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The Tech Giants Must Be Stopped

Editor’s Note: Bill Nitze, though a friend of TAC, is no conservative. Here, the lawyer and technology entrepreneur implores conservatives to join liberals and others who believe the emergence of huge tech “platform” companies poses a threat to individual liberty and must therefore be curtailed. But he goes further, describing the onslaught of technology that almost surely will transform the human experience. Many conservatives will recoil at some of his solutions, but the challenge is real and must be confronted by all of mankind.

Conservatives constantly combat “big government.” They oppose regulations and other governmental initiatives that erode individual liberty and undermine the “American way of life” through bureaucratic intrusion. This conservative resistance to the growing power of governmental departments and agencies is understandable. But there is a greater threat to individual liberty and autonomy than the one posed by big government. Conservatives should take note and join the fight.

The threat comes from the growing power of leading technology companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. These companies destroy jobs through automation. They manipulate people by using data about their purchasing patterns and other aspects of their lives to maximize sales and profits. They produce social media and virtual reality products that are addictive and adversely affect child development and individual autonomy. They also seem bent on building a virtual economy whose intelligence and other capabilities exceed our own.

 

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These companies already dominate their markets. Google controls nearly 90 percent of search advertising, Facebook almost 80 percent of mobile social traffic, and Amazon about 75 percent of e-book sales. This spectacular success has created unprecedented wealth and established U.S. leadership in the technologies of the future. But recent misuse of their platforms to influence the 2016 U.S. elections and broader concerns over data privacy, control, and revenue sharing have led some to take a more critical view of these big tech companies. John McCain, the Arizona Republican senator, has joined two Democratic senators, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Mark Warner of Virginia, in sponsoring a bill called the Honest Ads Act, which would subject online political advertising to the same rules of disclosure as ads on television, print, and radio.

Meanwhile, legal scholars such as Zephyr Teachout, Lina Khan, and Michael Shapiro have urged Congress to examine the practices of big tech companies in mergers and acquisitions to determine if they violate U.S. antitrust laws. In September Klobuchar, who is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, introduced into the committee a bill called the Merger Enforcement Improvement Act, designed to give antitrust enforcers more information on the effects of mergers.

Modern conservatism generally has regarded bureaucratic expertise and the use of governmental regulation as antithetical to individual liberty and autonomy. Federal regulation underpinned by scientific expertise is at the core of the modern administrative state founded by Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson at the beginning of the last century to check the rising power of railroads and industrial combines—and also to check their financial enablers such as banker J.P. Morgan. FDR’s New Deal further expanded the scope of the administrative state and the role of scientific experts in regulating the economy in response to the Great Depression. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and the environmental laws passed under Richard Nixon continued the process. This great expansion of the state’s economic role was motivated by a desire to protect the public’s interest in greater economic opportunity, better working conditions, a social safety net, public health and safety, protection of nature, and a clean environment.

In the 1970s, Watergate and the scourge of economic “stagflation” eroded public trust in government and triggered a partial rollback of the administrative state. There was the initial deregulation of the transport sector under Jimmy Carter and the rise of neoliberal orthodoxy under Ronald Reagan. Inflation was largely tamed, and economic growth rebounded under Reagan and (following a pause under H. W. Bush) Bill Clinton. This economic success was rewarded at the ballot box. But under the surface of the reigning neoliberal consensus, the loss of manufacturing jobs, increasing income inequality, and the hollowing out of Middle America generated more and more political anger. When combined with a growing perception by non-college educated whites that the country’s elites were collecting all the chips while playing identity politics at their expense, these trends set the stage for the election of Donald Trump and the current crisis of conservatism.

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One frequently overlooked aspect of the federal government’s activities during the period of growing governmental regulation was vigorous enforcement of U.S. antitrust laws. Antitrust enforcement, which enjoyed broad support on both the right and left in the early decades of the 20th century, prevented firms with greater market power from acquiring or driving out of business smaller manufacturers, retailers, service providers, and banks. This was designed to ensure a relatively broad distribution of economic activity outside of big urban centers and preserve a direct connection with, and responsiveness to, the members of the communities served by those local factories and firms. But since the 1970s these local factories and firms have experienced an accelerating decline due to consolidation, technological change, and globalization. This in turn has led to an incalculable loss of social capital. All this has contributed to the sad state of our politics today. More vigorous antitrust enforcement over the last 40 years would not have reversed these trends, but it would have greatly cushioned their impact.

