference, and then only use the ones they liked, and then replay the ones they liked and that they felt suited their notion of what should be promoted on a large screen in the conference room, and little screens all over the conference space -- truly awful stuff defeating the free speech of Twitter, of course).
Since she is on the record as saying she wanted to "blow up Congress," I asked Noveck whether he various conceptions were really about circumventing Congress -- some geeks have actually articulated this as a goal, and she has indicated it as a wish. Her answer indicated merely that she had learned the PR speak of saying that she had in mind enhancing democratic governance.
But that's just why all her neo-collectivist ideas are so awful -- they are cloaked in the language of participation, transparency, democracy, good governance, etc. -- but in practice they are an electronic mapping of Leninist democratic centralism and collectivism. Once she, like Shirky, found that the masses that showed up in free unmoderated social media were too unwashed -- on the White House discussion pages they would advocate for marijuana legalization or raise questions about Obama's birthplace -- she then had to figure out how to hang on to the democracy lingo yet still use coded systems to her advantage.
So she devised various bureaucratic methods as any such authoritarian would do long before the Internet was created -- internal groups of friends where the real action was; notices that went out only to those on the list or to those who could muster the patience and determination to follow boring and arcane discussions; simple mutes and bans (especially on Twitter) for those who needed to be filtered out, and so on. When all else fails, there was the 15-day or 30-day or 0-day discussion closing limit on the web-page that would be invoked by her staff at any time.
I view Beth Noveck as one of the most dangerous thinkers in terms of actually installing the Wired State, a state run by elite groups with the Internet and smart gadgets with considerable power to suppress dissent and the free media. Indeed, they already have an embryonic form of it on Twitter and in various group and web networks.
Perhaps the rule is "you can't criticize your fellow NAF fellows" and that's why Morozov, himself a NAF fellow, doesn't have anything to say about some of the characters there. Or maybe he doesn't take women in tech seriously, or women on the East Coast in tech seriously. I do!
Fornicating Dragons of Democracy Experiments
Beth Noveck was in Second Life for a time back in 2005 -- Lawlita was her avatar's name (!) and she formed something called Democracy Island, to do experiments with her class and which was ostensibly "open" and about "open government" but which became rapidly actually "closed" to those who weren't in the invited group (you couldn't visit the island unless she invited you into the group). Now, sure, any university might want to do this to keep out griefers and day-trippers. But then they have the option to put their whole island on invisible in the system, not have it in search, and not pretend they are doing experiments for a Better World that are ostensibly in the public interest and "open".
As one of the more perceptive participants in her class pointed out, in time -- a few months? -- even when she did finally open it up to public access, the island lay fallow. The "Creative Commons License Machine" that was supposed to revolutionize Second Life had cobwebs on it from unuse -- only 30 people had touched its dispense I discovered when I looked at the time because the DRM of Second Life itself engineered into the object menu just worked much, much better for them than Lessig's cult. As my friend who used to be in the groups said, one day he logged on to the empty and deserted island and found, as he put it, "two dragons fornicating" there -- it had become a trysting place for furries without land (furries are people who chose animal avatars, either real or mythical).
So that about summed up "Democracy Island" for me. Fornicating Dragons! Lots of smoke but not too much light!
Beth Noveck continues to make her reputation in so many places for having "revolutionized" the patent system -- although there, she was never able to fully incorporate her system, which basically involved a bureaucratically-centralized system for casting about and filtering in "experts" to work on patents -- basically an online version of "the cadres decide everything" where you have a more efficient way to cast about and filter for cadres and then put them to work. Noveck used her own considerable real-life network or "social graph" to test and include those who "fit". I don't think the system got approved in the end, and in any event, Noveck left the Administration to go back to academe. She then set her sights on the federal rule-making system -- fertile ground to invade as it is arcane and nerdy and perfect to use as a stealth-overthrow operation because most people won't be able to pay attention. Take a system that is supposed to work under democracy, where the candidates to various agencies are appointed by the president, then they hire experts and consultants or keep various civil servants employed in the system -- and they make the rules that enable the implementation of laws. If you don't like a law, break into the rules-making system and see if you can place "civic pressure," i.e. your networked lobbying group of likeminded persons on it, under the guise of "public participation". If anyone cries foul, say "but the people are participating, what, you're against open government"?"
