Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

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JamesR
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Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by JamesR »

Hi folks!

I wanted to pick your brains about coming up with ways to improve antifragility in the tech world.

From my perspective, there's a very unfortunate and strong "winner take all" or power law effect in the tech world that seems to result in fairly thin long tails. For example in the desktop world, almost everyone is on an x86/intel CPU, almost everyone is using Windows or MacOS, and almost everyone is using Chrome.

I think it would be healthier to have a "Fatter Tail" distribution, with far more fragmentation in the marketshare of OSes, Web browsers, and even CPUs. More fragmentation would actually be better for the end user - more choice & degrees of freedom. It's unfortunate but the thin-tail, winner take all distribution leads to centralization of control.

A scary thing that happened with the Web was the introduction of the "silent auto-update" in Web browsers some 10 years ago. It was sold in the name of security and Web developers like myself loved the idea of everyone being on the latest Web standards. Unfortunately it has reduced fragmentation and reduced support and even reduced accessibility as we gradually move away from the web as hyper-linked "documents" into web as "remote apps". This has the unfortunate choice of killing off entire swaths of old technology that are still usable, such as flash apps & games, and users are additionally forced to keep up with the latest browsers if they want to keep accessing the internet since many sites often will only support the latest browser because that's where the marketshare is. A vicious cycle indeed..

My question to everyone is:

Are there any good strategies to reduce the human/mob tendency to pile up on a few winners?

Any ideas on how to encourage fat tails in any market?

If it requires government intervention/policy, then what's the minimum that could trigger this change?

One example I can think of is China's firewall, which protected Alibaba, Baidoo, etc from competing with Amazon, Google, etc. This is unfortunately counter to the original spirit of the open internet. But on the other hand, the internet doesn't necessarily feel that open these days..
Last edited by JamesR on Tue Jul 14, 2020 6:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Jean
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by Jean »

I'm fairly libertarian on this point. I don't think it is such a problematic situation, because there is an alternative to everything. And any abuse of Monopoly leads to people switching to ditto alternatives. All my friends migrated from Facebook and what's app to telegram recently, AMD is beating Intel on the cpu market, etc... I would even think that the inconvenience we have is mostly caused by thé gouvernement's action of enforcing IP. Or when gouvernement privilège (service provider/Platforms status) is given to entities that then behave as if they were private publishers (by censoring).

ertyu
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by ertyu »

I don't think there are any good strategies. By which I mean, if there are strategies, I don't think they will be successful. Too many actors, both in government and in the corporate world, love surveillance capitalism and want to intensify it - and so they shall. I think with surveilance capitalism, we are where industrialization was in its infancy. Workers were treated horribly and had an abysmal standard of living: long hours, work practices without regard for life and limb. The world had to change, and fundamentally so, for some workers to start being treated better (*)

(*) I assume working for a sweatshop is still very much not fun, and I don't have data, but it wouldn't surprise me if those working in abysmal conditions worldwide way outnumber those who don't.

The tl;dr: is that I expect the power of the major surveilance capitalists to increase rather than decrease, with tacit assistance from the military. I am not sure this would make surveilance capitalism fragile (so that efforts to promote fatter tails can be framed in terms of antifragility). At least not any more fragile than capitalism in general is. Yes, it's prone to swings, yes some groups occasionally get unhappy, but it's not going anywhere except maybe to some sort of surveillance debt peopnage.

JamesR
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by JamesR »

Jean wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 6:22 am
I'm fairly libertarian on this point. I don't think it is such a problematic situation, because there is an alternative to everything. And any abuse of Monopoly leads to people switching to ditto alternatives. All my friends migrated from Facebook and what's app to telegram recently, AMD is beating Intel on the cpu market, etc...
I do try to use alternatives where possible but often these alternatives have significant issues/limitations, and require far more effort to use, and this is down to the thin-ness of the tail, the critical mass of adopters is often lacking. Also often there's only 1 or 2 decent alternatives but I'd really prefer to see 5 good alternatives! So even the alternatives are suffering from this power law distribution of adoption/critical mass/etc..

If only there was some sort of psychology/cognitive hack or path of education that could encourage people in general to be more willing to avoid the most mainstream choice and adopt/support alternatives..

I guess another way of putting this is.. how can we increase the Contrarian Quotient for everyone?
ertyu wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 6:22 am
Workers were treated horribly and had an abysmal standard of living: long hours, work practices without regard for life and limb. The world had to change, and fundamentally so, for some workers to start being treated better (*)
I guess this was largely fixed through recognition of human rights / government policies.

bostonimproper
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by bostonimproper »

This is pretty much why antitrust laws exist. The fact that the few dominant players also own each piece in the vertical (e.g. Apple owns both the hardware and the app ecosystem, Google owns the device and Chrome, Amazon owns distribution and ecommerce site and servers that run the site and product development for generics behind it) exacerbates the problem since they force you to integrate with their preferred ecosystem to get access to audience. The only reason this isn't a total disaster yet is that no one company dominates the stack top to bottom. E.g. imagine of Apple owned Tik Tok, Safari was as well used as Chrome, and owned its own network backbone, then it'd be game over.

