This post has conceivable plausibility. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter, etc., have, arguably become quasi-government ‘like’ entities. It may oblige shifts to new modes of corporate governance, i.e., stewardship, oversight, and management. What’s more, this concept-model of quasi- government status, could, not inconceivably, press these and other similar firms to commence treating their customers, consumers, and ‘friends’ more like citizens! This, argues Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine, http://www.brightidea.com/resources.
Conversations are being initiated about how the platforms, largely designed – intended for mere communication, have transitioned from being relatively innocent ‘telling and/or showing’ devices to (a.) representations of our identity, and (b.) quasi-government (like) entities wholly under private sector ownership and control. Of course, this is a reference to the dominance and intensity which these platforms ala Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter, etc., are influencing behavior, thought, and beliefs both positively and adversely.
Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine, http://www.brightidea.com/resources believes there is a moral obligation to increase the amount of technology in the world, which he (Kelly) translates as creating possibilities and opportunities. And that’s sort of what technology is, Kelly claims. In other words, technologies role is to increase the variety, the diversity, the options, and the possibilities that humans have available. Admittedly, Kelly is somewhat of a maverick in thought and action, noting that in 1952, the year of his birth, was the time the word “technology” first appeared – was uttered in a U.S. State of the Union address.
The word “technology” derives from the ancient Greek word ‘tekhne’ which encompasses ‘art, craft skills, and ingenuity, etc. Kelly defines ‘technology’ broadly, to mean anything that’s produced by – is the product of minds, human or animal, it doesn’t matter. So, in Kelly’s view, when a beaver (animal) builds a dam, that’s technology, not dissimilar to when humans build a dam, either would be technology. Smart phones, for example, are a collaborative product of hundreds of intertwined technologies which Kelly refers to as a system or ‘the technium’. A technium is more than merely the plural of technology, rather, a technium is a (technological) ecosystem, i.e., an ecology with its own and variously unique behaviors which are extensions of an evolutionary process that function within the technium.
Krista Tippet, host, Radio Public, ‘On Being’ https://onbeing.org/ suggests, I think you (Kelly) would describe ‘technologies’ to be comparable to such products as aspirin, cotton clothing, metal pots, and telephones to site a few. That is, in large part because these tangible things are not living things-beings. But, tangibles (physical things) have become integral to our lives and frequently enhance our lives, even though they are, by today’s standards, examples of rather low-tech (tangible) technology outputs.
Kevin Kelly also argues, such low-tech tangibles, quite possibly, have more impact on human lives than their high-tech counterparts. There is another perspective, Kelly suggests, that is, most of the tangible things people produce with and through our minds, are old. On the other hand, we tend to think of technology as most anything invented after we were born, when, in fact, most tangibles were invented before we were born.
This includes institutional things like libraries and not merely things which, if dropped on our toes, we would sense pain, ala the time-honored, but pathetic explanation for the difference between tangible and intangible assets. Again, aspirin, cotton clothing and pots and pans, are, in many respects, as technological as one’s smart phone. But, many humans are not inclined – receptive to recognizing them as such, still, they have, in some ways, far more impact on us than we realize.
There is no argument that the acceleration of global technology which this world has experienced, has irreversibly produced countless changes, perhaps starting with what, when, where, why, and how we do certain things. Again, Kevin Kelly argues technology was originally characterized-perceived as all the things that people did that were useful, but perhaps not necessarily beautiful, nor thought-provoking.
Similarly, Tippett argues, many people are now engaged in another reality, that is, we are obliged to reckon with the moral force which many of these technologies have – are influencing us on so many different levels. Still, we must simultaneously manage our lives while using those technologies. Me, I’m just curious how we will work all that out.
Kelly; technology is, for the most part, complex. Most of us spent four or five years in school in variously challenging practice and study, just to learn how to read and write with reasonable proficiency and understanding. So why should we expect that social media and other technological platforms, etc., can – could – should be learned just by being in proximity to it? But, it appears, in many instances, that’s precisely what’s occurring.
Yes, Ms. Tippet says, it’s challenging for humans to recognize just how new and young most technologies in use today really are, ala the infancy of the internet. Perhaps in part, its because it feels to us, as being so globally powerful, influential, and persuasively addictive. I’m wondering, Tippet asks, if, at some point, humans will look back, 20 or 30 years from now, and recognize how reflexively buying a preteen a smartphone may not be wholly dissimilar to buying that same preteen a lifetime supply of cigarettes, or not requiring the use of seatbelts in automobiles.
Twenty – thirty years ago, humans, for the most part, did not have – hold much practical concept of personal – user safety. That all changed of course. So, Kelly believes, our gravitation, advocacy, and use of social media will change as well, in the future that is. And at some point, humans will look back and ask, we should have handled – addressed those things differently!
The structural, intellectual, and relationship capital routinely spent to refine and redefine technology and it role, influence, and agency, are necessary and evolutional paths for technology.
