Silicon Valley Is Not Your Friend - The New York Times
These menacing turns of events have been quite bewildering to the public, running counter to everything Silicon Valley had preached about itself. Google, for example, says its purpose is “to organize the world’s information, making it universally accessible and useful,” a quest that could describe your local library as much as a Fortune 500 company. Similarly, Facebook aims to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Even Amazon looked outside itself for fulfillment by seeking to become, in the words of its founder, Jeff Bezos, “the most customer-obsessed company to ever occupy planet Earth.”
Almost from its inception, the World Wide Web produced public anxiety — your computer was joined to a network that was beyond your ken and could send worms, viruses and trackers your way — but we nonetheless were inclined to give these earnest innovators the benefit of the doubt. They were on our side in making the web safe and useful, and thus it became easy to interpret each misstep as an unfortunate accident on the path to digital utopia rather than as subterfuge meant to ensure world domination.
Now that Google, Facebook, Amazon have become world dominators, the questions of the hour are, can the public be convinced to see Silicon Valley as the wrecking ball that it is? And do we still have the regulatory tools and social cohesion to restrain the monopolists before they smash the foundations of our society?
Une anecdote intéressante :
Once Mr. Brin, Mr. Page and Mr. Zuckerberg reversed course on pursuing profits, they reported an odd thing — the public didn’t seem to care. “Do you know the most common feedback, honestly?” Mr. Brin said in 2002 when asked about the reaction to Google’s embrace of advertising. “It’s ‘What ads?’ People either haven’t done searches that bring them up or haven’t noticed them. Or the third possibility is that they brought up the ads and they did notice them and they forgot about them, which I think is the most likely scenario.”
Et une excellente citation de John MacCarthy
John McCarthy, the computer-science pioneer who nurtured the first hackers at M.I.T. and later ran Stanford’s artificial intelligence lab, worried that programmers didn’t understand their responsibilities. “Computers will end up with the psychology that is convenient to their designers (and they’ll be fascist bastards if those designers don’t think twice),” he wrote in 1983. “Program designers have a tendency to think of the users as idiots who need to be controlled. They should rather think of their program as a servant, whose master, the user, should be able to control it.”
Facebook conçu pour attirer 10 mais afin d’avoir assez de matériau pour inciter l’usager à revenir
As Mr. Weizenbaum feared, the current tech leaders have discovered that people trust computers and have licked their lips at the possibilities. The examples of Silicon Valley manipulation are too legion to list: push notifications, surge pricing, recommended friends, suggested films, people who bought this also bought that. Early on, Facebook realized there was a hurdle to getting people to stay logged on. “We came upon this magic number that you needed to find 10 friends,” Mr. Zuckerberg recalled in 2011. “And once you had 10 friends, you had enough content in your newsfeed that there would just be stuff on a good enough interval where it would be worth coming back to the site.” Facebook would design its site for new arrivals so that it was all about finding people to “friend.”
The 10 friends rule is an example of a favored manipulation of tech companies, the network effect. People will use your service — as lame as it may be — if others use your service. This was tautological reasoning that nonetheless proved true: If everyone is on Facebook, then everyone is on Facebook. You need to do whatever it takes to keep people logging in, and if rivals emerge, they must be crushed or, if stubbornly resilient, acquired.
As is becoming obvious, these companies do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. We need greater regulation, even if it impedes the introduction of new services. If we can’t stop their proposals — if we can’t say that driverless cars may not be a worthy goal, to give just one example — then are we in control of our society? We need to break up these online monopolies because if a few people make the decisions about how we communicate, shop, learn the news, again, do we control our own society?