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Dear Marc Andreessen
June 18, 2014 6:32 PM   Subscribe

"Hi, Marc... You seem to think everyone's worried about robots. But what everyone's worried about is you, Marc. Not just you, but people like you. Robots aren't at the levers of financial and political influence today, but folks like you sure are. People are scared of so much wealth and control being in so few hands... Unless we collectively choose to pay for a safety net, technology alone isn't going to make it happen."

also btw...
posted by kliuless (50 comments total) 70 users marked this as a favorite

 
Time to think about Old Glory Insurance.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:39 PM on June 18 [8 favorites]


Dear tech companies: Please pay your goddamn taxes already. The safety net basically doesn't exist any more.

Signed,

An early adopter who basically helped make you happen who is now falling through the shredded remains of the "safety net".
posted by loquacious at 6:41 PM on June 18 [43 favorites]


Marc Andreessen does not know much about macroeconomics, it would appear.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:24 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


Busy cultivating his Villain Look, no doubt.
posted by rhizome at 7:27 PM on June 18


In one of his tweets, he said that the future he envisioned is a "consumer utopia." I don't know, but to me that sounds like an oxymoron.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:30 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


Can I just say the "Hi Marc" essay is right or is there something I have to do with twitter, medium or hashtags to make my opinion count?
posted by putzface_dickman at 7:31 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


The universal basic income article really, really resonates with me, but what are the economic repercussions of such a program? The author also wrote one for a global basic income and I love the idea.
posted by Ouverture at 7:39 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I question the idea that we should lap up every word that drops from the lips of rich people...but then I remember that they're the job-creators and we're just, you know, employees...nothing more.
posted by uosuaq at 7:45 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


MarcA needs to re-hire jwz, to serve as his conscience...
posted by workerunit at 7:54 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]


The universal basic income article really, really resonates with me, but what are the economic repercussions of such a program?

Interestingly, this has some pretty good data! The search term you want is Mincome, which was a Canadian program in the 70s. It fell out of favor and the data wasn't analysed--until a couple years ago.

The verdict? The only people who worked significantly fewer hours were mothers and teenagers. People were healthier, children achieved more and were more likely to stay in school, and the rate of domestic violence dropped. Basically victories all across the boards. Further reading is easily found. It's fascinating, and terribly depressing to me--both that it's taken forty years for any analysis to be done, and that there's no chance that a program like that would happen now.
posted by MeghanC at 8:08 PM on June 18 [25 favorites]


The future is in the hands of people who simply do not like to share. They don't give a happy rat's ass about you or your well being.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:09 PM on June 18 [11 favorites]


I'm still sorting out the politics but my first impression is that I will never forgive Marc Andreessen for the last sentence in his article.

And I am way long human creativity.

What on earth is that? Some kind of bizarre Doge speak?
posted by mmoncur at 8:19 PM on June 18


> And I am way long human creativity.

> What on earth is that? Some kind of bizarre Doge speak?

Imagine you live in a world where you've accumulated vast amounts of generations-spanning wealth and exist at the center of an industry of people kissing your ass.

You'll start saying some really odd shit in public.
posted by chasing at 8:21 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


He means "long" as in investing jargon- "I am investing in human creativity"
posted by bhnyc at 8:24 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]


> The future is in the hands of people who simply do not like to share. They don't give a happy rat's ass about you or your well being.

They should. Would you rather be a super-rich person living in a more or less well-off society, or a super-rich person living in a society that consists of a few isolated rich people fortresses surrounded by miles and miles and miles of impoverished slums?

How far can the imbalance between the rich and everyone else swing before it's "too far"? And what happens when the popular consensus eventually, but inevitably swings around and agrees that we've reached a point that is inarguably "too far"? That one last rich guy facing an entire planet of pissed off poor people is going to have a rough time.
posted by smcameron at 8:37 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


The rich will start caring what the proles think when there's a real risk of them swinging from light poles.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:29 PM on June 18 [13 favorites]


bhnyc: He means "long" as in investing jargon- "I am investing in human creativity"

I thought that should be "long on", I'm long on human creativity. But I'm not an investor.

