Sunday, June 12, 2016

On the Centralization of the Decentralized Web

  • Last week, World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee, while speaking at the Decentralized Web Summit in San Francisco, said “[the internet] controls what people see, creates mechanisms for how people interact … It’s been great, but spying, blocking sites, repurposing people’s content, taking you to the wrong websites — that completely undermines the spirit of helping people create.” And also “The web is already decentralized … The problem is the dominance of one search engine, one big social network, one Twitter for microblogging. We don’t have a technology problem, we have a social problem.”
  • Separately, computer scientist Jaron Lanier, while speaking at the WIPO Conference on the Global Digital Content Market (April 20 - 22, 2016,) said “Right now a handful of people – those inheriting traditional monopolies like oil and the increasingly powerful big computer networks – have a giant chunk of the world’s wealth and it's having a destabilizing impact. While an oil monopoly might control the oil, it won’t take over everything in your life, but information does, especially with greater automation … If we expect computers to pilot cars and operate factories, the employment that is left should be the creative stuff, the expression, the [intellectual property]. But if we undermine that, we are creating an employment crisis of mass proportions."

  • Technically, the Internet and the World Wide Web are decentralized, but digital network effects have resulted in 1) winner-takes-all (or most) business models, 2) cultural silos and 3) diverse economic outcomes. 
  • At the same time, debates about the structure, bias and use of algorithms, artificial intelligence and automation are increasing.
  • The larger issue to address is how assets (both physical and digital) will be managed, traded, used and protected in an increasingly interconnected global community.

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