When I see the cult-like political movement in New York City called Working Families getting into budget meetings and calling in new Internet-based "participatory democracy" on budget meetings, I cry foul in the same way -- in fact it was an extended argument about the true meaning of this system with Alex Howard that got him eventually to block me on G+. But if anyone had world enough and time, all they'd have to do is show up alongside the cadres at any of those meetings, and try to insert any other political perspective, and see how "democratic" the "participation" would be...
The Constructed and Collectivized Online Self
Beth Noveck's writings here are what began to trouble me so greatly because she was willing to dispense with the individual so quickly and reconstruct her online:
Avatars are “public” characters, personalities designed to function in a public and social capacity. Avatars think and act as members of a community, rather than as private individuals. Having to construct an avatar in a virtual world not only allows me to see myself but it demands that I design a personage for interaction with others
Everything that I had learned from extensive involvement first in the Sims Online, then in Second Life, let me know that this was not true. People bring themselves online and stay intact as individuals with rights. They may manifest as a dragon or as a beautiful 20-year-old female club dancer when in fact they are a 40-year-old postal worker, but it doesn't matter. They manifest a part of their soul and being and it is an extension of who they are. One could argue that the self is constructed offline for interactions -- "prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet" as T.S. Eliot said -- but Noveck takes it further -- coded virtual-world systems (of the sort that we will all be living in some day because that's how the Internet of Things and other features of web 3.0 will be managed) *force* you to construct that self. That force-constructed self, of course, is controlled ultimately not by you, but the platform provider, in this case a private company (like Linden Lab is for Second Life, or Facebook, which is a virtual world as well (and now that it is coming as a phone interface, it creates even more virtuality -- or augmented reality, which is also a form of virtuality).
For Noveck, "avatars think and act as members of a community" -- the groupism and collectivism seems to happen as soon as you log on. Of course, in real life, too, you are "think and act as members of a community" in various settings -- the PTA, or the book club or the political party. But these feel less rigid and more easily than the constructed self of the online world. There are various technical exigencies that come to play. Let's say there are the hard limits of the servers dictated at Facebook -- you can only have 5000 friends. You also can't talk too rapidly to those friends, or the managers will automatically stop you as a spammer, and possibly even ban you. In Second Life, as in a lot of communities, there is a hard limit to the number of groups you can join -- for a long time, it was set at 20; today, it is set at 42 -- that number geeks love as it is the answer to life. So you can only put so many groups that identify your interests on your profile (some groups and stores get around these limits by designing other "group joiners" that amount to mailing lists). I don't know what the Facebook limit for numbers of groups you can join is -- there is likely on.
More to the point, group owners can decide to invite you or not, let you speak or not, mute you or not, etc. -- these are functions long present in Second Life groups, and today we see them on Facebook, G+, Plurk and other forms of social media. I think Twitter has a hard limit on "lists," which is a kind of group.
Coded Reputational Systems and the Technological Confines of the Online Self
There are all kinds of other hard limits put on the collectivized self online -- the extensive system of mute, make invisible, delete, and ban, all heavily made use of by "thought leaders" on social media. I think I haven't even begun to explain the half of it, especially when Google Glass enables some people to take lots of pictures of life and people and do what they want with them, and lots of other people not to be able to "play" as they either won't have $1500 for the goggles, or they won't like the disruption of having a game-world-like HUD up in their face in real life.
(Ironically, generations of especially young buys who played World of Warcraft and other games are perfectly suited to Glass adaption, as they spent hours and hours of their formative years glancing at dashboards and heads-up-display (HUDs) in front of their eyes while concentrating on game action; it is precisely this factor that will encourage more young males to see the world as a place where you can engage in MMORPG -like shooting as well -- who doesn't doubt that among the first apps or games we will see with Glass will be a game to target and shoot people you don't like -- that complaining customers ahead of you in the store line, that slow driver, that annoying clear -- and make them splatter, and get points for it?)
Reputational systems are another thing we have had long and bad experience with in Second Life, and then later on Twitter and Facebook and such -- and I could summarize these as follows:
o any of them can be gamed, and people can find extra-network ways to get lots of "pluses" -- think of Jason Calicanis, the entrepreneur, who offered a free ipad to anyone who could follow him on Twitter in the early days; think of bosses and teachers getting all their employees or students to follow them
o those with old-media star capacity can easily take over new media reputational systems -- Justin Beiber can get 30 million followers on Twitter because he's broadcast all over the world on TV and radio and of course Youtube.