The historical success of antitrust enforcement poses an important lesson for conservatives. The question should not be whether a particular course of action is taken by government or the private sector, but whether that action achieves constitutionally acceptable goals while preserving or even enhancing individual liberty and opportunity. Conservatives are rightly skeptical about giving too much power to government bureaucrats to regulate the private sector without sufficient public accountability or oversight by elected officials. But they should be equally skeptical about the tendency of individuals and businesses with unprecedented market power to pursue their own narrow interests in a manner that frustrates achievement of broader public goals and undermines individual liberty, opportunity, and quality of life. It is the latter risk that Adam Smith had in mind when he railed against the tendency of businessmen to restrict competition and fix prices in The Wealth of Nations (1776) and that stirred F.A. Hayek, in his The Road to Serfdom (1944), to support government regulations protecting human health, safety, and the environment.

What’s needed is a synthesis in thinking that employs antitrust laws in ways that minimize the use of detailed top-down regulations, keep decision making at the lowest practical level of government, maximize the use of economic incentives, and enhance competition to reduce cost and encourage innovation. The aim should be creation of the transparency and public trust needed to reap the huge benefits that information technologies can provide while minimizing their downsides. Before developing such a framework, however, public and private sector stakeholders should understand how the technology giants—particularly Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft—are transforming the U.S. economy and society.

These companies enjoy two advantages that allow them to dominate their markets. First, they are accumulating mega-data about their customers’ lives on a scale that no competitor can possibly match. Every time someone orders a product on Amazon, uses an app on an iPhone, or posts on Facebook, he or she is providing reams of personal data. When aggregated and analyzed through increasingly sophisticated algorithms, these vast stores of information give the company accumulating them the ability to influence our behavior in ways that we may not even be aware of.

Second, the technology companies also use their highly valued stock to acquire smaller companies that have developed competing or complementary technologies—Google’s acquisition of DeepMind, for example, and Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram. Continued growth and the prospect of vast new markets pump up the stock price, which in turn generates the wherewithal for these companies to acquire emerging competitors, thereby perpetuating the cycle.

But these companies’ influence on the U.S. economy goes far beyond dominance of their particular markets. In an article entitled “Managing Our Hub Economy,” Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani write in the September/October 2017 issue of the Harvard Business Review that the digital superpowers are restructuring the U.S. economic landscape into a “hub” economy. They don’t compete in a traditional fashion—seeking to increase market share in a particular industry by improving products or reducing costs. Rather the operators of hub platforms seek to leverage the network-based assets developed in one setting in order to enter other industrial sectors. This seems to be leading us to what they call “a winner-take-all world.”

For example, Google’s Android and related technologies form “competitive bottlenecks” through control over billions of mobile consumers that other product and service providers want to reach. The aim is to transform their competitive structures from being product-driven to being network-driven, expanding the tech giants’ reach and influence far beyond any given industry and into all segments of society. This transformation then enables them to extract network-based rents from other companies across many industries without fear of the kind of competition that normally emerges in traditional industries. Consider, as another example, Amazon’s plan, following its acquisition of Whole Foods, to use what is essentially predatory pricing, underwritten by its vast presence in retailing, to restructure the grocery industry.

This transformation to a “hub” economy is helping to create an intelligence that is external to humans and housed in the virtual economy. In an article in the October 2017 McKinsey Quarterly entitled “Where is Technology Taking the Economy?” W. Brian Arthur writes that digital technologies have created a virtual and autonomous second economy that is housed externally in the virtual economy’s algorithms and machines rather than in human beings. He points out that over the last ten years the combination of intelligent sensors and algorithms has given digital technology the ability to make associations and thereby sense a situation and take appropriate action without human intervention. Technology that prevents vehicle collisions without driver intervention is an example of such a combination.

A further and potentially dangerous step towards a virtual economy is the creation of artificial systems that learn on their own. Last year, researchers at Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Research unit built chatbots that were meant to learn how to negotiate by mimicking human trading and bartering. But when the social network paired two of the chatbots, named Alice and Bob, to trade against each other, they started to learn their own bizarre form of communication. Since the Facebook team assigned no reward for sticking to English, the chatbots quickly developed their own code words for deals. After shutting down the incomprehensible conversation between the bots, Facebook’s researchers declared victory by describing the project as an important step towards “creating chatbots that can reason, converse, and negotiate, all key steps in building a personalized digital assistant.” This episode illustrates the tech industry’s growing “black box” problem with software that increasingly operates in ways that its creators cannot understand or control.

