“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face. At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only thirteen people. Where did all those jobs disappear to? And what happened to the wealth that those middle-class jobs created? This book is built to answer questions like these, which will only become more common as digital networking hollows out every industry, from media to medicine to manufacturing.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier just to treat the information space as a public resource and tax or charge companies somehow for the benefit of using it?”
“Distributions can only be based on measurements, but as in the case of measuring intelligence, the nature of measurement is often complicated and troubled by ambiguities. Consider the problem of noise, or what is known as luck in human affairs. Since the rise of the new digital economy, around the turn of the century, there has been a distinct heightening of obsessions with contests like American Idol, or other rituals in which an anointed individual will suddenly become rich and famous. When it comes to winner-take-all contests, onlookers are inevitably fascinated by the role of luck. Yes, the winner of a singing contest is good enough to be the winner, but even the slightest flickering of fate might have changed circumstances to make someone else the winner. Maybe a different shade of makeup would have turned the tables. And yet the rewards of winning and losing are vastly different. While some critics might have aesthetic or ethical objections to winner-take-all outcomes, a mathematical problem with them is that noise is amplified. Therefore, if a societal system depends too much on winner-take-all contests, then the acuity of that system will suffer. It will become less reality-based.”
“It is exactly when others insist that it’s a sign of being free, fresh, and radical to do what everybody’s doing that you might want to take notice and think for yourself. Don’t be surprised if this is really hard to do.”
“With an eBook, however, you are not a first-class commercial citizen. Instead, you have only purchased tenuous rights within someone else’s company store. You cannot resell, nor can you do anything else to treat your purchase as an investment.”
“We must learn to see the full picture, and not just the treats before our eyes. Our trendy gadgets, such as smartphones and tablets, have given us new access to the world. We regularly communicate with people we would never even have been aware of before the networked age. We can find information about almost anything at any time. But we have learned how much our gadgets and out idealistically motivated digital networks are being used to spy on us by ultrapowerful, remote organizations. We are being dissected more than we dissect.”
“Don’t worry: It’s not excessively expensive or a threat to the efficiency of the Internet to keep track of where information came from. It will actually make the Internet faster and more efficient.”
“The salespeople trumpet their system’s ability to minutely model and target consumers as if they were Taliban in the crosshairs of a military drone. And yet, the same service, when it must simply detect if a user is underage, will turn out to be unable to counter the deceptions of children.”
“Networks need a great number of people to participate in them to generate significant value. But when they do, only a small number of people get paid. That has the net effect of centralizing wealth and limiting overall economic growth.”
“Ideally, earning full-on wealth, not just cash, will become more like what spending is like already. There will be a multitude of incremental wealth creation events instead of a few big game-changing leaps in one’s status.”
“A market economy cannot thrive absent the well-being of average people, even in a gilded age.”
“If someone reuses your video snippet, and that person’s work incorporating yours is reused by yet a third party, you still get a micropayment from that third party.”
“Unfortunately, by forcing more and more value off the books as the world economy turns into an information economy, the ideal of “free” information could erode economic interdependencies between nations.”
“At the end of the day, even the magic of machine translation is like Facebook, a way of taking free contributions from people and regurgitating them as bait for advertisers or others who hope to take advantage of being close to a top server.”
“In a more incremental world, attributions and rewards will still be contested, no doubt, but particular outcomes will no longer make or break lives.”
“A Nelsonian solution provides a simple, predictable way to share without limit or hassle over digital networks, and yet doesn’t destroy middle classes in the long term.”
“Siren Servers are narcissists; blind to where value comes from, including the web of global interdependence that is at the core of their own value.”
“Here is yet another statement of the core idea of this book, that data concerning people is best thought of as people in disguise, and they’re usually up to something.”
“one might ask why big business data is still so often used on faith, even after it has failed spectacularly. The answer is of course that big business data happens to facilitate superquick and vast near-term accumulations of wealth and influence.”
“The reason [James Clerk] Maxwell's Demon cannot exist is that it does take resources to perform an act of discrimination. We imagine computation is free, but it never is. The very act of choosing which particle is cold or hot itself becomes an energy drain and a source of waste heat. The principle is also known as "no free lunch."
We do our best to implement Maxwell's Demon whenever we manipulate reality with our technologies, but we can never do so perfectly; we certainly can't get ahead of the game, which is known as entropy. All the air conditioners in a city emit heat that makes the city hotter overall. While you can implement what seems to be a Maxwell's Demon if you don't look too far or too closely, in the big picture you always lose more than you gain.
Every bit in a computer is a wannabe Maxwell's Demon, separating the state of "one" from the state of "zero" for a while, at a cost. A computer on a network can also act like a wannabe demon if it tries to sort data from networked people into one or the other side of some imaginary door, while pretending there is no cost or risk involved.”
“Every power-seeking entity in the world, whether it’s a government, a business, or an informal group, has gotten wise to the idea that if you can assemble information about other people, that information makes you powerful.”
“When machines get incredibly cheap to run, people seem correspondingly expensive.”
“The decision reduction service would use its particular style and competence to create bundles of decisions you could accept or reject en masse.”
“Around the turn of the century Amazon was caught up in a controversy about “differential pricing.” Essentially this means that an online site might charge you more for given items than it charges other people, like your neighbors.2 Amazon stated at the time that it was not really discrimination, but experimentation. It was offering different prices to different people to see what they would pay. There is nothing special about Amazon in this regard. Another example is the travel site Orbitz, which was found to be directing users of more expensive computers to more expensive travel options.3 Who could be surprised? It is natural for a business to take”
“Once a critical mass of conversation is on Facebook, then it’s hard to get conversation going elsewhere. What might have started out as a choice is no longer a choice after a network effect causes a phase change.”
“What did you think would happen? We in Silicon Valley undermined copyright to make commerce become more about services instead of content: more about our code instead of their files.”
“As the familiar quote usually attributed to Supreme Court justice Louis D. Brandeis goes, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
“It is impossible for us to completely enter the experiential world of the hunter-gatherer. It's almost impossible to conceive of the subjective texture of life before electricity. We can't quite fully know what we have lost as we become more technological, so we are in constant doubt of our own authenticity and vitality. This is a necessary side effect of our own survival.”
“The foundational idea of humanistic computing is that provenance is valuable. Information is people in disguise, and people ought to be paid for value they contribute that can be sent or stored on a digital network.”
“The combination of mental and physical practice leads to greater performance improvement than does physical practice alone, a phenomenon for which our findings provide a physiological explanation. - Alvaro Pascual-Leone”
“It seems to me that our lives are consumed by countless wasting years, but only a few shining moments. I missed mine. Yes is what I should have said. Of course I should have said yes.”
“I'd never really had arguments like this before, arguments I couldn't understand properly, arguments where both sides were right and wrong all at the same time.”
“Logan’s voice switched from a growl to a scream to a seductive whisper from one song to the next.”
“There was no law against being an asshole.”
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