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[liberationtech] Beware of Geeks Bearing Grifts « The Berkeley Blog

judie at judie at
Fri Sep 19 05:32:00 PDT 2014

Professor Rocklin, kudos to you for expressing what many of us, in the  
silent majority, are thinking, feeling, and fearing. I'm afraid that I  
too have drunk the Kool-Aid and am hell bent on trying to come up with  
the next best thing, not for disruption purposes, but to order survive  
and have something to fall back on, should our social safety net fall  
below subsistance levels. For I too am jobless and at my age, together  
with the place where I reside, have no hope of finding a job, unless I  
create one for myself.

Based on my reading of the tea leaves, the folks who are participating  
in the collaborative economy -- myself personally, I haven't been  
forced to stoop that low, but I admit, there are times when I have  
been tempted -- do so, out of desperation. In the short term, they are  
so busy trying to monetize everything they own in order to compensate  
for jobs lost or reduced incomes, they are not thinking long term,  
i.e., what is going to be left to pay your bills, when there is  
nothing left to sell. And it appears that the users of these services  
are similarly looking to make a quick (read: convenient) buck, by  
saving one. Entrepreneurs, through no fault of their own, are being  
forced to look for new ways to exploit their user base because that is  
what they need to do if they want to satisfy the suits on Wall Street.  
And round and round it goes as we circle the drain.

Most of us are so caught up in the present that we fail to consider  
unintended consequence or what kind of future we're in the process of  

At some point we have to individually and collectively decide what is  
important to us as a society. Every day I read the news, I am appalled  
at the general level of dysfunction, disintegration and  
dissatisfaction that prevails. This is why I so appreciated your blog  
post, it has made me stop and think. I trust there are many more out  
there, just like me, feeling the same way after reading your post and  
are ready to take a stand. Speaking out in a public forum is not my  
usual modus operandi, I much prefer to lurk, read what others are  
advocating and come to my own private conclusions but I think the time  
has come that more and more of us need to stand up and be counted.  
Thank you sir for giving me this opporunity.


Quoting Yosem Companys <companys at>:

> Beware of Geeks Bearing Grifts
> by Gene Rochlin, professor emeritus, Energy & Resources Group, UC
> Berkeley | 9/18/14
> It seems as if the news media have become a wholly owned subsidiary of
> the internet technology complex (ITC) these days. No matter which
> seemingly outrageous new product or system is being put forth, it will
> become ‘news’ in print and online, unpaid advertising that assumes
> that all of us have little else to do but sit here and salivate over
> the next great new development, however futuristic and socially
> disruptive it is.
> Do I exaggerate? Over the past few days, Apple’s latest
> products/development/ideas have gotten almost as much media space as
> Ukraine or Ebola (although somewhat less than ISIS). And to a close
> reader of hype, what, exactly, is being promoted? The ‘new’ iPhone,
> which is somewhat larger than the original iPhone (among whose
> attractions was its small size)? The one you bought last year is now
> so five minutes ago. The miraculous web watch, for those with very
> tiny fingers and the 20-20 eyesight of youth who don’t mind their
> health as well as their location being monitored? The Apple Pay
> system, which will let you trade your money and credits from your
> account with those from someone else’s without their consent? Or, in
> conjunction with the others in the ITC, the Cloud, which provides a
> neat single warehouse for data theft? Not so widely noted is Apple’s
> dropping its promotion of the iPod, the small appliance that started
> it all, and which now seems to have been developed in order to do a
> bait-and-switch to the iPhone.
> For those of us of a certain age, who disdain the label of ‘Luddite’
> but still see no particular personal advantage to joining Facebook or
> Twitter, who prefer to protect our privacy and identity as much as
> possible, and who believe that there is no such thing as a perfectly
> secure internet site (although we hope some of our banks and all of
> our military sites are more secure than Home Depot), the notion that
> Apple Pay will make credit card payments obsolete is absolutely
> horrid. One after the other, these newly promoted ‘capabilities’ will
> not only stimulate sales, but will also ensure that the market never
> saturates.
> And one more thing. Many of these new capabilities introduce new
> insecurities, new modes of spam, new avenues for thefts of data and of
> value ranging from credits to cash, and new possibilities for
> blackmail, exposing us to a whole new generation of Internet grifters.
> Several common threads connect these ‘modernizing’ ideas, ranging from
> planes without cockpits and cars without drivers to ApplePay (or its
> equivalent). One is that they are always put forth in the spirit of
> idealistic innovations for the benefit of everyone. Less publicly
> mentioned is the admission that without continual innovation there is
> no hope of continual (and sometimes outrageous) profits. They assume
> that however impractical their widespread use may be within our
> present social formations, societies will simply adapt and reform
> themselves in the face of technological pressure. The social costs, of
> course, are never mentioned, let alone taken into account. That there
> are so few challenges reflects the degree to which the early successes
> of the computer industry, ranging from home PCs to LANs to the
> Internet, have softened up consumer resistance. Each new model, or
> innovation, can then be easily and widely promoted, even cheered, with
> complaints and interference only from a group who the industry can tag
> as backward outsiders.
> It is interesting to note that this is often expressed as the triumph
> of individuals over institutions, wrapped in a mantle of progress and
> development. Some of it, admittedly, does promote efficiency and
> social progress. But not all, and not everywhere. The creation of new
> social and political risks without forethought is already stirring
> demands for institutional control, a genuinely unfunded mandate. There
> is also a redistribution of wealth and privilege, instantiated by
> rapid obsolescence. More seriously, what I see being actively promoted
> is the triumph of libertarianism over social coherence, the creation
> of new social and political risks without giving them serious
> analysis. Many of the newer developments being promised also have no
> real benefits to the growing cadre of older folks, particularly those
> without the education and technical skills to keep up, while
> increasing their vulnerabilities in ways they cannot deal with as
> individuals. Their interests are not only marginalized, but as far as
> the press is concerned they are not important. No one is speaking up
> for them effectively. Some of us should try.
> Added note: Michael Cabanatuan reports on SFGate on Sept. 16 that
> because the use of services such as Uber and Lyft have cut deeply into
> San Francisco taxi rides in the past few months, the number of regular
> taxis on the street has sharply declined, nowhere more steeply than in
> wheelchair-accessible ramp taxis. He further reports that because ride
> services are not required to pick up people in wheelchairs, municipal
> authorities are considering stepping in. And so it goes.
> --
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