Arthur goes on to conclude that the “re-architecting” of the economy described by Iansiti and Lakhani is creating a virtual and self-sustaining external economy that will require less and less human participation. The resulting increase in “bounty” through increased productivity will lead us to the “Keynes point,” where enough is produced by the economy, both physical and virtual, for all of us. The accompanying decrease in “spread” resulting from a permanent loss of jobs, however, will greatly exacerbate existing wealth and income disparities, absent redistribution—changing who gets what and how they get it. In order to limit the increase in economic and social inequality and attendant stress on our political institutions resulting from this process, the United States will need to induce the big tech companies to (1) open up and diversify the hub by encouraging and supporting the creation of subsidiary networks, (2) give more people the skills and connectivity necessary to find productive work in the hub economy, and (3) to share the wealth.

Opening up and diversifying the hub economy by encouraging the creation of subsidiary networks will require both top-down pressure from government and bottom-up initiatives from the technology companies. The White House, Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, other concerned agencies, and Congress will have to work together to develop new antitrust laws and regulations that create the space for subsidiary networks to emerge without forgoing the benefits of global platforms or discouraging innovation. Measures that might help to achieve this result include requiring the large technology companies to deal with their customers or competitors on the basis of greater equality just as AT&T did with new telecommunications companies after its court-ordered break-up, or oil refiners did with railroads after the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Such measures might even include requiring the technology companies to share proprietary code with customers or competitors.

Also needed is a model contract or set of rules for data sharing that does not discourage data accumulation and analysis, but gives individuals greater control of how, when, and with whom their specific data is shared. Creating such rules will not be easy. It will require a degree of government coercion since the tech companies will not voluntarily share the tremendous rents that they extract from accumulating massive amounts of data with the individuals who are the source of that data. But the protection of individual rights to data must be balanced against the benefits of accessing and analyzing data from large populations in real time. Rules that respect this balance cannot be imposed by fiat from above, but should evolve from an iterative process involving government officials, outside experts, interested members of the public and the companies themselves.

Of course the technology companies should be encouraged to participate with the federal government, state and local governments, colleges, and community groups in shaping those laws and regulations. They should also be incentivized to address the second goal, referred to above, of giving more people the skills and connectivity necessary to find productive work in the hub economy. Specifically they need to invest some of their vast resources in programs to provide new educational and training opportunities for people living in smaller towns and cities and rural areas, many of whom voted for President Trump, and to give them better access to jobs in today’s high-tech economy.

The companies could connect isolated communities and give laptops to all school children, a program adopted in Uruguay with considerable success. They should help fund school efforts in these communities to hire more and better-qualified teachers in math, basic science, and other STEM subjects. They should create hands-on training apprenticeships in partnership with local employers that would prepare people for well-paying jobs near where they live. Finally the big tech companies, working with local governments, community colleges, and other partners, should set up digital employment exchanges on which companies could post job openings with specific requirements for each job and provide opportunities for job seekers to be interviewed online.

Unfortunately, however successful these actions will be in creating jobs and improving quality of life in the immediate time frame, they will not sufficiently address the longer-term challenge posed by AI-related technologies. Many people voted for President Trump not only because they were experiencing downward economic mobility due to the loss of well-paid manufacturing and service jobs, but also because they felt marginalized and devalued by social forces beyond their control—and beyond the control of government. Both of these trends are about to accelerate.

The economic and social anxiety now experienced by members of the lower middle and working classes without college educations will increasingly be felt by lawyers, doctors, accountants, investment advisers, and other educated professionals as artificial systems become more and more capable of performing their professional tasks. It is difficult to predict how many new jobs will be created by new technologies and applications, but it is highly unlikely that they will equal the number of jobs they will destroy, given the rapidly improving capabilities of robots and other non-human systems. One category of employment that will produce millions of new jobs over the next 20 to 30 years—taking care of old people—will shrink eventually as robots become more and more capable of meeting the physical and emotional needs of older people.

