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Impetus: why we need progressive technology policy (problems and challenges)

17 Jul 2017 07:00

  1. The business model of mainstream technology today is incompatible with democracy.

    As mentioned in the introduction, the business model of mainstream technology today (the Silicon Valley Model) is people farming. This is a business model steeped in corporate surveillance. The greater socio-techno-economical system under which these corporations operate is called Surveillance Capitalism (Soshana Zuboff, Harvard Business School). Surveillance Capitalism relies on centralised technologies to create a feedback loop between accrual of information (surveillance) and accrual of wealth (capitalism). Surveillance Capitalism is not compatible with democracy but rather represents a corporatocracy (rule by corporations).

  2. Corporate surveillance and government surveillance are intimately interrelated.

    Firms like Cambridge Analytica buy data from data brokers, and combine it with data from people farmers like Facebook as well as data they collect themselves to influence the outcome of democratic elections [https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy]. Once people farms accrue mass datasets on the people, it is easy for Government agencies like the NSA and GCHQ to gain access to this insight. In the UK, for example, the IP Act (2016) gives the UK government the right to have backdoor access to all communication technologies.

  3. We cannot build a democratic Europe without democratic technology.

    In the words of Audre Lorde, ‘the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’.

    Silicon Valley’s undemocratic, privately-owned, centralised, corporate-controlled (neoliberal) technological infrastructure will never dismantle the undemocratic, privately-owned, centralised, corporate-controlled (neoliberal) social infrastructure of the EU or aid us in fostering the democratic alternatives. Just as centralised technological infrastructure supports centralised social structures, so too must we incentivise decentralised technological infrastructure to support our decentralised social structures. This must occur within the greater social goal of a Europe that shifts its focus from how best to exploit consumers in a single market to one concerned about protecting the rights and welfare of citizens in a democracy.

  4. We lack an effective counter-narrative to the Silicon Valley narrative.

    Silicon Valley has a clear and focused narrative:

    1. The only way to do technology is the way we do technology (venture capital subsidised, “start-up”-based, centralised platform monopolies based on tracking, storing, analysing, simulating, exploiting/monetising people)
    2. Europe must “get with the plan” and do technology our way. If it doesn’t it means you’re luddites and you’re against innovation and job creation.
    3. What we offer is (a) ready to use today (b) works (c) can bring huge financial success (to a small group of people)
    4. We are willing to invest in creating an ecosystem that allows us to do things our way in Europe (e.g., Google Ventures setting aside $100M to invest in startups across Europe, etc. https://techcrunch.com/2015/12/07/googl ... -strategy/
    Silicon Valley tells us (and policymakers, politicians, and the public at large), that there is no alternative (TINA).

    Today, for the most part, they are correct. We do not currently have a coherent progressive counter narrative to Silicon Valley and nor we do we have any systemic means of funding and creating alternative decentralised and commons-based technology infrastruture here in Europe.

    However, it is time to introduce Silicon Valley’s TINA to our TATIANA with the DiEM25 technology pillar and prove that astonishingly, there is an alternative.

    It is time to practice constructive disobedience in the best possible way: by going beyond mere criticism of the Silicon Valley model and surveillance capitalism to offer a clear and simple – proactive – and compelling counter narrative. This is a progressive and pragmatic vision of democratic technology for a democratic tomorrow, starting here in Europe with the funding and creation of a commons-based, decentralised, free and open, interoperable technology infrastructure and a healthy economy built on top of this ethical core.

    In other words, it is time for an Internet of People.