Tech reading list. Looking at the dark side of innovation.
Last week I did not write one. A case of life getting in the way. So hopefully I can make up for it this week by providing some interesting articles you may have missed.
A not uncommon view is that authoritarian regimes especially those that crush dissent and free speech are difficult environments to foster innovation. Scary, but what if a state could be just that and innovate. This article from The Diplomat ‘Chinese Internet Law: What the West Doesn’t See’ (Jan Fell, 18/10/17) examines how strict Chinese internet laws incubates their own companies from foreign competition. What is left does not stagnate but innovates.
Following the concept of cultural security, “innovation security” (創新安全) refers to the “protection of an environment in which society is able to make the required intellectual efforts to achieve substantial innovation and in parallel a national economy that is able to sustain commercial applications of such innovation from erosion and destruction by internal and external hostile forces.” This concept finds its practical expression in the rise of Alibaba, Tencent (QQ, WeChat), Youku Tudou, and other successful Chinese platforms.
The darkside of innovation. I promise the next article has not been written by a writer paying homage to Philip K. Dick. This article from Wired which I spotted thanks to Calvin Dudek is you guide to China’s plans to rate its citizens ‘Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens: The Chinese government plans to launch its Social Credit System in 2020. The aim? To judge the trustworthiness – or otherwise – of its 1.3 billion residents’ (Rachel Botsman, 21/10/17). After reading it my immediate thought was this; government control of the internet, no thanks. Within the article are questions for us living in the West who may balk at China’s plans.
It is still too early to know how a culture of constant monitoring plus rating will turn out. What will happen when these systems, charting the social, moral and financial history of an entire population, come into full force? How much further will privacy and freedom of speech (long under siege in China) be eroded? Who will decide which way the system goes? These are questions we all need to consider, and soon. Today China, tomorrow a place near you. The real questions about the future of trust are not technological or economic; they are ethical.
As a fan of the TV series Halt and Catch Fire I was sad to see it end after four series. Following the characters from the mainframe days of Texas through to Silicon Valley this drama charts the key developments in tech history from the 1980’s to to the start of the century. These characters identify the coming trends but others beat them to it. In some ways they are the tech that lost out to the big corporations. But you know what, as the episodes ticked down it was’t about the tech but about the people whose lives it brought together. The idea was the drug but putting that idea into practice was where the heartache came in. This Wired article captures what was so special about the series ‘Halt and Catch Fire’s most radical message wasn’t about computers’ (Laura Hudson, 17/10/17)
The characters in Halt and Catch Fire having broke free from the wreckage that was Cardiff Electronics would recognise much of what is in this next article. Say the word startup and for me it says; freedom, hard work, reward, failure, try again and get taken over by Facebook. Start ups bring new ideas to the market but these are being recuperated by the big tech firms. This Guardian article asks ‘As tech companies get richer, is it ‘game over’ for startups? (Olivia Solon, 20/10/17)
Finishing, not with a film but a filmmaker, Mark Cousins. His new book The Story of Looking is timely. He examines the history of looking; at art, nature, other people but now we look at screens. Even more interesting will be how we look when what what we are looking at has been augmented (Augmented Reality) and looking when we are in Virtual Reality. Here he is talking and looking at a Virtual Futures Salon talk with Luke Robert Mason
Have a great tech week.