This brings us to the third goal: sharing the wealth. What may be needed is a new kind of social contract under which a substantial portion of the wealth generated by robots and other non-human systems is redistributed. One way of achieving this result would be to increase marginal tax rates on high incomes and to redistribute the proceeds. Another, suggested by Microsoft’s Bill Gates, would tax robots in the same way that we tax human workers. Still another is to give members of the public a carried equity interest in the companies owning and operating the robots. Finally, there is the lingering idea (not affordable in the current economic environment) of giving everybody a guaranteed minimum income. Whatever methods are chosen, a substantial portion of the population will need to find something other than paid work in their pursuit of lives with dignity and purpose. Finding solutions to the redistribution challenge that do not undermine human liberty and autonomy may be the greatest intellectual challenge facing conservatism over the next 30 years.

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An even more fundamental looming question is how humans should relate to machines that have capabilities equal to, or even greater than, our own. If we can develop such machines, we will. Humankind has never in the past refrained from developing a technology because of potential dangers posed to the species, and it is unlikely that we will do so in the future. As that time approaches, we will have to choose whether to give the machines the same dignity and status that we give humans or seek to control them as human servants or instruments for our own gratification. The former course will require a degree of self-confidence, openness, and risk that is uncharacteristic of many conservatives, who often seem to define conservatism as rejection of the “other.” The latter course will inevitably lead to a conflict that is unlikely to end well for humans, but it isn’t clear that the former course of openness and tolerance will be requited with machine benignity.

Even if we avoid such a conflict and find a way of living in harmony with machines whose replication and destiny we can no longer control, we will face the challenge of preserving our own dignity and autonomy in the face of non-human entities whose intelligence and capabilities will eventually exceed our current levels. It is important not to exaggerate the capabilities of current information technology. We will need many years of research and development before we understand the incredibly complex and intricate workings of the human brain. But we will get there. Meeting this challenge will require us to be both accepting of continuous and potentially revolutionary change and vigilant in minimizing the risks to individual autonomy and liberty associated with that change.

We can meet that challenge only by co-evolving with technology through enhancement of our own physical and mental capacities. Even with existing technology we can anticipate major improvements in quality and length of life by overcoming many chronic diseases such as cancers and genetic traits such as sickle cell anemia. We are already improving our mental capabilities through greater connectivity with each other and the cloud and are developing therapeutic techniques such as deep brain stimulation based on probes targeted on specific neurons. Improving the internal capabilities of the human brain is not yet feasible and remains controversial, but it probably will become feasible in the not-too-distant future. What’s critical is that, as humans and their creations learn from each other, we co-evolve towards greater appreciation, justice, and wisdom rather than the reverse.

Development of autonomous weapons illustrates the importance of such co-evolution. The U.S. Defense Department has said that it will keep humans “in the loop” in operating unmanned weapons systems such as armed robots or drones for the foreseeable future, particularly with respect to “kill” decisions (we can only hope that other countries and non-state actors will do likewise). As the capabilities of these unmanned systems improve, however, human operators will rely on these systems more and more in making decisions. Thus they may reach a point where they make “better” and less error-prone decisions than their human operators. The trick will be to ensure that both operators and unmanned systems improve their ethical decision-making capabilities in tandem with their technical capabilities.

The above discussion, though necessarily speculative, leads to one firm conclusion. Unprecedented technological change is inevitable. Only by being prepared to take collective action to ensure that its benefits are equitably shared and to curb its misuse can we guide that change in directions favorable to us as individuals and to humanity as a whole. We can start by taking on the platform tech giants that are transforming the global economy.

William A. Nitze is a technology entrepreneur and former EPA official who lives in Washington, D.C.

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20 Comments To "The Tech Giants Must Be Stopped"

#1 Comment By James On April 16, 2018 @ 1:42 am

Much of what is in this piece and its assessment goes far beyond speculation, as the author states, into the territory of hyperbole. Most of the technology discussed is not even remotely capable of what is conveyed here, and a lot of it likely never will be (too complex to get into deeply, but basically, linear logic will never replace human versatility, and all software without exception is based on linear logic), it will be assistive at best in most cases.

Though very impressive computing, ‘AI’ is one of the biggest misnomers of the century, and thus far robots have proven incapable of even harvesting produce. H-1B Visas and outsourcing have hurt employment far more than technology itself over the past decade, and not coincidentally, both are pet causes of Silicon Valley. All of this is available to easily research online. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paying careful attention, but it’s very unlikely that we are on the verge of a techno-apocalypse. I’d be more concerned about irresponsible human beings, frankly, and there are plenty of them in tech.

Not a one of is ‘influenced’ without our consent, we are not inert automatons waiting around to be poked in the grey matter, the notion is sheer arrogance. An exception might be young people that don’t know any better, and I do believe these companies actively at least *attempt* to exploit them. Also, why is our Democracy only ‘broken’ when a non-Democrat has won something?

