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Showing posts from March, 2020

Glimmer of (Gray) Hope

Three club owners have a meeting with the local press in the Norwegian town of Fredrikstad, airing their brewing troubles to an eager journalist. The year is 2009 and two things have collided with each other that changed the behavior of their clientele: The aftershock of the 2008 economic crisis and a change in local alcohol serving hours.



When nightclub-goers still have the need to keep the party going but have less money in their pockets and the clubs can’t stay open as long as they used to, there’s a unique pocket in the market for someone that can offer alternatives. Someone who doesn’t care about state-mandated opening hours and deal in smuggled booze: The illegal nightclubs.

That was the topic of discussion the three club-owners had with the press,[1] those pesky competitors not playing by the rules. It’s almost impossible to compete when you are handcuffed to regulations and everything you sell has an automatic 25% extra costs attached to it straight out of the gate (and that …

Technological Agorism Part III: AI & the Agora

There are two types of artificial intelligence: the rules-based, & the neural network-based approach. To illustrate the differences, I'll borrow an example from AI blogger Janelle Shane's book, You Look Like A Thing & I Love You, & pretend we're training an AI to recognize dogs.



Using a rules-based approach, we’d create parameters which the AI would then use to determine whether or not the thing it’s looking at, is in fact a dog. Our rules would include things like “must have four legs” & “must have tail,” etc. When all of our conditions have been satisfied, the AI will recognize a dog.

With a neural network-based approach, we show the AI images of dogs & it learns to recognize patterns. The more pictures of dogs we show it, the more accurate the AI becomes. Nowadays, this is usually the preferred approach & will be the subject of this article.

The interesting thing about the neural-network approach to AI - as we’ve already noted, is its reliance …

Technological Agorism Part II: Infrastructure Disintermediation

If knowledge is power, then those with data are King.

In this context, it’s easy to understand why Columbia University professor Alexis Wichowski has coined the term “net-state.” As she writes in this Wired article, “Net-states are digital, non-state actors without the violence.”

Ahh, music to the agorist’s ear…




The superpowers of net-states; tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook & similar firms, have become so powerful that they're beginning to out-compete governments in the provision of basic infrastructure, from power grids to telecommunications & public transportation. Indeed, it should come as no surprise that governments, being incapable of efficiently providing the most basic infrastructure, roads - will be poorly equipped to compete in the fast-paced, high-tech, digital age. This high-level disintermediation strikes at the very heart of the state. It deprives them of their bread & butter, so to speak.




Importantly, it also indicates that we’re …

Technological Agorism I: Digital Feudalism

We live in the age of digital feudalism.

In earlier times, peasants saw their productive capital rerouted to their feudal lords. Likewise, we modern serfs see the monetary value of our digital presence being rerouted to big tech CEOs. And just as medieval lords used this capital to maintain their elaborate manors & their status in the nobility (thru kickbacks to the monarch), these modern day lords do precisely the same. The advent of tokenization promises to change this.



Big tech has profited enormously from the digital peasantry in two ways. 
They earn money based on the popularity of user-generated content. In other words, we use FB, Twitter, & IG to view content posted not by these companies, but by the individuals who use their platforms. Big tech collects & monetizes our personal data & has been doing so for quite some time. Own Your Content The tokenization of digital content has already started the process of disrupting legacy business models. Seeing as the fir…