Of course I'm not living in a bizarre fantasy world where all the poor and hopeless need to prosper is a bunch of iPhones, so I have that going for me.
posted by mmoncur at 9:53 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


The rich will start caring what the proles think when there's a real risk of them swinging from light poles.

Well, they're in luck because we have a new generation of weaponized drones and robots that can prevent that.
posted by empath at 11:38 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


The rich will start caring what the proles think when there's a real risk of them swinging from light poles.


Or they may find other uses for fracking.....

posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 1:42 AM on June 19


The "sharing economy". Brought to you by people who don't want to share.
posted by Speculatist at 1:44 AM on June 19 [5 favorites]


The most annoying thing about Andreessen's original post is this sentence:
Create and sustain a vigorous social safety net so that people are not stranded and unable to provide for their families.
I get it. So VCs and technologists get to do the fun money-making activities and earn millions and billions - and get praised for it - but they're going to blithely say, "Oh, someone *else* can make and sustain that social safety net. We're busy over here with our fountains of cash."

You'll argue for immigration laws that let you bring in more programmers; you'll argue for net neutrality laws that'll defend your industries; but will you spend a hundred million dollars supporting candidates like Elizabeth Warren who want to create that security net? Like fuck you will, you cowards. Maybe you really do believe in a security net, but if you aren't willing to put even the tiniest thing on the line, then it's just words.
posted by adrianhon at 1:52 AM on June 19 [19 favorites]


will you spend a hundred million dollars supporting candidates like Elizabeth Warren who want to create that security net? Like fuck you will, you cowards. Maybe you really do believe in a security net, but if you aren't willing to put even the tiniest thing on the line, then it's just words.

He actually put $100k on the line.

Supporting Mitt Romney.
posted by empath at 2:13 AM on June 19 [4 favorites]


Housing, energy, health care, food, and transportation – they’re all delivered to everyone for free by machines. Zero jobs in those fields remain.

Stick with me here. What would be the key characteristics of that world, and what would it be like to live in it? For starters, it’s a consumer utopia. Everyone enjoys a standard of living that kings and popes could have only dreamed of.


The problem with that scenario is that people are no longer needed to produce goods for the elites. In fact they will become hindrances to the ultra-wealthy who own and control all capital, as well as their private armies and bought-and-paid-for governments.

It is possible that out of the goodness of their hearts, the elites will set aside some of that incredible surplus of goods and services to maintain the redundant in a decent standard of living. It's far more likely that those who aren't able to make themselves useful (entertainers and so on) will be disappeared into shanty-towns at best and just flat out killed through neglect and active violence.

If you want to see what that future looks like, it's this.

The only way the elites are going to share the bounty of this miraculous robot utopia is by force. You're already seeing it in places like Egypt, and Syria, and Latin America. The poor (or even the so-called 'middle class' in some cases) rioting in the streets while the wealthy hide in their gated communities and send their 'riot-control' police to maintain 'peace'.
posted by empath at 2:27 AM on June 19 [8 favorites]


We're using drones pretty effectively against brown foreigners, empath, but I expect that the drones would ultimately favor the guillotine makers. Ain't much to prevent a quiet quadcopter spraying a slowly lethal neurotoxin like dimethylmercury over a cocktail party. We'll probably never require such violence though because the inequality's economic impacts should eventually cripple nations like the U.S. anyways.