The one thing that rings true here is that antitrust action and regulation are way past due. These companies do have monopolies and they do abuse them. There should be zero distinction between online and offline privacy, it is a right and a reasonable expectation. We should be able to opt out of 100% of data mining and tracking, either through terms of service or through encryption built directly into every operating system and app on every device, and we should be protected from the parent companies themselves, not just third parties. The author still seems to have drunk a bit of the Kool-aid and implies that data collection is an acceptable but dysfunctionally implemented business model. It isn’t acceptable, not in any way, shape, or form. We create our society, it doesn’t just ‘happen’ to us. If that is the case, then law does need to step in.

There is a level of delusion that seems to infect most people in technology and the Valley these days. They are not entitled to what they steal from us every day or to the exceptions that have been made for them for 20+ years in the name of profit, and if their businesses collapse as a result of being brought to ground, they have no one and nothing to blame but themselves and their own lack of vision and ethics.

#2 Comment By Tancred On April 16, 2018 @ 3:28 am

This is a typical “have our cake and eat it too” article claiming that if we just enact some progressive reforms we will be able to have a transhumanist utopia. Conservatives should not be fooled into thinking reformism can prevent the destruction of humanity and human freedom by the technological system.

Members of the tech sector cannot be trusted to “do the right thing” with regard to technology because they have financial and ideological reasons for promoting unlimited technological growth. Many scientists put their entire personal identity into their work and therefore cannot be trusted to limit their own experimentation. An outside force (most likely the state) needs to step in and place ethical limitations on scientific research and technological development.

Reformist plans such as increasing the number of STEM workers or enacting a basic income guarantee will not fix the economic devastation wrought by automation. Most people do not have the desire or intelligence to work in STEM and even many STEM jobs will likely be automated away in the future.

Basic income contains a host of flaws that I won’t get into here but economist Bill Mitchell discusses why people need work and not just income in order to feel a sense of wellbeing and dignity.

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Human augmentation will be disastrous. The most frightening scenario is a new Social Darwinism where an elite of enhanced humans lords it over the rest of us poor, dumb, ugly proles. These elites may even choose to eliminate the rest of humanity if they grow tired of supporting too many “useless eaters.” Revolt by the masses would be impossible due to the immense power of pitiless robotic armies and mass surveillance wielded by the elite.

Even a progressive eugenics would likely reduce humans to nothing more than products. What is the meaning of free will, sin, love, courage and friendship if we are genetically engineered to all be beautiful, loving, politically correct people who never do anything we aren’t programmed to do? What does accomplishment mean if anyone can be engineered to play basketball or write music just as well as you?

I agree that conservatives have not done enough to criticize technology, most likely because they are afraid to be seen as Luddites or anti-business. But the time has come for conservatives and anyone else who wants to preserve humanity, warts and all, to wake up and smell the coffee.

Unprecedented technological change is not inevitable and humans CAN refrain from developing technology because of potential dangers posed to the species. Government restrictions on certain types of technology can be enacted and have been already, for example bans on human cloning. Also, read Jacques Ellul. The Greeks and Romans likely could have industrialized but they did not believe that all technique was good or necessary. We should follow their example and do the same.

#3 Comment By Dave On April 16, 2018 @ 6:26 am

Liberals didn’t seem to mind the influence of tech/social platforms when Obama used it effectively to influence the younger, more liberal voters who embraced it. These companies have been scraping and using our personal data for years, and only now that liberals feel slighted that their candidate didn’t win do they feel the urgent need to do something about it.

#4 Comment By Dan P On April 16, 2018 @ 8:34 am

As someone who has spent almost 30 years in tech, 15 in government and 15 in the commercial space, I have to agree with this guy.

People have no idea the power of these firms or what those of us who have decision making authority as to how all these new technologies are employed know and are capable of.

I’ve seen the future of unbridled technology and it is frightening and dehumanizing.

We have allowed geeks and greed to drive the direction that technology takes us without stopping to take a moment and contemplate the consequences to our way of life. The technology and those that control it are making these determinations for us because we do not understand its implications and they are out in front of us. It’s time to assert some control. Before that can happen though we a) first need to determine what we want the human experience to be in a technology controlled world b) be willing to insert ourselves into the developmental process and help set direction c) accept the fact that when dealing with these kinds of powers, in government hands or private hands, only a equally powerful force, government, is capable of putting breaks on these things.

