I love technology, have since the age of fourteen. Yet, with some awesome responsibilities working in the technology industry for over 30 years since (including Silicon Valley), I was forced to become a realist. Large direct and indirect stakes were involved in my decision-making, and I have come to pay close attention to the role and impact of technology, from both the buy-side and the sell-side of enterprise and consumer technology.
As I began to focus more on the economics of innovation 10 years ago, I discovered how many technology systems, contrary to popular beliefs and the pageantry of false positivity, in actuality stifle evolution. To understand how, one must understand a bit about the confluence of evolution, economics and technology. Very few of us do.
If we want to inspire the world we must lead the world by example, with new rigors of excellence we first and successfully apply to ourselves.
— Georges van Hoegaerden
Let me not beat around the bush. Technology innovation has the exciting capacity to accelerate pretty much everything, including – unfortunately – our flaws. And boy do we have some flaws in need of fixing.
Our economics, the rule-book by which we compare and contrast human performance, is a highly flawed religion filled with voodoo science as its gospel. At the peak of its impetus we preach to the world about the need for freedom, without clearly understanding and defining what kind of freedom inspires us all. Like a rebel without a cause we strong-arm the world with our oligarchic absolutism of freedom (quite the opposite of free), shoehorned into the outdated models of governance, democracy and capitalism we thought our two-hundred-year old forefathers would have wanted us to deploy. Each now hanging by a thread of renewable evolutionary impact. “How is this working for you?” do I hear Oprah Winfrey whispering.
Wind at the fore
Yes, I proudly call this country home. Not because it is perfect (no country is), but because it is a beautiful and powerful country that can reinvent itself. And reinvent ourselves we must. We must build better systems to perpetuate evolutionary value that inspires – not dictates – every person around the world, beginning right here at home. The world is watching our every move.
Back to technology. All technologies employ a system embedded in the logic of their algorithm. A technology system we program to facilitate the freedom and the behavior of the people using it. For technology to spawn evolutionary value it must deploy a system that supports the economic principles of freedom. Until now – not surprisingly – those technology systems have inherited the same misguided religion of economics as we deployed in the real world. And with the Internet as technology’s wide and immediate global distribution, the rest of the world has unbeknownst adopted our flawed economic principles at a much faster rate than in a pre-digital world, causing it to rapidly lose its unique identity of freedom.
You see real freedom is a relativity theory. To achieve the benefits of freedom (like “free-markets”) governments must establish paradoxical rules to protect collective freedom to allow the pursuit of individual freedom by its people to flourish. Not only does every country by virtue of its laws and history deploy its unique version of collective freedom, every inhabitant aspires to its own unique version of personal freedom. Today we prescribe to the world a flat uniform model of freedom, a doctrine not unlike the Nazis attempted 75 years ago (albeit our ignorance has friendlier intentions). One that does not even pay renewable dividends to ourselves.
So, we must begin to understand that freedom is only free when we appreciate what makes us different. We must understand that a culture six-thousand years old will not be inclined to bend to our two hundred-and-thirty-nine year old version filled with strife and has yet to prove its evolutionary value. We must begin to appreciate global differences by assigning value, respect and trust to the economics that allow us to evolve as a species with many variations on a theme. Because only an appreciation of our differences, real freedom, can spot evolution’s outliers with the propensity to change our world for the better.
Keep in mind: not everyone can be an inventor, but an inventor can come from anywhere.
Basic tenets of freedom
Back to technology again. For technology not to be merely a self-fulfilling prophecy and to support the evolution of mankind it must at least adhere to the three most basic tenets of freedom.
- Technology systems must treat freedom as a relativity theory by which each country can deploy its paradoxical rules to protect its elected collective freedom to spur individual freedom.
- Technology systems must provide transparency as to the rule-book of interaction and which elected official established it.
- Technology systems must provide enforcement of those rules and retribution visible to all.
Conformance to the first three tenets of Renewable Economics™ does not guarantee freedom, but I do not need to list more than three to prove most technology systems inadequate and flawed in their support of the evolution of mankind. And beyond technology’s embedded economic fallacies with serious consequences, most technology companies deploy highly questionable moral values just to make a buck.