We used to enforce antitrust laws in the tech space. There are a few politicians-- largely Warren/Sanders plus conservatives who dislike the liberalism of tech circles-- who want to bring antitrust enforcement back. If you want to see more segmentation and less monopolization, those folks need to have enough power and public backing to make it happen.

ertyu
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by ertyu »

JamesR wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 6:34 am


I guess this was largely fixed through recognition of human rights / government policies.
my position is that "recognition of human rights and government policies" were byproducts of an economic base which had evolved to a certain point. Humanity was always theoretically capable of recognizing "human rights" -- but we only did so once our economies looked a certain way. And we are completely capable of backsliding if the economic/resource base dictates it.

Are we writing your college essay, what's up with this question?

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Jean
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by Jean »

People will Switch to alternatives if you use them first, and provide a good reason to avoid the mainstream. Usually, thé mainstream has some indisputable qualités.

JamesR
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by JamesR »

bostonimproper wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 7:03 am
We used to enforce antitrust laws in the tech space. There are a few politicians-- largely Warren/Sanders plus conservatives who dislike the liberalism of tech circles-- who want to bring antitrust enforcement back. If you want to see more segmentation and less monopolization, those folks need to have enough power and public backing to make it happen.
I believe the MS antitrust case was mainly driven by other corporations rather than the people. In recent times there seems to be a stirring of antitrust movement against Amazon, which is probably also mostly driven by other corporations - otherwise Google would be the primary target IMO.

Re: Liberalism in tech, wouldn't liberals typically be in favour of anti-trust? Aka fairness? Reduction of inequality? etc..

JamesR
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by JamesR »

ertyu wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 7:13 am
Are we writing your college essay, what's up with this question?
Not at all.. Isn't it normal to ponder on big questions like this? 😁

Basically it's something I've been thinking about in the back of my head for the past year, just wanted to get more viewpoints and ideas.

Jason

Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by Jason »

We live in a world where trillionaire Microsoft beats trillionaire Amazon for a 22 trillion in debt US government 10 billion cloud contract because the Possibly Billionaire President hates The Wall Street Journal and so Trillionaire Amazon sues the 22 trillion in debt government for trillionaire favoritism. Government intervention? Sister, please.

Facebook created Hobbi to knock out Pinterest. It failed. But they couldn't lose either way. If Hobbi succeeded, they make more money. But since it failed, they can now sit in a government hearing and use it as an example that they are not a monopoly as the market place always produces competitors.

Everyone blamed Russia for the 2016 political shitstorm. But the real problem was the US as Russia merely exploited the relationship between the US government and US technology companies. Russia didn't create the problem. They saw the problem and exploited it.

UK-with-kids
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by UK-with-kids »

I don't know if Facebook will stay that powerful forever. Just recently a lot of big companies stopped advertising with them because they were seen as being linked to encouraging some controversial Trump statement or other. Certainly in the UK it seemed like companies were being "shamed" into a boycott and their PR would take a hammering if they didn't comply. Even small companies like ours decided to stop placing adverts for a while. I could envisage a scenario where something like #racistFacebook (I just made that up) goes viral and affects the behaviour of ordinary consumers. I don't use Facebook much myself any more so I've lost track of exactly what the point is, but surely it wouldn't be that hard for a mass consumer migration to a new platform that destroyed the company almost overnight? I remember being a chance early adopter of Facebook in 2007 after somebody 10 years younger than me recommended it, and when I created my account and searched for my friends literally nobody was on it. Within a year EVERYBODY was on it, even my parents. Things can change fast.

Jason

Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by Jason »

As of today, FB is very close to all time highs. The boycotting did not impact them one iota - google "Why the Facebook Boycott did not hurt Facebook" for details. Zuckerberg came out and said the right things, tweaked the leviathan, and all of us stockholders are happy. Facebook mints money. And they created a parternship with Shopify for store front commerce. So now add e-commerce to advertising. Mass migration? Of literally one billion people? To where? Where are one billion people going to go? That's why the boycott was ridiculous. Also, what people on the outside fail to realize is that FB employees love Zuckerberg. There's no lock, but I'm not betting against him. The government dog and pony show was interrupted by the Pandemic and George Floyd and the delay is only going to make them more powerful and if Biden wins, I bet the anti-trust argument goes away.

chenda
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by chenda »

I never look at Facebook anymore. How the hell it makes money and hasn't gone the way of friends reunited is beyond me.

Jason

Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by Jason »

chenda wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 11:58 am
How the hell it makes money
Estimates vary but, anywhere from one in five to one four ad dollars goes to FB/Google. And more than half of FB's comes from overseas. The man is building an undersea cable to Africa to boost internet access. And they are heavily into AI, whatever that is. It's not what you think it is.