It may already be to late to be honest.

Consider this, somewhere on a college campus some 20 something is playing with a new “cool” concept in AI that is unregulated in an open environment that could let that AI loose on the internet. Another is playing with advanced robotics for that AI to employ and yet another is playing with genetic engineering in his dorm room. All of them driving the future. All these 20 somethings so obsessed with achieving the next “cool” thing and without the life experience or judgement to ask if they should.

Nuclear power was a “cool” idea once but we never allowed 20 somethings to play with reactors unsupervised.

#5 Comment By Dan Green On April 16, 2018 @ 10:30 am

We are currently configured to rely on DOJ to break up monopolies . I not sure they have a model to deal with the Tech giants as people voluntarily use those services and even hi tech gadgets these Tech giants provide. Point being you don’t have to.

#6 Comment By Dan Green On April 16, 2018 @ 10:32 am

Not sure the agency we look to to protect consumers has a model to deal with the Tech giants. Consumers willingly use these services and gadgets with enthusiasm.

#7 Comment By Steve Naidamast On April 16, 2018 @ 10:54 am

Though I agree with many of this article’s contentions, there is one factor that is completely missing from the scenario; the ongoing willingness of many people to use such technologies with abandon reducing much of their lives to nothing more than digital interaction.

No one has to use Google as there is DuckDuckGo, which does not track anyone’s personal data and uses the Google search algorithms for its tasks.

Social Media is probably the biggest psychological-con in the modern age that many quickly turn to for just about any form of communication in their lives while exposing critical, personal information on a massive and regular basis. And yet most of these people don’t even blink an eye to think about the consequences of their actions.

Siri, Alexa, and Google Home AI equipment exist to pry into people’s personal lives and send massive amounts of data to their manufacturers and the US National Security Agency among other intelligence agencies. Who do you believe is listening on the other end of these components?

What worth this mindless data provides to security agencies is beyond anyone’s imagination as it can hardly be mined effectively as a number of NSA analysts have already openly admitted. But most people simply do not care.

The use of public WiFi for critical, personal transactions is a major source of hacking individual privacy. However, the banks and other financial institutions keep on promoting such vulnerable processes as perfectly safe to use. And people simply ignore the risks.

Cloud computing is one of the biggest jokes in the technical industries as all they are, are aggregators that centralize critical data from many firms into one large attack surface. And yet companies can’t seem to wait to load up such data into the storage areas of the hosting services that provide such services.

Technology, as anything unique and inventive, always falls to the lowest common denominator in societies which are those who will abuse such creations and those who will blindly follow the herd into using them no matter what the costs because it is all so “cool”.

This leaves one with the biggest problem of all, which is simply Human stupidity. And this trait in the species is literally unlimited in its depth. As a result, no amount of law and\or education will ever stop the venal and the pathetic among us.

#8 Comment By Dr TJ Martin On April 16, 2018 @ 11:14 am

The reason todays ‘ so called ‘ conservatives have until now been unwilling to criticize high tech and the influence /power it has attained since the nineties can be summed up in one single word . Greed . Blatant greed at all cost actually .

And the reason those same ‘ so called ‘ conservatives are now on the warpath against hight tech is just as simple . Quisling sycophancy to a POTUS playing down to the lowest common denominator in order to maintain his base

The Problem is . Despite the fact that hight tech has needed to be reeled in for the last two decades ; Now that the Ayn Rand influenced Hyper verging on Anarcho-Capitalism high tech genie that in truth has been supported and applauded by the greed seeking ‘ so called ‘ conservatives has been let out of the bottle I’m afraid this article and all complaints therein are a case of much too little , far too late .

e.g. The current state of hight tech is the epitome of getting exactly what was asked for … begged for actually both by the greed addled Neoliberal Left and Right .. as well as the general population more concerned with entertainment , theater of convenience and the perception of low cost despite the consequences . re; Aldous Huxley’s ” Brave New World “

#9 Comment By hooly On April 16, 2018 @ 12:49 pm

“…directed technological change …”

a phrase right out of the central planners handbook. Good luck with that, I’m sure your colleagues in the Politburo of the People’s Republic of China would agree with every word of this article.

