• 5 questions for Meredith Whittaker - POLITICO

    Hello, and welcome to this week’s installment of The Future in Five Questions. This week I spoke with Meredith Whittaker, president of the Signal Foundation and co-founder of the AI Now Institute, which is dedicated to researching AI’s social impact. Whittaker has emerged as a leading critic of the influence major Silicon Valley firms wield over American life and public policy, writing in a 2021 paper that modern AI advances are “primarily the product of significantly concentrated data and compute resources that reside in the hands of a few large tech corporations,” and that “our increasing reliance on such AI cedes inordinate power over our lives and institutions to a handful of tech firms.”

    We discussed how little the public understands the political economy of Washington’s relationship with Silicon Valley, the extent to which venture capital directs how Americans relate to tech, and the visionary writing of the late Canadian researcher Ursula Franklin. An edited and condensed version of the conversation follows:

    What’s one underrated big idea?

    We need to recognize the current paradigm of large scale artificial intelligence as a product of concentrated power in the tech industry, and we need to trace that history back to the moves that were made in the 1990s where unfettered surveillance became the engine of the tech industry’s business model. That enabled the creation of a handful of large firms that now have the resources necessary to produce artificial intelligence, those capital-intensive resources being computational power and data.

    These are two sides of the same issue around the surveillance business model, the concentration of surveillance power, and the affordances it imparts to a handful of companies. I would point to a recent piece that we published on the Signal blog that offers a cross-section of that model and gives a sense of both how profitable and how costly it is, and thus offers a material explanation of why there are so few alternatives to the large companies producing most consumer technology. These are of course also the firms dominating the AI industry.

    What’s a technology that you think is overhyped?

    I’m going to give a sideways answer to this, which is that the venture capital business model needs to be understood as requiring hype. You can go back to the Netscape IPO, and that was the proof point that made venture capital the financial lifeblood of the tech industry.

    Venture capital looks at valuations and growth, not necessarily at profit or revenue. So you don’t actually have to invest in technology that works, or that even makes a profit, you simply have to have a narrative that is compelling enough to float those valuations. So you see this repetitive and exhausting hype cycle as a feature in this industry. A couple of years ago, you would have been asking me about the metaverse, then last year, you would have asked me about Web3 and crypto, and for each of these inflection points there’s an Andreessen Horowitz manifesto.

    It’s not simply that one piece of technology is overhyped, it’s that hype is a necessary ingredient of the current business ecosystem of the tech industry. We should examine how often the financial incentive for hype is rewarded without any real social returns, without any meaningful progress in technology, without these tools and services and worlds ever actually manifesting. That’s key to understanding the growing chasm between the narrative of techno-optimists and the reality of our tech-encumbered world.

    #Economie_numerique #Capital_risque #Hype #Concentration

  • Jack Dorsey and Marc Andreessen’s Crypto Feud Puts Web3 at Risk - The New York Times

    “You don’t own ‘web3.’ The VCs and their LPs do.”

    Jack Dorsey tweeted this esoteric salvo in late December, not long after he stepped down as the head of Twitter to focus on advancing his Bitcoin ambitions. The post, swiping at the power held by venture capitalists and their limited partners as they try to reorganize the internet around blockchain technology, an effort known as web3, soon set off a public feud among members of the Silicon Valley ruling class. The dispute over what many herald as the next arena of technological revolution has drawn increasingly hard lines. Elon Musk is with Mr. Dorsey; Marc Andreessen is his enemy.

    The web3 revolution, backers say, promises the democratization of commerce and information by building a better internet on blockchain networks — distributed ledger systems that form the basis of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It theoretically would cut out traditional middlemen and gatekeepers, letting users transact directly and have a greater stake in the programs they use.

    But Mr. Dorsey has a different view. “It will never escape their incentives,” continued his post about the role of venture capitalists in web3. “It’s ultimately a centralized entity with a different label.”

    Tokenisation de l’internet

    Essentially, web3 refers to an internet operating on so-called tokenomics. Tokens are digital units of cryptocurrency, and in web3, developers and users have mutual financial interests and everyone can earn crypto. Users benefit directly from their contributions — creativity, play, engagement or deposits, say. They can also help govern futuristic community-run companies, where they can vote on decisions with tokens created by the particular project.

