I have been asking myself for a while how come the members of the progressive class, i.e. technologists and meritocrats, insist on presenting themselves as role models for the rest of the world, as if their values and life choices were key to their own relevance to people.

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To look for answers, Paul Nizan is a great first step.

A radical French communist thinker born in 1905 who died in 1940 at the Battle of Dunkirk, he explored what he described as the modern alienation of people by the radical petit-bourgeois milieu, writing against what we could call today technologists and meritocrats. …


Tech companies have long been held as a pinnacle of best human resources practices. It’s just not the truth.

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The book “Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead” is supposed to be a best seller, even when it already aims at transforming yourself, instead at only helping you to design a good work experience. Still, it’s mainly a PR operation, with no more link to reality than the Potemkine villages of USSR.

Just remember for example that most tech companies, including Google, signed no-poaching agreements with peer companies not to hire from one another. …


After Take It Easy, it’s the second time in a few weeks that the French Courts recognize that the so-called “freelances” of the gig economy are indeed employees and that they should benefit from the protection of the French .

This time, it’s the Paris Court of Appeal that recognized that a Uber driver could benefit from employment rights.

The important element is what’s called “the subordination relationship”. It means that Uber or Take Eat Easy were able to direct, control, and sanction the workers.

In that way, the workers were not able to develop their own clientele. They could only work through the platform and were dependent on it. …


It won’t regulate itself

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Jimmy Wales answering questions

For a while, regulation was an ugly word when speaking about Big Tech. What for? Innovation was everything.

And social justice was a sure result given the so-called Varian Rule from Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian :

Why regulate? It’s cool. We’ll help rich people, and it will help the poor in the end. The system will self-regulate easily.

What could go wrong?

Indeed technology is not magic. As of today, inequality is higher than ever. And the Varian Rule appears to be a techno-hyped version of the good old Reaganomics textbook from the 80s. …


What will be the consequences of big tech growing moral failures?

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The fablab “La Casemate” after it was destroyed by the group of Grenoble

People don’t throw rocks on the Google buses anymore. Those were the good old times.

On Tuesday, La Casemate, a fablab based in Grenoble was vandalized and burned because it was described as “a notoriously harmful institution by its diffusion of digital culture”.

The public policy of supporting the digital transition was also criticized as

It’s not the first time people turn to violent protests against automation and computers. …


Is this Silicon Valley’s Marie-Antoinette moment?

The New York Times just published an op-ed on how “Silicon Valley Can’t Destroy Democracy Without Our Help”.

Its arguments are simple:

  • , but…
  • ”, but…
  • , but…

So it’s not the technology.

It’s not the CEOs either.

It’s not the speculation-fueled industry.

It’s not the lack of ethics and morals.

It’s not the distrust in democracy and values.

It’s not the attraction towards far-right ideologies.

Not…

… it’s the users.

Yeah. If the Big Tech is destroying our democracies, it’s your fault. …


My friend Francis Jutand was the first to introduce me to the idea of man-machine co-evolution. It’s something that I had already tumbled on during the last few years, most notably through the documentary of Adam Curtis, “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace”, but he was the first to put a name on it.

Contrary to what most tech pundits would love to thing, the digital transformation is not a darwinian thing. We can’t be sure the world we create will be better, or better adapted than the one we leave.

From the beginning — from the first article of Vannevar Bush on “How we may think”, the goal of digital technologies has been the transformation of human beings, not the creation of new technologies. The bond between a man and its machines is much closer to the bond between a patient and a doctor than between a driver and his car. …


… and, good or bad, there might be more to come!

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I have been studying this case since at least 2012 when I was nominated as General Secretary of the French National Digital Council. We even invited them to explain their point of view in front of the Council.

It’s an important landmark decision as it’s the first time that :

  • the Commission recognizes the existence of a search engine market in the EU,
  • the first time they find an internet company as dominant throughout the European Economic Area (EEA), i.e. in all 31 EEA countries.

It’s officially the end of the bad faith argument stating that you can own more than 90% of market shares in a market and still not be considered as being in a dominant position because people have difficulties to identify the market you’re in. …


The ARCEP - the French Telecom Regulator - released its first “State Of The Internet” report, and it fears for Net Neutrality in Europe and elsewhere

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I have been interviewed by the ARCEP, the French Telecom Regulator, on the impact of the increased balkanization of apps and devices on Net Neutrality, or to be more precise, on interoperability and interconnectivity for users.

The problem is simple.

In 2011, Cory Doctorow declared at the Chaos Computer Club:

“The world we live in today is made of computers.”

In 2017, it is only more true. There are computers everywhere, from your pocket to your tv, from your fridge to your book reader.

As he added:

“We don’t have cars anymore; we have computers we ride in. We don’t have airplanes anymore; we have flying Solaris boxes attached to bucketfuls of industrial control systems. A 3D printer is not a device, it’s a peripheral, and it only works connected to a computer. A radio is no longer a crystal: it’s a general-purpose computer, running software.” …


… or the truth behind titles such as “How to function on only 4 hours of sleep”

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The religion of productivity has its limits and one dubious claim is that people should be proud to sleep less. It’s somehow supposed to demonstrate that they are more productive than most. Marissa Mayer likes to repeat that she sleeps 4 to 6 hours a day. And as this one interviewed by Business Insider many young CEOs take her and her peers as an example, and like to repeat that they don’t need much sleep.

But being on a 4h sleep regimen does not come easily.

Here are the steps described by this bright, young and dynamic CEO:

  • cut on TV (more precisely, cut on family…

About

Jean-Baptiste Soufron

A Lawyer in Paris, and a former General Secretary of the French National Digital Council, I work in tech, media, public policy. These opinions are my own.

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