#10 Comment By EliiteCommInc. On April 16, 2018 @ 12:51 pm

As threats to jobs, distorting markets, and individual liberties of US citizens if Mr. WILLIAM A. NITZE, will join conservatives curtailing the illegal flow of immigrants and the equally damaging practice of hiring foreigners over to circumvent fair wage practices,

If he will push back against the practice of forcing those who disagree on issues such as killing children in the womb, same sex relations, or any number of pretests for employment and legal sanction for said beliefs,

he might have a convincing case for asking for my support.

But there’s no convincing needed on the role of government to ensure fair practices in the business and financial sector, something they woefully have failed at doing, in my view.

So this,

“One frequently overlooked aspect of the federal government’s activities during the period of growing governmental regulation was vigorous enforcement of U.S. antitrust laws. Antitrust enforcement, which enjoyed broad support on both the right and left in the early decades of the 20th century, prevented firms with greater market power from acquiring or driving out of business smaller manufacturers, retailers, service providers, and banks.”

goes without saying.

capitalism with fair play and honest dealings is not capitalism.

#11 Comment By EliiteCommInc. On April 16, 2018 @ 12:52 pm

correction: “capitalism without fair play and honest dealings is not capitalism.”

#12 Comment By polistra On April 16, 2018 @ 2:23 pm

There’s no point in saying that “We The People” must “Hold Government To Account”, unless you specify realistically and concretely HOW this is going to happen. When all of the regulators and legislators are owned by the monopolists, “We The People” is a totally meaningless concept. And when services like Google and Facebook are paid by the advertisers, we don’t even have the power of boycott.

#13 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 16, 2018 @ 2:38 pm

The AMerican Way is the Technological Imperative: that what can be done, will be done. Throw in the peculiar American provincialism that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.

Once the atomic bomb was developed, there was no question but that it would be used. Its very existence was the command for its use that no American would think to stop.

It’s the foolish assumption that everything that is invented or discovered, represent progress only if deployed.

#14 Comment By Westcoastdeplorable On April 16, 2018 @ 5:27 pm

A good example of tech being beyond its limits is the invent of the autonomous vehicle. We the sheeple weren’t given the opportunity to vote on this. Just because tech is close to being able to accomplish this doesn’t mean it should be adopted. It is being pushed on us without our consent are were we to put it to a vote I’ll bet it would be a big fat NO!

#15 Comment By Andrew B Brown On April 17, 2018 @ 1:18 am

Here is evidence they allow their browsers to be hacked. This could win a lawsuit:

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#16 Comment By Andrew B Brown On April 17, 2018 @ 1:19 am

We need a Texas Technology Commission to regulate IT:
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#17 Comment By Howard Owens On April 17, 2018 @ 6:18 am

I’ve long seen a fundamental contradiction in proclaiming the value of individual liberty and recognizing big government as a threat to personal freedom while supporting in mitigated big business. Big corporations are every bit as soul crushing and opportunity stifling for individual Americans as big government.

#18 Comment By Patricus On April 17, 2018 @ 1:22 pm

One feature of massive private companies is that almost all of them eventually implode and are replaced by other go getters. Government agencies are eternal and any temporary usefulness soon evaporates. But the agencies go on like the walking dead and stifle innovation. There are no super wise government scientists who can effectively manage the billions of daily human transactions.

I don’t like Facebook and so I never log on. I can’t disregard the EPA. Google might dominate online advertising but it provides a useful search engine free. I don’t have to buy the advertised products. I can avoid Google when I wish. They can’t control my life unless I willingly participate. I can decline to fly United, or bypass Starbucks, because of their social justice policies. There are plenty of competitors. What influence can I have with administrative agencies?

#19 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 17, 2018 @ 4:45 pm

” I can avoid Google when I wish. They can’t control my life unless I willingly participate.”

Any company that uses your ID information in any way to make a profit is not offering anything for free.

The force that these companies use to make claims of ownership of websites and web-companies warrants investigation — and push-back. Their claim that whatever is on the net is fair use — violates private ownership.

The only social media I belong to are those such as these – in which discussion and exchange occurs. And I am suspect of even these. Including the argument that my posts are now the property of the site. Since when is free thought expression the property of the page. A lot of internet rules have been made quite arbitrarily and the bigger the company — the more arbitrary the codes.

No every user of the cells of Henrietta Lacks, for any level of profit must pay a percentage for the value attributed to her biology.

#20 Comment By Edgeworth On April 19, 2018 @ 12:35 pm

While we’re at it, lets apply antitrust law to federal, state, and local government.