    Yet big investors also appear attracted to the infinite frontier. Last year, venture capitalists backed about 460 blockchain projects, spending nearly $12.75 billion, up from 155 deals worth $2.75 billion in 2020, per Pitchbook data provided to The New York Times. And the venture arms of crypto exchanges like Coinbase and FTX are some of the biggest deal makers, compounding concerns about corporate concentration. That means major players increasingly control the decentralized entities said to democratize everything for little guys.

    “While cryptocurrency industry insiders promote the ‘democratized’ benefits of digital assets,” Ms. Goldstein testified, “in truth, crypto concentrations of money and power match or surpass those in traditional financial markets.”

    Proponents across the web3 ideological divide have been working to woo lawmakers. Venture capitalists are pushing policy proposals meant to influence officials to embrace web3. Believers in the revolution, like Mr. Selkis of Messari, have compiled lists of politicians to support. But the movement still appears to lack a unified front.

    The debate that Mr. Dorsey sparked last month has continued online, though it appears he has begun to direct his attention elsewhere. On Thursday, he started a Bitcoin legal defense fund for developers who face “legal headaches,” and he said Block would get involved with mining Bitcoin.

    Andreessen Horowitz’s policy team has been looking beyond Washington, publishing proposals for global leaders on how to become “web3 republics.”

    Crypto, however, is not the only issue on every tech billionaire’s mind.

    #Web3 #Tokenisation #Internet #Capital_risque #Cryptomonnaies

  • Les petits arrangements du capital-risque - Fusion

    Le journaliste Kevin Rose de Fusion pointe du doigt les petits arrangement du capital-risque américain. Les grandes sociétés du secteur investissent massivement dans des start-ups dirigées par des associés et partenaires. Une pratique d’initiés assez courante semble-t-il, mais qui pose tout de même quelques questions éthiques, estime Rose, qui rapporte s’être fait copieusement insulté sur Twitter par des capitaux-risqueurs en discutant de ce sujet. Le problème est que les startupeurs éconduits par ces grandes sociétés du capital-risque peuvent légitimement se poser des questions sur les raisons qui les ont écartés des mises de fonds : leur projet était-il mauvais ou l’un des associé a-t-il l’objectif de lancer une société concurrente ? Le capital-risque n’est pas sans conflits d’intérêts. Mais les (...)

    #investissement #régulation

  • Technical risk [betting on new technology working] is horrible for returns, so VCs do not take technical risk. Market risk [betting that a new market will emerge] on the other hand is directly correlated to VC return” - but “Today is like the 1980s. [..] VCs are insisting on market validation before investing”. This throws me back to the very definition of innovation: matching a technology to a market... This paper reminds that, for most actors, the profitable way to do it is to match an existing technology to a new market.
    #VC #venture_capital #capital_risque #technology #marketing

  • Le fondateur de TechCrunch n’a pas peur des conflits d’intérêt :

    Michael Arrington’s Audacious Venture

    When Michael Arrington, the editor of the popular Web site TechCrunch, told his bosses at AOL that he was forming a venture capital company to finance some of the technology start-ups that his site wrote about, they did not fire him or ask for his resignation. Instead, last week, they invested about $10 million in his fund.

    #presse #journalisme #blog #blogging #michael_arrington #capital_risque #aol #technologie #conflit_intérêt

    • Tu te rends compte, un conflit d’intérêt, chez nous les super-gentils de TechCrunch, mais c’est laughable ! (L’argument « laughable » semble se suffit à lui-même.)

      Earlier this evening, I wrote a post on my personal blog attempting to explain to those outside our company how TechCrunch actually works from an editorial perspective. The notion that Mike, or anyone else, investing in a company would dictate some sort of giant conflicted agenda is laughable. Literally. If Mike tried to get me to write some unreasonable post about a company he had invested in, I would laugh at him. But he would never do that. Ask Loic Le Meur. Ask Kevin Rose. Ask Shervin Pishevar. Ask Airbnb. Ask countless others. He didn’t get to where he is by being an idiot. He has gotten to where he is by being honest with his readers. Even if everyone doesn’t always agree with him, he has been honest. And he’s brought forth information that no one else has, even when it’s probably not in his best interest to do so.