I tend to blame the problems inherent in surveillance capitalism not so much in immaturity or incompetence, rather information asymmetry. There's something in the New Testament that speaks to my concern: "Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." Perhaps in those times it was the lawyers, but today perhaps it's anyone who's signed an NDA.
How extreme is the level of information asymmetry surrounding a typical transaction in the market economy as we know it? I contend that it’s the informational equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. Modern websites and mobile apps are designed specifically to transmit signal (behavioral data and other actionable data) in one direction and noise (basically bloat) in the other. “Basic informational realities of the universe” aside, this “Maxwell’s Dæmon” approach to accumulation of informational advantage seems to work. Maybe it doesn’t, and the businesses who are spending billions on the services of data brokers are basically buying snake oil. Then again, maybe we’re living in the best of all possible worlds. At any rate, when it comes to individual economic decisions, it appears to me that there are some very high bandwidth channels for accessing data that might be used for decision support. It also appears that the information landscape visible to individuals is largely controlled by business. Which price quotes offered up for price comparison, for example, is a question of which vendors have an exclusivity deal with the “comparison shopping” website. One thing that does not exist is a way to run queries against the combined product offerings of the global economy.
Hopefully, reverse engineering is not a crime.
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