You Will Stop Selling People as Products

There’s an internet beyond big tech.

By Aral Balkan

Melvin Kranzberg’s first law of technology states that it “is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.” Technology is simply a multiplier. It doesn’t care what it multiplies. You feed it bullshit, you’ll get orders of magnitude bullshit back. You feed it meaning, it will multiply that instead. The problem is that we’ve been doing far too much of the former and not nearly enough of the latter.

We’re obsessed with Silicon Valley and its greedy and myopic venture capital–fuelled business of selling people as products. This is a business that aims to create centralized repositories of all-encompassing knowledge about us and about the world around us. A camera panopticon, if you will. It is a business that is toxic for our human rights and for the future of democracy.

Edward Snowden’s revelations last year revealed not just the existence of dragnet government surveillance, but also the extent to which Silicon Valley’s business of corporate surveillance — Spyware 2.0 — enabled it. Snowden inspired many people, myself included, to take action.

Today, many of us are working to create independent alternatives to the spyware monopolies of Silicon Valley. This gives me hope.

The problem is not a complicated one, and neither is the solution: You should be able to share the things that matter to you with the people you care about without also having to share them with a total stranger, as happens on Google or Facebook. I’m optimistic that we’ll see the first viable alternatives that let regular people do this in 2015.

Aral Balkan is the designer and founder of Ind.ie.