The web surges with an endless tsunami of data from our digital devices, increasingly taking many forms. This information is provided freely from personal activity measured by these ubiquitous devices, with tacit agreement to, overtime, improve services. Behind the scenes, data is repackaged and sold to advertisers and given freely to intelligence agencies, naturally, to modify behavior to serve the platform, and ultimately elite interests first, and users, second.
Cyberspace is no longer considered the wide open and adventurous wild west, with collective imagination and aspiration abated, straddled by problematic traditions and ways of being, using private platforms for public discussion, in one way or another, concerning ethics and politics, the dictates or control machinery of our lives, funneled to just a handful of massive platforms. There have been proposals for counter-platform measures, hackathons to have generated alternatives, many under the banner of platform cooperativism, yet these providers remain a novelty.
The U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in to address further gravitational or monopoly practices of the likes of Google and Facebook. By means of antitrust law, anticipated outcomes at best will break up these companies into smaller entities, a mere exercise in seeming to do something about the problem, playing on a desire for progress while keeping things the same. At least this signals a challenge to big tech in some form; and this process can lay the groundwork to pry open and shed much needed light on these enterprises and life altering processes.
Much more must be done facing corporate monopoly, starting with the most data enriched operations currently on the chopping block. These large online platforms, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, to name a few, must be taken over by governments, open sourced, rendering free services where possible, through a transparent over-and-under arching international framework.
Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’ political project, DiEM25, seems best poised to incorporate such a proposal series into its framework for a unified and post-capitalist European and global order. Decision making software such as Loomio can expand to enable the acquisition of knowledge, land, materials, logistics, and so on, using standardized design models to enable and promote adoption of its platform, with the use of 3D imagery and other media to surface mirror worlds or “Google Street Views” of every known place and artifact, starting with metaveillance of operations for data extraction, allowing a user to know exactly where information flows go and how they are used.
In a rapidly automated world, perpetuating a hollowing shell of blue and white collar work, a universal basic income will become a part of a package transforming capital, bit by bit, into common ownership. This will enable people to begin to heal from the abuses of debt peonage and labor servitude, having more time to better care for themselves, family, friends, with the reconstitution and rebuilding of community, fostering what has been lying fallow under the permafrost of market mechanisms for so long. This is what David Graeber called base-line communism, when more fully realised, will turn our personal obligations, liberated from wage slavery, into exciting ongoing realms of care and exploration.
The crude service providing mechanism of money will transform into something moneyless, governments and businesses will be one and the same, no longer separate entities, and in rapid succession, simply transparent operations, with notions such as business and government losing all meaning as the institutions themselves “phase transition” into essential required processes. Decisions will be made, democratically, without any need for the ballot box, based on sentiment, with legislation written and designs produced by a bundle of algorithms that work to better inform the nature of that sentiment, addressing life structures themselves. Or, as the title of the poem by Richard Brautigan places it: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.
The dire mood and poverty of imagination today reacts to Brautigan’s overly optimistic poem with a dystopian knee jerk, however, if enough of us come together to transform through integration of all the world’s processes under one platform, in an individually and communally considerate free and open source manner, machines (no longer fought as separate from ourselves) will truly care for each one of us and the environment all life within it depends. To go from the present trajectories of doom, or malaise of an uninspired worldview, perhaps enlivened by aspects of the post-pandemic vaccination frenzy, will catalyze an atmosphere of brighter possibilities for an online platform to come, ensuring the triumph and expansion of coherent thought and compassion. The major challenge before us is this: to continuously propagate in all forms to accelerate such a re-enlightening manifestation.