We've actually automated almost all the work anyways, but we also invent bullshit jobs to keep people occupied. We erode the wealthy's control by making bullshit overseer jobs untenable. And technology can help with that problem. All the so-called sharing economy projects I'm aware of help with with that, but they're not sufficient.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:02 AM on June 19


We'll probably never require such violence

I'm glad you've ruled out mass-murder. Probably.
posted by empath at 4:09 AM on June 19


empath: "We'll probably never require such violence

I'm glad you've ruled out mass-murder. Probably.
"

It's good that JB has, probably, but are you, empath, sure that the ultra wealthy would rule it out as well? I mean when push comes to shove. After all, they've so far proven time and again that they prefer greed to any reasonable amount of sharing. (No offense to you or anyone else. I'm merely posing a question.)
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 5:38 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


He means "long" as in investing jargon- "I am investing in human creativity"

He probably just means that he's bought several million barrels of human creativity and is storing them in a warehouse until the price goes up.
posted by sfenders at 5:50 AM on June 19 [7 favorites]


It's good that JB has, probably, but are you, empath, sure that the ultra wealthy would rule it out as well?

Nope.
posted by empath at 6:28 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


Would you rather be a super-rich person living in a more or less well-off society, or a super-rich person living in a society that consists of a few isolated rich people fortresses surrounded by miles and miles and miles of impoverished slums?

If you are asking honestly, I would rather no one be super rich, including myself. I think it would be a far better world were no one able to exercise outsized political and economic influence.

The problem with that scenario is that people are no longer needed to produce goods for the elites. In fact they will become hindrances to the ultra-wealthy who own and control all capital, as well as their private armies and bought-and-paid-for governments.

Yes, it has been my suspicion for some time now that the only reason we made any advancement against the rich was because they needed us to make things and kill people. Now that both of those functions are being automated, they no longer need us and our gains are going away.

I wonder if Watts intended Blindsight as a cautionary tale. I have begun to think that civilization as a whole is simply a way for sociopaths to organize the rest of us to do their bidding.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:38 AM on June 19 [4 favorites]


Coincidentally I'm just (re-) listening to the audiobook of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, wherein he draws a similar picture, or at least asks a bunch of questions about how easily we let go of previously important human values in exchange for a bunch of vague promises on behalf of Media, Technology and Security. I don't think he really talks about venture capitalists.
posted by sneebler at 7:30 AM on June 19


I am reminded of another time when the class divide got so great that the elites decided they didn't need the proles.
posted by LN at 7:51 AM on June 19 [3 favorites]


hey, to maybe help prevent a circular firing squad (underdog nerd v. nerd triumphant and direct ire to where it's most useful?), _i think_ technology is part of the solution[*] (we can all agree on saving the planet?) so to me the issue is really of access, distribution and regulatory control thereof.

i believe andreessen is arguing in good faith (his job isn't to create a social safety net, that's for us -- the people -- to decide) and not as a bad actor. so who's really "at the levers of financial and political influence today"? i'd argue wall street and k street, not that silicon valley isn't ramping up lobbying, but part of the 'full-stack startup' is disrupting finance and gov't, in the parlance, thru fintech and govtech, with the _idea_ that this would hopefully make them more responsive and accountable to the public, which of course in practice however is an open question.

what's also fascinating to me is their idea of a billion+smartphones all connected thru a quantum supercomputer (refrigerator-sized) datacenter, which promises a higher level of human organization -- a superintelligence -- unlike anything we've seen before; think ant colony or borgian hivemind (hopefully capable of independent thoughts?) that calls into question the nation-state as the fundamental unit of political organization; andreessen: "Prior conflicts like Snowden, SOPA, the Arab Spring, and cybercrime are only open gambits -- the real drama is yet to come." you can already see this in scotland, catalonia and the potential fracturing of the US itself (not to mention the middle east), which leads me to the institutional crisis in governance, basic income and central banking.

what are the economic repercussions of such a program?

i'd say the most readily adaptable institutions are central banks; i've linked to these before but as useful primers check out miles kimball on 'How paper currency is holding the US recovery back' and 'How to Pay for What We Need' (and, if you happen to be of the libertarian persuasion also see milton friedman on 'The Alleviation of Poverty'). leading the charge in this respect is japan, whose 'Balance Sheet is About to go Parabolic'; they are, as they say, running the experiment, but it's not like the federal reserve and ECB aren't as well.