o people may not become your friend for various reasons, and then they aren't in your friend deck, and you can be judged for that
o you yourself may not have spent adequate time nurturing your friend list, which is often achieved by mining others' lists and then putting those friends-of-friends in the awkward position of saying "no," which often makes them cave to "yes"; you can be limited in your numbers of friends.
o pluses for good behaviour as well as neg-rating (if they are even ever put in) can be gamed or flash-mobbed or be happenstance -- even paid for, as we discovered famous game-maker Will Wright himself did to corrupt his own game in the Sims Online by paying people to take "friendship balloons," probably the earliest form of what we all take for granted today as the "friends list". (Of course if there were friendship lists in the Well predate this, but they didn't have the same features, especially the feature of showing "where you had been" and becoming greener or redder depending on interactions).
o inability to get rid of trolling negrates or inflationery plusses meant to discredit -- not appeals system
o proximity issues -- as geolocation gets matched with friends, you are characterized as a "friend" of someone you merely were next to for X minutes, and this gets inflated, misunderstood, can't be changed, etc.
So that informs you of my background for making the claim that the following notions -- merely lightly put up as questions on a professor's web page as "totalitarianism".
Stefaan Verhulst of GovLab at NYU (eek. they're at their worst when they tout the simplicity movement) is a highly credentialed person, having spent many years working for the UN and the EU and foundations.
But that's just why I worry, as I spent many years working in that sort of field myself and dealing with these institutions and I know how culty and undemocratic they can get.
Leftist Cultural Attitude Toward Corporations
The first problem for the average lefty professor is accepting that corporations have a right to exist. Under current law, like it or not, they also have the right to make political donations and are persons in ways that a certain hard-left cadre does not want them to be (although they don't feel that way about the corporate persons that are unions or nonprofits or law firms -- the traditional bastions of Democratic candidates and their revenue source).
The problem in trying to rein in corporations with all sorts of do-gooding corporate responsibility schemes, like the Ruggie principles (which do not have the force of international law, but are just "soft law" or recommendations) is that the corporation itself -- the profit-making association -- is not first blessed, legalized, and accepted in the UN and other such bodies. With the crippling of the structures for years by the Soviet Union and its allies, that could never happen. The corporation was just a given force outside of these multi-national bodies with no real definition of, and therefore acknowledgement of its right to exist.
To be sure, the right to associate with others is one of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that gets you a certain distance; private property also has some acknowledgement but not sufficient. The right to make a business and run it at a profit is basic to human existence all over the world, even in countries of "really-existing socialism" where at least cronies or shoe-shines are allowed such businesses, but it doesn't really exist as a universal principle in international law.
So in settings like the former Soviet republicans or some Africa countries, where kleptocratic and oligarchic governments suppress small and medium business for the sake of keeping themselves in power, there isn't any body of international law to turn to -- there is only the socialist-informed precepts of various UN bodies long hobbled by the Soviet Union's descendents. One of the cures to the depradations of transnationals might be small, medium and even large businesses of the national sort, but most UN-type schemes fetishize in fact bureaucratically-controlled very small micro-credit schemes, of say, women basket-weavers, over the more challenging businesses that would help countries join the modern world. They fear and loathe them. They don't fit into their ideology.
Lefties, "progressives," socialists of every kind, tend to view capitalism as a system and the corporation as an entity as suspect and needing to be reined in, as always predatory, as alwayd destructive. Understandably, tThey want to devise every kind of aggressive control over it in the belief that they are harmful, and not worry about how free enterprise is nurtured in the first place.
So it's this basic underlying perception of the Eurocrat and the leftist American professor leaning toward Marxist that informs this discussion -- corporations bad, "the people" good.
Responsible Corporations and Free Enterprise
I don't share their worldviews. As a Catholic and human rights advocate, of course I want businesses to be responsible public citizens, to have fair labour practices, not to despoil the environment, not to exploit workers abroad, and so on. Who would not be for these values in our time? But I start from a different place: the belief that capitalism is not immoral and that regulation can ensure its morality in a liberal democratic society. The socialist does not start form that premise: he starts with fear and loathing of the corporation.