Hundreds of examples around in the technology space, let’s pick a few salient ones.
Facebook, now with 1.44 Billion active monthly subscribers worldwide the largest consumer network, fails the first three tenets of freedom. Facebook ignores the rules of a country’s definition of collective freedom until it is eventually dragged into local courts. It violates personal freedom by establishing a difficult to comprehend (and thus opaque) oligarchic rule-book forced upon every user, which it changes from time-to-time without the user’s explicit consent. Facebook uses your trust and information in the network as a product for advertising schemes as accurate as the maelstrom of toe-nail fungus and erectile disfunction ads on cable television, neither medical ailment I suffer from I might add. Your “innocent” book of faces from a few years back to reconnect with friends has now morphed into a clever propaganda machine (as Noam Chomsky calls advertising) as if such corporate benevolence is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Social media, the way technology deploys it today, is corporate sponsored socialism at its finest.
Apple, now the largest technology company in the world, also fails the first three tenets of freedom. The price-fixing of digital media Apple deploys is a harness of freedom that erodes the freedom of artists to stand out and sell their product however they want. Apple plays the hybrid role of a label and distributor where it pleases and favors certain digital media based on what it, not the audience, thinks yields value. U2 music anyone? Under the watchful eye of a clueless Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Apple repeats the same tricks with books and other digital media. Add to that a lack of transparency with even more questionable morals, like changing the default storage of music and photographs to the cloud so customers then incur additional storage and transmission fees. Buying an iPhone is the trojan horse that begins to reel a fool in.
AT&T violates the most rudimentary tenet of collective freedom by having been allowed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to lock the SIM card it implants in its mobile phones be restricted to work on AT&T networks only. Exactly the opposite of what the free-roaming design philosophy of GSM (the european designed communication protocol) was meant to support. If the FCC had paid attention to sound economic principles we would now have a myriad of local GSM providers who, upon serving a better signal than AT&T in certain locales, would have had a chance to compete fairly on network coverage and would have supplied our country with more omnipresent cellular network reception and thus value to consumers. I can thank the incompetence of the FCC for why I now have spotty cellular network coverage near my home on Hilton Head Island.
ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers that registers internet addresses around the world, has failed to acknowledge how collective freedom and personal freedom are harmed by people with no intention to start an internet business and scalp internet addresses and sell them for a significant profit to the highest bidder. Even the sports industry has figured out scalping hurts their bottom-line and deployed rules to combat it. ICANN failed to align with local governments responsible for the proper adjudication of incorporation and thereby deploying a free-for-all ignorant to the need for protection of freedom. The end-result is that most internet addresses are parked aimlessly, waiting to be resold at exorbitant prices, inaccessible to those with legitimate purposes.
Paradox of freedom
Despite opulent economic malpractice, we cannot fully blame technology companies for the nasty schemes they deploy in pursuit of the mighty dollar. For the absence of rules to protect collective freedom spawns the attrition of personal freedom we deserve.
The absence of rules to protect collective freedom created a tobacco industry selling loads of cigarettes to unsuspecting consumers caused a significant increase in lung cancer three decades later everyone else – including the next generation – is still paying for. The absence of rules to protect collective freedom in the fast-food industry caused us to become the most obese “developed” country in the world, with staggering medical costs that are simply unsustainable. Similarly, the unbridled and unchecked economics deployed by technology systems has and will cause further socioeconomic damage we may not be able to recover from.
What must become clear to us is that we can not sell our future short by ignoring today’s flawed economics. We must reinvent the outdated religion of economics that holds our spiraling evolutionary performance hostage. And technology systems, by virtue of its global reach and impact, would be the best place to begin to demonstrate how we value each other.
Now is the time for technology companies to demonstrate to the world they are better off governing themselves, and stave off any misguided governance that will otherwise undoubtedly come their way. If technology companies do not want to fail as sudden as they arose they must set a new horizon, look up from their keyboards, understand the basic tenets of freedom and out-innovate governance.