to come back to andreessen he seems to genuinely want the 'star trek future' of "six, or 10, billion people doing nothing but arts and sciences, culture and exploring and learning," but the push back is in the methods of how we get there and who is responsible. the answer of course is that we all are, to a degree with some more than others, but to the extent that our leaders and authorities are failing us, it's up to us to make them listen or to replace them.

my sense is that silicon valley writ large (tech luminaries in general) _wants_ to bring about a brighter future and see themselves as the good guys (not many women unfortunately...) but they're frustrated that _they're_ perceived as the ones who are cynically manipulating the 99% to their benefit, when they're trying to disrupt the regulatory captured [big banks, big pharma, big oil, the MIC, etc.] to the advantage of all. the rightful and appropriate concern is that _they're_ being captured themselves -- seduced by the demands of the market and/or the political system -- and that's something they have to answer for, which in peoples' minds they have not; whose side are you demonstrably on?

i'd like to think they're on the side of the angels and to give andreessen credit he's retweeted a lot of the criticism launched at him from above. oh and he's an SF fan (but wait no Hugh Howey or James Corey!?) which gives him the benefit of the doubt in my book.

---
[*] anyway fwiw, to make this longer than it already is, here's an email to some friends re: peter thiel on developing the developed world (slightly edited ;)
from what i've read/heard from thiel, he's always seemed a little wacky (seasteading, thiel fellowship for dropouts) which may come from his libertarian/gay perspective 'outside the church' (and living next to jonathan ive, larry ellison and nicolas cage) but i also think that's why his framing of some issues is intriguing (he's also come around to support raising the minimum wage).

like the 0-->1 technology and 1+n globalization is neat and intuitive, but not really groundbreaking, nor what i'm really worried about on the limits to growth[1] in combination with a society that depends upon growth...

i guess what really struck me was the 'punnett square' on un/certainty and the optimism/pessimism of a culture and what sectors thrive under those conditions, never mind where different countries fall. so if the developed world is falling into uncertain pessimism where finance/insurance and the law thrives [...] what might you see? high frequency trading? the evisceration of campaign finance laws?

maybe it's just cognitive bias on my part, but i think it's a pretty good framework for putting human events into motivational boxes. so like geography wise you could also maybe break it down between wall street (finance), DC (politics), silicon valley (technology) and hollywood (entertainment, if not art) if you really wanted. anyway, trading and commerce are important of course, as is security and the (fair?) division of spoils... but in the industrial era, our financial and political institutions have depended on growth and the exploitation of seemingly inexhaustible resources.

thiel's point is that we need lots more 0-->1 technology for the survival of our civilization, if not species, leaving unsaid that it's wall street and DC that's effectively rigging the game preventing 0-->1 technologies from moving humanity forward to a brighter future. i think it's an exaggeration, but how _wacky_ is that? and thiel isn't alone among his compatriots omidyar & musk, the google guys (have you heard jaron lanier lately?[2]), gates & bezos, and (where i think i found thiel's spiel) andreessen[3] & horowitz (have you read _The Hard Thing About Hard Things_?[4])

putting the scientists/engineers in charge has always been seductive to some people (myself included!) but usually dismissed (except maybe in germany; merkel!) but i think silicon valley leaders actually think of themselves (together w/entertainment industry luminaries?) as leading this charge. after making bank, they're gonna _make_ banks. google is acquiring a robot army. omidyar & bezos are buying papers, presumably to shape the public debate. musk is out to destroy big oil, bring solar to the masses, electrify transportation and turn humanity into a space-faring civilization, usw.

the scale of ambition is breathtaking and hubristic to the point where most people roll their eyes (i roll my eyes ;) -- just give me sustainable energy and free money from the fed and i'll be fine -- but the science fiction reading [redacted] in me remains fascinated that people continue to grapple with the intractable, which in itself is kind of refreshing :P
posted by kliuless at 8:42 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


it’s a consumer utopia.