I'm not seeing it. In my whole life, my neighbours, relatives, friends and I have worked for big corporations. If not Xerox, than Kodak. If not Home Depot, then Rite-Aid or Wal-mart. Wal-mart is particularly the target of sneering leftists as symptomatic of the "worst" practices. I shrug because I know they are selective, tendentious, and deliberate in this targeting as a project of undermining the capitalist system per se, not genuine as improving this or that company. I see that Wal-mart in fact as responsive to many of the concerns brought to it by this tendentious bunch not really representing its workers. Millions of people work for corporations, large and medium. Corporations give them their livelihoods, their communities' revenue. Those in particularly Soros-funded nonprofits of the left, and leftist university faculties, naturally see the world differently. The world of finance that created the Soros billions that enable them to feed their families (including me for many years I worked at OSI) is opaque to them -- they don't see how it connects to those very corporations they want to bring down (Soros himself is of course something of a perestroika liberal socialist especially in prescriptions for other people).
The Goverati Bring it All Home to You and Run Your Life
Now let's come to the professor's premises -- this professor who recommended the reading of an article on the Economist titled "Participatory Power" mentioning Beth Noveck and Clay Shirky favourably-- which I commented critically on by noting the Seven Deadly Flaws of Online Democracy (the coders decide everything and you can't vote "no") and how the Pirate Party is hardly putting in authentic democracy with their Liquid notions.
The title of the short piece is How to Regulate For-Profit Industry in Ways That are More Automatic More Efficient and Less Prone to Regulatory Capture
Well, as you can already see, I don't share the felt need for "automatically" and "efficiently" regulating industry in quite the same way as this professor. I've stood at the Xerox machine and fed it for hours in testing; I've stood at the Rite-Aid counter for hours or laboured in the back room files of Citibank; my friends and relatives have stood for hours in the Home Depot, selling lumber or plants for homes; or at Wal-Mart or Aeropostale selling dresses; they've toiled in the mines at JP Morgan and Kodak and IBM and Dow Chemical as accountants or programmers or engineers or scientists. And by and large they are happy with their lives; they may even be in the 47% if they are part-timers with a school loan or food stamps, but they have nothing like the visceral hatred of corporations that people in universities or the UN can acquire.
So I have BIG questions about HOW and WHAT the regulation is about (and this is often quite deliberately left vague).
Even so, Evgeny Morozov, if he were to apply his critique even-handedly (he doesn't) would have questions about the Internet-centrism and solutionism implicit in all these "automatic" and "efficient" systems. Who gets to decide them, and how?
Who Decided That We Needed to Re-Imagine Democracy?
These proposals come from one of the numerous gov 2.0 meetings -- too numerous to track meaningfully -- this one called the London Summit on Re-Thinking Government and Re-Imagining Democracy with these goals, all of which are means of either a) intalling technocommunism by making the "peers" be "progressives" or (in this case) cloaking with "open government" speak things that in fact are the same old big government:
- Promulgate a new theory and vocabulary for open, participatory and “peer progressive” governance;
- Define a new curriculum for teaching participatory governance and problem solving to the next generation of public servants and civic innovators;
- Create methods with which to gauge the effectiveness of open and collaborative governance practices;
- Design a research and action agenda to discover and apply new designs for our institutions of governance.
But what was the Alternative Regulation Working Group (getting inside those federal rules!) up to?
How the Advance Guard Can Decide Things for You -- and Shame You on Social Media
As we learn, it's this:
- How can we design regulatory processes that are automated and optimized?
- How can we involve more voices in the regulatory process and promote distributed decision-making?
- How can we create reputation mechanisms best promote self-policing within markets?
- How can we apply research on behavioral economics and social pressure to promote better behavior among regulated entities?
- How can we create real-time feedback loops that provide information with which the success of individual regulatory processes can be revised and improved?
Well, even if you don't share my views about corporations and corporate responsibility that comes parallel first with an acceptance of free enterprise, you might have worries.
Who says we need to automate regulatory proceesses and how is optimized designed?
"Involving more voices" in the regulatory processes sound grand, until you see it in action Beth-Noveck style, which means picking relatively obscure processes with arcane procedures -- like the Patent Office and harnessing networks of likeminded friends to flash-mob them -- from existing opposition lobbides -- in merely a more robust and aggressive form of lobbying electronically.
Distributed Decision-Making Means You Don't Decide, an Algorith Does
"Distributed decision-making" is one of those fashonable academic buzz phrases that can mean different things and also cover up a multitude of sins as those decisions are distributed right away from you.
For $219, you could learn about what it means here:
Distributed decision making (DDM) has become of increasing importance in quantitative decision analysis. In applications like supply chain management, service operations, or managerial accounting, DDM has led to a paradigm shift. The book provides a unified approach to such seemingly diverse fields as multi-level stochastic programming, hierarchical production planning, principal agent theory, negotiations or contract theory. Different settings like multi-level one-person decision problems, multi-person antagonistic planning, and leadership situations are covered.