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/14/faceboo ... ccess.html

chenda
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by chenda »

Interesting, I had no idea.

UK-with-kids
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by UK-with-kids »

I fully appreciate how FB makes money. I personally spend many thousands of dollars on FB advertising. It's amazingly targeted, down to sex, age profile, location, income, lots of really specific factors. Their algorithm I assume scans people's private messages and browsing history for a laser focus on the right clients. And you only pay per click based on an auction system. If you set it up right then you basically have a money machine for your small business. Would we stop spending that money if Facebook went out of fashion and the ads didn't work any more? Of course we would. Do all 1 billion users need to migrate overnight for the tide to start turning? No they don't. None of these mega companies have been around for more than a decade or two in an era when the world is changing faster than ever. The idea that things will just carry on as they are and the same businesses will keep getting richer and richer is somewhat lacking in imagination IMHO.

Jason

Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by Jason »

JLF made reference to the fact that we have moved from FANG to The Big 5 and whether this is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. IMHO it's the latter. Yes these companies are only decades old but they don't nearly resemble what they were at their inception and everyday they are different. Covid-19 was a shopping spree for these guys. When someone shows the imagination to eclipse these guys, I'll buy their stock. Of course it will happen, but as of this moment, I don't see anything in the landscape that threatens their dominance or business model which has only expanded during 2020 and has yet to fully realize. And I say again, one billion users. That seems to expand the quantitative bounds of what is designated as "fashion." It's not a hemline we're talking about here. Yeah, the horse and buggy went out of fashion when the car came around, but it was a paradigm for centuries.

bostonimproper
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by bostonimproper »

@JamesR Antitrust urges are always driven by other companies. It's a mechanism for driving overall competitiveness within a sector. But it's always government enforcement (federal executive) that actions on it.

Progressive liberals are generally in favor of antitrust but the Democratic party is meh, especially when it comes to tech. So you'll see more left candidates like Warren and Sander favor regulation of the sector while middle-of-the-road folks are pretty mum. This is a legacy of the Obama administration, which had a revolving door between federal employees and Silicon Valley, from which they attracted talent and to which young would-be lobbyists have flocked. Most notable examples here are Eric Schmidt (former CEO of Google) and Sheryl Sandberg (current COO of FB). In addition, among all the businesses, tech sector is probably one of the most supportive interest groups in favor of Democratic candidates. Layer on the fact that Amazon opened up a new mini-HQ in DC (mostly for the lobbying) and you get some idea of the monied ties between the Dem party and big tech.

(Btw, I say this as someone who is a registered Democrat, a tech worker, and a deep skeptic of the rampant under-regulation in the sector.)

Mister Imperceptible
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by Mister Imperceptible »

Jason wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 2:01 pm
imagination
Loan me billions of dollars at negative real interest rates and then absolve me from paying any taxes and I can build an unbeatable business model too. Your margin will become my opportunity. A state enterprise masquerading as a private one does not really have to compensate investors for the risk of owning equity, all we have to do is mercilessly crush everyone and everything using state power. If Big Tech did not get billions in free money they would be actually forced to compete and there would be less need to regulate them. The repeating theme is that we keep asking the government to solve problems that were created by the government.

Everyone is losing their job so we need to give them UBI so they can buy cheap products on Amazon while Amazon sells at a loss so they can drive more competitors out of business and the newly unemployed people at those former businesses will need more UBI in order to pay for necessities (purchased on Amazon) while the AMZN shareholders can look down on the unemployed UBI recipients as “economic roadkill” and gloat.

Don’t worry, I am sure the pyramid scheme can last forever.

nomadscientist
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Re: Policies to drive antifragility in the tech world?

Post by nomadscientist »

JamesR wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 5:40 am
My question to everyone is:

Are there any good strategies to reduce the human/mob tendency to pile up on a few winners?

Any ideas on how to encourage fat tails in any market?

If it requires government intervention/policy, then what's the minimum that could trigger this change?
I think the government likes the monopolies because they are controllable. There is someone with property that can be targeted, a clear identity and presence, in other words something to lose so they will obey laws and even unofficial instructions that can be threatened to become laws. These people can also be inducted into the social group of the governors which produces more voluntary compliance over time. The decentralised internet is effectively impossible to control.

I think we are heading to a world where Western internet looks much like what a Soviet internet would have looked like, with a One-ID that tracks all user activity tied to a driver's license number, and most traffic being funneled through sites with federal licenses to broadcast (formalised or not, but eventually formalised) and user involvement essentially passive (it will be dressed up to give some feeling of continued user control though and of course users will continue to be allowed to create content for free that providers then sell back to them but only after filtering).

In other words, internet will become more like TV but with more channels (or maybe with fewer channels). For those of us who remember wild West internet of the early 10s let alone 00s and 90s, it's already feeling like that.

Locked