The thing is that consumer utopia doesn't address our modern problems. Access to infinite amounts of cheap tshirts, shoes, and television sets isn't utopia. As these things have become easily accessible, what has become more out of reach is health coverage, education, and proximity to jobs (the latter caused by a combination of rising fuel costs, increased traffic, and rises in housing costs close to economic opportunities). All the things that have caused massive price drops in tshirts and electronic toys have done nothing to make it easier to afford public post-secondary education and medical treatment.

The decisions I make today aren't motivated by "gee, someday I will get to play with an even more interesting new gadget" but rather, "how will I pay for my children's education and a nice home to live in while also living in a place with access to decent jobs?"

Private wealth is worth nothing if it exists alongside public squalor.
posted by deanc at 9:33 AM on June 19 [4 favorites]


A big jump in labour productivity due to robots doesn't necessarily mean essential goods get inexpensive, if at the same time your global civilization is running low on land and resources. Consider the price of wheat. Farm mechanization has probably increased a bit since 1990, but the price is three times higher.
posted by sfenders at 9:39 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


i believe andreessen is arguing in good faith (his job isn't to create a social safety net, that's for us -- the people -- to decide)

The fact that this point is rare is ... Telling...

California fails to provide adequate public transportation. Google fills the hole for its employees pursuant to the tech business goals of Google. Instead of blaming and petitioning state and local governments, Google is blamed for lack of public transport.

The other day here, there was a post on slavery in shrimp fishing. I don't recall many condemnations of various governments' failure to exercise their police power, but the second or so post complained about the US stores' audits not being thorough enough.

The government is abdicating its duties to provide a safety net. Apparently Marc Andreessen should be at fault for not sufficiently bribing politicians.

The people, including many here, seem to be implicitly proclaiming they have greater hope in private companies, individuals, and market forces than the traditional means of republican governance. Thus, neoliberalism, built and confirmed even by many who say they oppose it.

TL;DR: If you demand tech keep government in line, you're naming tech the boss.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:45 AM on June 19 [5 favorites]


If you demand tech keep government in line, you're naming tech the boss.

Agreed. Which is why I, for one, think "tech" (by which I assume you mean extremely wealthy corporations) should be prevented from dominating government.
posted by lodurr at 10:14 AM on June 19


Private wealth is worth nothing if it exists alongside public squalor.

"This is Baumol's Cost Disease..." which is an example of a market failure; (quasi-)public goods -- depending on 'rivalry' and 'excludability' -- which, besides national security and contract enforcement, should i think include health care, education and environmental protection, that is, i'd like to live in a world where my neighbors and fellow citizens are healthy, educated and whose environment isn't killing them (is that so much to ask?) or as milton friedman sez:
It can be argued that private charity is insufficient because the benefits from it accrue to people other than those who make the gifts -- again, a neighborhood effect. I am distressed by the sight of poverty; I am benefited by its alleviation; but I am benefited equally whether I or someone else pays for its alleviation; the benefits of other people's charity therefore partly accrue to me. To put it differently, we might all of us be willing to contribute to the relief of poverty, provided everyone else did. We might not be willing to contribute the same amount without such assurance. In small communities, public pressure can suffice to realize the proviso even with private charity. In the large impersonal communities that are increasingly coming to dominate our society, it is much more difficult for it to do so.