Or read about the Chinese Communist version here if you have a JSTOR credential.
Reputation-Based Control Systems
Then, there's this asked by the seminarians:
How can we create reputation mechanisms best promote self-policing within markets?
As I've explained above, the best reputation system is no reputation system. Automatic, Internet-based reputation systems are always inherently unfair. To be sure, we are stuck with them now with Facebook, as Facebook profiles become a means to hire or fire people. But when you have "self-policing in markets" there's always the question to ask why markets, if they are free, need these "self-police". What about organic law? That governs the issue of labour, pollution of the environment, etc. What else were you going to demand self-policers take on? The corporations of Silicon Valley are never discussed in the leftists' critique of corporations -- it's as if they are invisible. But when they do discuss them -- such as Anil Dash discussed Apple's app store last night on Twitter with me -- they have all kinds of politically-correct demands to make. Apple should sell the intifada app, even if it incites hatred of Israel and glorifies violence, and the drone app, even if it carries the Google logo or seems to be a crude coverage of war they apparently want to discourage -- and not some other app they don't like. Try as I may, I couldn't get Anil to accept the notion of pluralsim
Indeed, the biggest temptation -- and the affordances to make good on it -- that the Internet and mobile gadgets give to "progressives" is to make universalist, unitarian, blanket rules and norms for everything. They think they have the tools and the information to do this now. They can enter into a quest to make one big thing good, rather than tolerate the scrum of thousands of smaller things actly freely and enable market choice. They can believe it is possible to make one thing good (government, a corporation) through automation and "solutionism" -- which is a form of scientism.
In Second Life, it's possible to prevent people from entering your server by putting their name in the list. But there are many other varions on this that led one thoughtful programmer to conclude that any ban system is a weapon.
For one, a system that bounces you back to your "home" set sim, or bumps you hard away, or even makes you crash, i.e. forcibly logs you off, is rightly called a weapon.
But here's what else:
o bans based on the age of the account
o bans based on whether the account has any form of payment on file (this can be hard for Europeans, Latin Americans and many others who find it difficult to get a Mastercard or PayPal account accepted in the North American systems)
o bans based on membership in a group or lack of membership in a group (group-access only)
o IP-based bans (these can give false positives, althought hey work more accurately than admitted, and what they often do is expose alts)
In the world of the Internet-connected Internet of Things, how will these systems which we've experienced so horribly in wired onlined communities like Second Life, or for that matter Facebook or Twitter, actually function in the ideal version of these professors?
What happens when electronic bans can be set up everywhere -- you can't enter -- or at the very least, your smart phone or gadget won't work -- if you don't fit Facebook and other scraped-data criteria, including facial recognition?
The leftists usually contemplate this horror in the hands of corporations (it already is in their hands) and imagines them blocking people from stores, offices, government buildings.
But picture these powers in the hand of those invisible corporations like Google that the "progressives" don't imagine -- look at this appalling concept of "fiberhoods" brought to us in Kansas City creating broadband haves and have-nots in a system that was supposed to increase broadband -- see the subscriber-edition of Harper's by Whitney Terrell and Shannon Jackson, critiquing the much-ballyhooded Google broad-band project:
Utility-owned networks guarantee access to every citizen in a municipality. Google, by contrast, divided up Kansas City into 202 "fiberhoods" -- and decreed that between 5 and 25 percent of the residents in each fiberhood had to preregister for its service by paying a ten-dollar fee and opening a Google account. Fiberhoods that didn't qualify would be left out of the network. Worse, Google's fiberhood map bisected the city at Troost Avenue, a historical racial divide. It soon became clear that most lower-income black areas would fail to meet the preregistration quotas. Local teachers and librarians began canvassing door-to-door with Google employees, urging residents to sign up, and charitable groups raised money for registration fees. A majority of these fiberhoods ultimately qualified for service. But the frenzied volunteer push revealed an uncomfortable truth behind the city's "real partnership" with Google: Kanasas City had left itself poerless to guarantee service for its most vulnerable constituents. And it could not compel Google to redraw its maps in a less discriminatory way. (Of course, the vegan bakery, Pilates studio, and Italian deli next door to Google's subsidized offices received their fiber service for free.)
Or picture this in the hands of Rahm Emmanuel, who vowed to keep chik-Fil-A out of Chicago. What if this was achieved not just by the blocking of an organic paper permit, but made good everywhere with an electronic ban -- no person could come into the city limits if they were an officer or even family member of that corporation; they couldn't buy supplies; they couldn't do business.
