Technokleptocracy + Collateral Damage

I’ve been writing up my research on the problem of aggregators (Google et al): https://offerbots.org

The short version - they take our money, efficiency and opportunities. They’ve significantly distorted economy, society information and may, if we don’t bypass them, hollow out our economy, society and information until they collapse.

I’m interested in your feedback, thank you.

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Coincidentally today The Giardian ‘the long read’ section has an article about this by Naomi Klein - author of The Shock Doctrine (disaster capitalism:

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I love Naomi Klein. But I’m not sure I follow the connection to the original question.

Aggregators serve a purpose. I think it’s a bit easy and convenient to malign them and throw the baby out with the bathwater. Aggregators provide leverage of access and lower the transaction costs of more point-to-point options. They also can be the locus for learning engines to improve discovery or connection. When the information is spread out without aggregation, you effectively sever yourself from any of the benefits of participating in a learning engine … not just its negative externalities.

And there are other aggregators that have not succeeded and dominated by default. The Web’s history is littered with Yahoo, Excite, Infoseek, etc.

Yes, there are risks of abuse and some negative patterns that you have to consider. But their existence in and of themselves doesn’t nullify the value they could provide.

Because here is the issue with technology: whether it’s an aggregator or a series of “offerbots”. Technology never really “fixes” problems as much as it shifts the burden. An offerbots solution is bound to create as many problems as it attempts to solve. The challenge is in finding a best fit you can between the pros and cons.

Hi Greg! If you did not do so yet, i highly recommend reading about The Problem on offerbots.org

The article of Naomi is more about how the crisis will compound the problem of aggregators, so indeed it is indirect. But @AndrewMackie makes a brilliant analysis about aggregators in general.

Thanks, Arnold.

FWIW, more than once I’ve experienced a strange anti-pattern on these forums though.

  1. Person proposes a new discussion topic and cites a reference for all to see
  2. Someone follows up on the topic
  3. Someone further follows up and and kind of presumes that the person in #2 never read the reference shared in #1

I’ve been through the worst of the Usenet days of RTFM, but there are few tactics that are better at killing off a conversation and making the whole endeavor of replying seem pointless.

Thanks for pointing out the pattern. It is indeed something that happens in many places, and here too. Note that with my “If you did not do so yet…” I didn’t presume you didn’t read it. I just don’t know.

Thanks Greg and Arnold.

I agree with you, Greg, that offerbots will present problems - I have spent years attempting to predict what they may be and attempting to mitigate them (while acknowledging that this is an impossible task).

Aggregators are a paradox. We use them because they create enormous value for us (as described in my article on External Offer Processing). They cause enormous harm, however, because they distort representations of the offers made to us (as described in Aggregators, Techno-Kleptocracy and Collateral Damage).

My contention is that we need stop aggregating offers by capturing and selling human attention (which harms markets and will, I believe, lead to economic collapse) and start aggregating offers by buying and selling information processing. This is what we thought the internet would be in the 90s - an information economy - but we have settled for an attention economy instead.

My apologies, however, if I’m perpetuating the anti-pattern by recommending articles that you’ve already read.

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Are you familiar with the project developing the Valueflows vocabulary @AndrewMackie ? Some of them are quite active in the Open App Ecosystem group on Loomio and that would be another good place to seek feedback on your Offerbots work.

Some good counterpoints there @greg . I may be misunderstanding what you mean by …

… but I don’t think that’s a given. Are blockchains not an example of learning engines that don’t depend on central aggregation?

What about PeerTube? You can any (openly federated) PeerTube instance to search the entire (openly federated) PeerTube network, no central aggregator required. You might counter that this doesn’t replace the search algorithms YT uses to try to improve the relevance of results (is this what you mean by learning engine?). I’m not convinced that’s a bad thing, for the same reason I think the lack of FB/ Titter style algorithmic timelines in the fediverse is a feature, not a bug. But if it’s wanted or needed, I’m pretty sure a decentralized recommendations engine could be built around ActivityPub.

I am not sure if blockchain is the best example. It applies, yes, but in blockchain Proof of Work the control tends to aggregate to the miners, and only the very big ones there have real monetary incentive to keep mining (there is ample speculation on whether Bitcoin would be prone to a 51% attack enabled by a price devaluation, miners dropping out, and then one big player suddenly brings all his/her processing power into play). I am not the expert, though, and deliberately keep my distance for various reasons.

PeerTube is a good example, though.

There are others with intentions to offer similar things (but not sure on the status of that), like Dat Foundation who use gossiping to spread information (they just revamped their core, and have a much more solid basis now) and Secure Scuttlebutt, also gossiped peer-to-peer, who have Pubs where things can be aggregated.

I also got interested for safe network after seeing it discussed on Solid forum and featured on Hacker News (the first comment on HN sets it away a ‘yet another alt-coin scam’, but I’m intrigued whether that is the case. That may be too quick a conclusion).

@strypey re: Loomio Open App Ecosystem. You may be interested to watch this video by Glen Simister. I will post to Loomio too. It is based on safe network, but he is now creating cool stuff for Solid Project.

Would be very interesting to see something recommendation-engine-like appearing in the fediverse, indeed.

Edit: Here’s my post on Loomio in the A Public Resource Management System thread.

Thanks @strypey and @aschrijver.

I wasn’t familiar with the Valueflows vocabulary (thanks for the link) but when I started this project over a decade ago I spent a long time thinking about collaborative structures and alternate methods of accounting for contribution.

After a lot of thinking (and learning about economics, particularly Hayek’s speech on the use of information in society), I came to appreciate the power of markets and the signalling value of the price system,. My goal now is to create real markets, not to replace them with something else. Put another way, my contention is not that markets have failed us, my contention is that we’ve never had markets (we’ve only had marketplaces distorted by aggregators).

That’s not to say that there isn’t work to be done on determining contributions within organisations. All I’m saying is that I’ve chosen to focus on the process of making and receiving offers between entities and, therefore, creating free and diverse markets for goods and services.

@greg you know something about microaggression …