Suppose one accepts, as I do, this line of reasoning as justifying governmental action to alleviate poverty; to set, as it were. a floor under the standard of life of every person in the community. There remain the questions, how much and how. I see no way of deciding "how much" except in terms of the amount of taxes we -- by which I mean the great bulk of us -- are willing to impose on ourselves for the purpose. The question, "how," affords more room for speculation... The arrangement that recommends itself on purely mechanical grounds is a negative income tax.
so how do you manage the commons or provide/preserve public goods?
According to Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2009, to avoid a tragedy of the commons requires...
  1. giving everyone entitled to use them a say in running them;
  2. setting clear boundaries to keep out those who are not entitled;
  3. appointing monitors who are trusted by users; and
  4. having straightforward mechanisms to resolve conflicts.
unfortunately for the oceans at least "the governance of the high seas meets none of those criteria."

altho...
-Obama's planning to create the world's largest ocean reserve
-Obama calls for a crackdown on "seafood fraud" and illegal fishing
-Obama's Second Term Green Revolution
posted by kliuless at 10:25 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


>The government is abdicating its duties to provide a safety net. Apparently Marc Andreessen should be at fault for not sufficiently bribing politicians.

Actually, it's the opposite. We are wary of the fact that our government's ears are disproportionately tuned in to what Mr. Andreesen's class has to say. We're wary because the things they are saying tend to dismantle our meager safety net ("let markets work") rather than to strengthen it and because the business models of their companies (for example, AirBnB and Uber) tend to circumvent the few consumer protections we have in place for their respective industries.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 10:50 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


Can I just say the "Hi Marc" essay is right or is there something I have to do with twitter, medium or hashtags to make my opinion count?

Put a meme on it!
posted by Apocryphon at 11:20 AM on June 19


Where is the wall? And when do people such as these get lined up in front of it? (I'm not going to participate. I just want a good seat to view these things.) True reality TV.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:40 PM on June 19




oh! and from his last 'twitter storm': "No matter what a girl dreams of doing, learning how to code will help her get there. Their future — our future — is made with code."

now perhaps the best coding university for women is harvey mudd (more on Maria Klawe) but it's also the most expensive college in california, which is a problem in itself, but something google is at least trying to solve...

so "Who talks like FDR but acts like Ayn Rand?" the jury is still out imo, but i'd argue for a synthesis of keynes and hayek :P
posted by kliuless at 9:09 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Ain't impressed by that pro-growth progressivism article. Yes, we should obviously innovate rather than continue "business as usual", but that actually means shrinking the GDP. We need to benefit more from our labor, resources, money, etc. rather than simply earning and spending more. In particular, we should shorten the work week as a way to combat unemployment, rather than simply inventing useless bullshit jobs as Keynesians usually propose. Also, AirBnB, Uber, etc. all increase efficiency, by reducing prices, reducing new car sales and construction, and automating bullshit managerial and administrative jobs.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:30 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


It's not "useless bullshit jobs" that are being proposed, certainly not by Andreessen at least. He asks us to imagine everyone "doing nothing but arts and sciences, culture and exploring and learning," with magical robots taking care of the rest. It sounds pretty good, but it sort of depends on who owns the robots and their output. Why should it all be distributed "for free"? That's not how we do things now, that's not the world these robots are hypothetically arriving into. If it ends up being just one guy owning all the robots, that doesn't work out very well.

Computers and the Internet do open up a lot of creative new ways to make a living, which are available to anyone. Well, anyone with talent and motivation, and who isn't already oppressed by poverty or some other disadvantage. Anyone can have a go at starting a video production company, writing a smartphone app, getting really popular on youtube, writing indie computer games, trading cotton futures, starting a new "community weblog", or writing a new platform for social networking websites. Some fraction of those who try can even succeed at making a living with that sort of thing.

But while all that stuff is available to basically anyone, it's not available to everyone. If everyone goes off to write iPhone apps, there quickly get to be so many of them that oversupply pushes the price down, and the chance of actually making a profit by creating them goes rather near to zero.

