This article is currently being written (16 March 2020)
Regulation is needed to curtail aggregators, but it does not address our need for external offer processing to overcome the scarcity of our attention. This means that we will continue to use aggregators even with regulation (and in spite of scandal after scandal). The only solution is to provide an alternative (and superior) form of external offer processing (offerbots).
Breaking up aggregators
Breaking up aggregators (e.g. forcing Google to divest themselves of YouTube) may have some minor privacy benefits but is largely pointless for solving the problem (as the individual aggregators will continue exactly as they did before).
Creating decentralized apps which simply imitate the behavior of particular aggregators (on our own devices) is not the solution.
- it removes the heuristic of ‘whoever pays the aggregator the most’ but retains the heuristic which captures attention (popularity, engagement, etc.).
- without diversity in algorithms, the removal of advertising (as a second heuristic) is a loss of opportunity for vendors, and
- users have no incentive to switch.
Offerbots need to be general purpose offer processing machines – any offer, any algorithm.
I currently use and recommend the DuckDuckGo search engine to people because a) it doesn’t track you and b) it’s not Google. That said, it’s following the same business model as Google (ads at the top of search) and is therefore distorting markets in the same way that Google does. It’s also centralized and using a single algorithm for search (as Google does) which distorts our information. It is, therefore, not the solution to our problem.
Distributed replacements for aggregators
The blockchain and offerbots are complementary technologies.
Offerbots help people to decide which offers to consider and accept (but not necessarily to execute them).
Blockchains help people to execute the offers they have already decided to accept (by making payments, entering into contracts, executing agreements, etc.) but are not useful for making and receiving offers at the scale needed to support our economy, society and information.
The semantic web
Offerbots will use linked data (the semantic web by another name) but the existence of semantic web technologies will not, in and of itself, cause the solution to emerge. Put another way, the solution isn’t a set of standards – it’s a set of applications (offerbots).
The solution to market failures (such as aggregators’ marketplaces) isn’t no markets, it’s real markets.
A market is simply a set of choices. If you like having choice, you like markets.
There is no ideological system which:
- allows a central government to determine what’s best for each and every person to produce and receive, and
- removes the greed from each of those people.
Markets disseminate information.
We need to buy different things from different people. Not all buy the same thing through the same aggregators (which will use the same vendors and take the opportunity away).
The free market hasn’t failed (we’ve never had a free market, we’ve only had marketplaces run by techno-kleptocrats).
Yes, there’s plenty of market failures around (e.g. big business corrupting government). Fix the market failures.
Note that socialism has two meanings (the soft version is ‘the government should give me more stuff’)
Markets are sets of choices. Markets are freedom. Innovation.
Price system. Distribution of knowledge.
Aggregators must notice markets and build a tool to aggregate them.
Socialists must notice markets and the problems with supply in those markets.
Equality of outcome – no one taking risk or effort to do more.
Imagine building a business – when should the government or your employees be able to take it from you?
Healthcare – monopoly from restricting supply. Value is 99% of your future income.
Being connected to the internet would suck (I’m talking to you, Larry Page – ‘wouldn’t it be great to be connected to the internet?’ – you want to talk in TCP/IP?).
Either hidden processing – distorting your preferences (Ray Kurzweil, computers in your bloodsteam)
Neuralink nonsense (either it’s glorified typing or it’s something much, much scarier – modification of your thinking, your mental processing, etc.).