The tech takeover isn’t coming, it’s already here
As many analysts have observed over the last few years, our societies and economies find themselves on the cusp of radical transformation. The forces of data, artificial intelligence, and rapidly proliferating frontier technology are moving swiftly to reorganize the foundations of many of our institutions, disrupting older paradigms of socio-economic life, much in the way the industrial revolution did two centuries ago.
As these changes occur, one of the key questions that accompany them is how this novel paradigm is going to be governed. Will we succeed in creating the restraining frameworks necessary to secure democratic control, equity, and public value within the emergent digitalized landscape, or will it be left to the hands of an increasingly powerful set of technology barons?
This month on DataSyn, we bring you two pieces that are pitched on the frontiers of this struggle. On one side, reflecting on the recent debates around our digital public sphere that have been ignited by Elon Musk’s quest to take over Twitter, we deliberate on the politics of platform ownership structures. On the other, looking at the incursions of Big Tech in the vital sector of agriculture, we track the potential dangers of relinquishing our food systems to digitalized corporate control.
The DataSyn Team
THE BIG EXCESS
Great Men Simply Know Better: How the Twitter Takeover Exposes one of Big Tech’s Most Harmful Traits
Deepti Bharthur & Shreeja Sen
The recent drama around Elon Musk’s Twitter buyout has incited a series of debates around the future of content moderation, free speech, and the digital public sphere. Yet, what is often left unaddressed are the assumptions underpinning the framing of these issues. Taking these recent events as a starting point, Deepti Bharthur and Shreeja Sen reflect on the ownership structures of Big Tech firms, the ‘visionary-entrepreneur’ ideologies that motivate them, and what these portend for questions of governance.
THE NEW DIVERGENCE
Big Tech is Ready to ‘Transform’ Food Systems, but for Whose Benefit?
As new initiatives touting ‘Precision Agriculture’ and ‘Smart Food Systems’ continue to proliferate, it is important to take a step back and assess the wider ramifications of the digitalization of food - a basic human right, entangled in development politics. Nick Jacobs critically engages with Big Tech’s vision for ‘disrupting’ agriculture, and brings into relief the blind spots and profiteering impulses that are its motivating forces.
The Sins and Synergies Lounge
How can we understand the extent of power that today’s social media companies wield? Brandon Mackie makes a good case for looking back at 19th century corporate-state monoliths such as the East India Company for clues. Read his analysis on Noema.
If a tech-driven food future sounds too good to be true, it’s because it probably is. Listen to this episode of the Food Talk podcast, where investigative journalist Larissa Zimberoff talks about her new book, ‘Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat’.
As the workplace increasingly becomes a zone of datafied surveillance and algorithmic conditioning, questions emerge around the normative constraints that ought to govern such technologies. Writing for Social Europe, Phoebe Moore probes into these questions.
An important aspect of the geopolitics around technology as Thea Riofrancos incisively reminds us, has to do with supply chain control over resources that make the digital economy possible. Tune in to this episode of the Tech Won’t Save Us Podcast, as she chronicles the current struggle to overturn the neo-colonial regimes of extraction that continue to plague much of the Global South.
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