One thing, Tippet states rather matter-of-factly, is the fairly-rapid evolution taking place, especially in the last few years, i.e., the incredible power, influence, and increasingly consolidated ownership of the digital world by relatively few companies. These companies (e.g., Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) have achieved power and social influence beyond what most political superpowers ever have, particularly, in terms of how many humans they reach – influence hourly and daily.
So, the somewhat supercilious question, ‘what technology wants’ for humans, is intriguing and carries some human agency in terms of the various ways humans globally, will respond to it. Too, there is this current sense that, the technologies which are largely being increasingly woven together, ala what technology wants – needs, i.e., what Steve Jobs wanted and what Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook wants, and Bezos and Amazon prefer humans do next.
Underlying those companies, are personal inclinations and operating philosophies like…
• go fast, go hard, go global, go black, and
• move fast and break things.
In other words, core values of disruption, but, as some believe, it turns out those are at odds, if not competing operating philosophies. Question; is this what humans want? I, for one don’t know, neither do I know, at this-point-in-time, how to begin framing a reasonable response to the question.
For sure, a lot of the new wealth, be it largely in the form of intangible assets, which these mega-companies, i.e., Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are merely the product – outcome of mathematical inevitabilities referred to as ‘network effects’ which is the value of a network’s intangible assets, increases by the square of the number of members, users, and/or friends.
This means there is an exponential increase in (company intangible asset) value for just a geometric increase in the number of members, users, and/or friends. So, integral to the changes technology will be inevitably be experiencing, it is critically important to recognize – reaffirm this universal economic fact…
80+% of most company’s globally, their value, sources of revenue, sustainability, competitiveness, and future growth potential, lie in – emerge directly from intangible (non-physical) assets, not tangible (physical) assets!
It also translates, is interpreted by some, as the effect of the bigger getting even bigger! That’s because the bigger technologically intensive – dependent companies get, the more powerful they become, and the more attractive (addictive, necessary) they become to – for humans relative to accessing the internet, communicating, and conducting (B2B) business.
So, we have these significant network effects occurring, which means that things balloon up and the world experiences a mere few winners which appear to variously impact – influence all else.
To be sure, there will be, as there are today, certain companies (technology intensive-dependent) conglomerates that rise to the top in contexts of competitiveness, horizonal thinking, assessed value, sector domination, and ‘lives touched’ hourly and daily. Perhaps, not-so-good, for the long term, after all, there are those who argue such dominance may-will be short-lived, relatively speaking, until those conglomerate – dominant firms variously experience some level of unraveling. One only need to consider the revisionist strategies Facebook is proposing, undertaking, experiencing now as one potential example.
On the other hand, something which has seldom, if at all, been faced previously, at least in the technology era, is that there are no specific or proven pathways to select what and how to act when companies rise to this scale, ala 2.07+ billion Facebook users today. Just identify for me please, one person who believed (stated) this may be a circumstance that would emerge in 1995? Who rationally predicted Donald J. Trump would be elected President of the U.S. in early November 2017?
Kevin Kelly makes a variously plausible case that Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter, etc., have, in-essence, become quasi-governments, which may oblige one or all to shift to, heretofore, never experienced, new modes of corporate governance. This notion of quasi (corporate) government status could, not inconceivably, press them to variously treat customers, consumers, and ‘friends’ somewhat like citizens!
Again, while it is doubtful any such scenario will come to fruition, it presents many intriguing perspectives, one of which, obviously, is the mere size and influence each facilitates – enables on a global basis.
Too, should the notion of quasi-government status be legitimately pursued, or otherwise be legislatively debated somewhere, one could assume such debate would include obligations of fairness and equitability of access, etc., that platformed companies as these have never dealt with previously.
This notion, as improbable as some may assume it is, is not likely to wholly vanish. Instead, perhaps it may become somewhat of a new normal, so-to-speak. Both, citizen users and the relevant corporations will, no doubt, in-the-not-to-distant-future, find themselves in positions whereby they may turn to collaborative development of certain standards, practices, and expectations for how these technology intensive – dependent entities (platforms) are to function and perhaps even, partially re-purpose.
When any one company, be it headquartered in the U.S., China, or India, executes a platform (public or private) whereby there are multiple billion and growing numbers of users hourly, the realities of governance, i.e., stewardship, oversight, and management, will have various and significant effects on political and legal systems, democracies, and public speech!
It is conceivable some of these company’s CEO’s and boards have anticipated – ‘gamed out’ this or similar scenarios and already put in motion influence to mitigate its reality. My reality is, through my intangible asset lens, most companies, boards, stakeholders, and decision makers are very likely ‘making it up as they go along’.
The outcome, whatever it may be, will require substantial inputs of intangible assets, i.e., intellectual, structural, and relationship capital globally.
The above post was written by Michael D. Moberly, having been substantially modified from Krista Tippet’s ‘On Being’ program that aired on Radio Public on January 18, 2018. Michael D. Moberly January 23, 2018 St. Louis firstname.lastname@example.org
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