Tertiary industry can only prosper when the services it offers attract spending from those who prosper in primary and secondary industry, i.e. actually making material stuff. If the mine is going to be run by robots, you don't get all the former mine workers spending their time playing piano, you get the piano player at the local saloon out of a job along with the miners. If you expect everyone to soon be devoting more of their lives to creative arts, that means a much increased supply of the fruits of those pursuits, and therefore a lower price. Being long human creativity looks financially unwise.
posted by sfenders at 3:08 PM on June 21


At present, our robots are largely specialized machines that make specialized parts and need a little training and safety to operate. As a result, we produce only small numbers, which keeps them expensive, and under the capitalist's control.

As robots become more generally purpose, like 3d printers. We've reason to produce more, so they should become relatively cheap, assuming enough competition, etc. Ideally, we could liberate the "means of production" from the capitalists by making it "too cheap to meeter."

In practice, we've capitalists controlling all the raw materials though, like mines and recycling contracts. And worse capitalists legislating artificial limits on the means of production, like intellectual property.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:29 PM on June 22


andreessen: "Prior conflicts like Snowden, SOPA, the Arab Spring, and cybercrime are only open gambits -- the real drama is yet to come."

Marc Andreessen Thinks Snowden, Administration Are To Blame For Backlash Against US Tech Industry
posted by homunculus at 10:55 PM on June 22 [2 favorites]


There is a salient right-wing complaint that government's "pick winners and losers" through their excessive spending. I suppose venture capitalists (VCs) create the same problem with tech startups, where it actually matters more. It's imho good that AirBnB, Uber, and BlaBlaCar are expanding the sharing economy quicker, but it's unclear if their supplanting more socially beneficial alternatives.

In particular, these VCs favor companies that maintain our broken intellectual property system. And Marc Andreessen comments favorably on intellectual property in his Turn Detroit into Drone Valley piece.

Past Example : The "right" model for distributing media content resembles the Pirate Bay more than say Spotify, simply because the Pirate Bay has lower marginal cost. Yet, lobbyists for media companies were able to delay adoption while the VCs could deploy higher marginal cost alternatives like iTunes Store that kept the entire system under the control of capitalists.

Future Example : Injection moulded children's toys should cost only pennies, but toy companies charge parents ridiculous nay debilitating sums. We'll be much better off without these parasites. Ideally 3d printers will allow parents, or children, to reproduce any plastic toy quite cheaply, and presently the we access 3d printers through non-profit venues like hacker spaces. As this takes off, the toy companies will fight "piracy" tooth and nail, including fear mongering bullshit about 3d printed guns. And eventually some clever VC will create a line of 3d copy shops that overcharge consumers and limit their flexibility, but we'll all use said shops because for convenience.

posted by jeffburdges at 12:27 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


The fabrikator was ugly, noisy, a fire hazard, and it smelled. Borislav got it for the kids in the neighborhood.

One snowy morning, in his work gloves, long coat, and fur had, he loudly ppwer-sawed through the wall of his kiosk. He duct-taped and stapled the fabrikator into place.

The neighborhood kids caught on instantly. His new venture was a big hit.

The fabrikator made little plastic toys from 3-D computer models. After a week, the fab's dirt-cheap toys literally turned into dirt. The fabbed toys just crumbled away, into a waxy, non-toxid substance that the smaller kids tended to chew.

Borislave had naturally figured that the brief lifetime of these toys might discourage the kids from buying them. This just wasn't so. This wasn't a bug: this was a feature. Every day after school, an eager gang of kids clustered around Borislav's green kiosk. They slapped down their tinny pocket change with mittened hands. Then they exulted, quarreled, and sometimes even punched each other over the shining fab-cards.
-- Bruce Sterling, "Kiosk" [2008]
posted by lodurr at 2:56 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]



Maker Spaces are the solution people pretend to want. The solution they really want doesn't entail them investing personal time, psychic capital and multiples of the material cost to make a toy that most of their children will regard as inferior (because it doesn't fit into the larger social narrative that millions of dollars have been spent to create).
posted by lodurr at 2:57 AM on June 23




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