The point is, automated processes of regulation devolve down to which ever political group is in power, and they come to power not just through pure democratic "participatory" means, but by coded systems, mediated by coders, with existing power-possessors managing them.
Here's another element that I find a glimpse of that totalitarian future:
How can we apply research on behavioral economics and social pressure to promote better behavior among regulated entities?
We saw this used to win the election for Obama -- he kept his own team of behaviour social scientists on staff to help manipulate the narratives and the demographic drill-downs.
What are "behaviour economics" and "social pressure"? Selective economic boycotts? Who gets to decide them? Deliberation is never the strong point of social media -- even Morozov admits that. (I think he's willing to leave more room for deliberative politics than the automaters in Silicon Valley because he is still feeling safe in the belief that "the smart people surrounded by idiots" will still get to run things).
Recently I read an article which unfortunately I can't find now that described new research in behaviour and norm-setting. If you put up a sign in Yellowstone Park telling people not to take the stones or pick the flowers, they didn't listen. They picked the flowers and took the fossils anyway. Because they saw other people had. But if you put up a sign saying "Millions of visitors did not pick flowers and take stones" or "80% of our visitors did not pick flowers," then they would feel a norm pressuring them and would comply. People comply not with what they are told, but with what they think most people do. This can get very insidious, as you can just hear the fakery coming down the track
Who Runs the Real-Time?
How can we create real-time feedback loops that provide information with which the success of individual regulatory processes can be revised and improved?
This sounds promising until you ask, again, who decides in the first place about all this, and who actually manages the "real-time feedback loops" -- possibly filtering them their way, just as Tech@State could filter away criticis.
Then you have to ask -- well what do you mean, exactly? What is it you are regulation? And how?
Inside the jpeg of the whiteboard included in this post, you can see:
Fuel efficiency, size, seatbelts, texting.
So these do-gooders want to get into people's cars -- or make them not even drive gas-guzzlers in the first place -- and force them to wear seatbelts and never text.
You could think of a super-automatic way to stop people texting -- include in each new car a text-zapper, or even a mobile dead zone -- but that could work against someone struggling to call for help in a car crash on a deserted winter road, and most people would fight that as too much intrusion.
So the efficiency gag at the "open government" conference suggests "notify receipient of texting while driving - social pressure". How? Have other people who spot him snap pictures and his license place and put it up on Twitter or Facebook? You know, like Adria Rich did at the PyCon about those bad boys who said "dongle"? Is that what you'd like? How about having the driver's boss fire him for extra good measure?
Of course, the free media's coverage of people smashing cars while texting also constitutes a certain social pressure -- news you can use -- but most people think they're the skilled exception. Police arrests of people in jurisdictions that have passed laws against texting while driving also serves as a deterrent. Do we need the "progressives" social pressure, their way, too?
As for size and fuel efficiency, well, who wants to waste gas and pollute the environment? The high price of gas itself does some of this "social pressure," but what are the ways in which the university gang would interfere with the free market to "optimize" their agenda? Pictures on Facebook of fat Wal-Mart shoppers driving big SUVs? And again, could you get them fired from their jobs, for good measure? Or hey, would local laws on emissions and demands to get inspections also work?
Just what needs to be automated here, and who gets to apply that lovely social pressure, and how?
There's lots more to say and analyze here, of course, but I have to move on. Suffice it to say that much of the open government movement isn't really open. It is decided at conferences like these, in "progressive" university classrooms like these, by power-possessors who get their candidates into positions like the FCC or the White House Office of Science and Technology. Most of the public is in the dark -- and the lefties would say it's their own fault.
But Congress never got to decide that gov 2.0 was either necessary or sufficient. They never got to debate it or decide it. Much of gov 2.0 was forcibly introduced as a Trojan Horse from Silicon Valley through the invocation of the magic word "innovation" and "technological upgrades". The entire "wikification" of government (that I submit is part of what led to WikiLeaks) happened without Congress, in spite of Congress. There's never been a hearing that was a critical examination of the premises and practices and products of gov 2.0 -- there has only been a few cheerleading brand-awareness sessions (by the former Sen. Ed Markey, for example).
Eventually, these intrusive gambits of revolutionary collectivism will get more examination, even from liberals, not to mention conservatives. It might be too late to role back some of the engineering the goverati have installed by then.