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Theinternetisconsolidatingundercentrallymanagedconglomeratesandisendeavoringtoremakethebroadereconomyinitsimage。

Muchinthewaythatsocialmediacompanieshavebeenabletoconverttheirtemporarymonopoliesovernovelformsofinteractionintoenormouscorporationsthat,havingascendedsoquicklythemselves,becomeimmediatelyterrifiedandobsessedbyself-preservation,newercompaniesareconvertingtheirbriefcontroloversoon-to-be-triviallaborconcepts?

—?

softwarethatmatchesdriverswithriders,shopperswithbuyers,clientswiththevariouslyself-employed?

—?

intomulti-billion-dollardefensefundsagainsttheirtheoreticalfuturedisruptors。

Right?

Itallfeelssoinevitable,andsofast,andsoinlinewithperfecteconomicprinciples,thatitalwaysseemsalittletoosoontotalkaboutit。

Whyworryaboutlifeinaneconomymanagedbytoll-extractingasset-and-employee-freemiddlemancompanieswhenweonlyhavetowaitafewyearstoseewhatitwillactuallybe?

like?

AcousinofthisconcernwasexpressedrecentlybyChrisDixon,apartneratAndreessenHorowitz,apowerfulVCfirm,intheformofa“tweetstorm,”(TM)whichIhaverenderedhereasa“paragraph。



Thehistoryoftheinternetisaseriesofbattlesbetweenproprietaryservicesandopenprotocols。

ImagineifHTTPorSMTPwereownedbyasinglecompanythatcouldcutoffaccesstodevelopers。

Theworldwouldhavehadfarlessinnovationandwealthcreation。

Inthe90sopenprotocolslikeHTTPandSMTPwonoutoverclosedserviceslikeAOL。

Today,thesituationisreversed,andclosedservicesarewinningforsocialnetworking,micromessaging,paymentsetc。

Buteventuallythependulumwillswingbackastheclosedservicesatrophyandentrepreneursdevelopersgoelsewhere。

Maybethisistrue;itiscertainlyappealing。

Ormaybethedecentralizedinternetwasananomaly!

ItishardtosquaresomesortofReturntoInternetNaturewithsomanyprospectorswanderingthelandwithglintsintheireyes。

Butwhoknows?

Theinternethasn’tbeenthroughenoughmacrocyclestogiveusanyrealsenseofwhatthenextonemightlook?

like。

Besides,thisisoptimismextendingfromresignation:thedecentralizationoftheinternetissomethingthatwillhappen“eventually,”andaninternettaxedbytheplatformsthathostandshapeitisstill“winning。

”Andelsewhereintheworldofpeoplewithmillionsofdollarstoinvestintech,resignationtotheexternalitiesoftheon-demandeconomy,aswellastoitscentralization,isbeingdiscussedmoreopenlyasafutureproblem。

Laborislosing?

(Again。

)

AlbertWenger,apartneratUnionSquareVentures,wroteinSeptemberoflast?

year:

Oneofthemajoreconomictrendswearecurrentlyseeingisthebreakdownoftraditionalemploymentandtheriseoflabormarketplacesforfreelancers,suchasUber,TaskRabbitandWorkMarket(tonamejustafew)。

Thevaluationsforatleastsomeofthesecompaniessuggestthatinvestorsexpectthemtobeveryprofitableinthelongrun。

Duringthegrowthphaseitisentirelypossibletocreatevalueforbothfreelancerswhoparticipateinthemarketplaceandfortheinvestorswhoownitbuteventuallythereisatradeoffwhereonthemarginanextradollarforinvestorsmeansadollarlessfor?

labor。

Heasks:“Sowhatinfluencesthebargainingpowerinthefuturethatdetermineshowthesemarginaldollarsgetsplit?

”Hesuggestsasimpleregulation:

anindividualrighttoanAPIKey。

BythisImeanakeythatwouldgiveanenduser*full*read/writeaccesstothesystemincludingeveryactionorscreentheendusercantakeorseeonthewebsiteorapplication。

Alternativelyonecouldthinkofthisasanindividualrighttoberepresentedbyanalgorithm。

Workersshouldhavegreataccesstothesoftwarethatmanagesthem,andshouldbeabletodelegatetheirnegotiationswiththissoftwareto。

software。

Hiscolleague,FredWilson,foundtheseideasveryinteresting。

Andtheyarecertainlyfuntothinkabout:Iftheinternet,aswellasthepartoftheeconomymanagedfullythroughitsinfrastructure,increasinglyamountstoanexpressionofthewillsofasmallgroupofcompaniesandpeople,thenitiscreatingascenariothatcould?

—?

orshould?

—?

giverisetoanewsortoflabormovement,onethatusesthetoolsofthenewsoftwareindustrialiststochecktheirpower。

Itisnocoincidencethatthemostvocalproponentsofthe1099economyasaboonto“flexible”workschedulesarethecompaniesthatstandtobenefitfromthenormalizationofinsecurelabor。

Thesejobsareonlymeaningfully“flexible”topeoplewhocanaffordtotreatthemthatway,andonlyforaslongasthejobstaskstheycreateareworthdoingonapart-timebasis。

Theirgoalistosellthelaborofpeoplewhomostdefinitelyaren’ttheiremployeestopeoplewhomostdefinitelyaretheircustomers。

Theirgoalistodothisatthelowestpossiblecostwhileeventuallymakingaprofit。

Thisiswhattheyareoptimizingfor,anditisreflectednotjustintheirmanagementandgoals,butintheirsoftware。

Sowhynotentertaintheideaofanalgorithmiclaborunion?

SomesortoforganizationthatmightpitsoftwareoptimizedtoserveUber’sinterestagainstsoftwareoptimizedtoservethecollectiveinterestsofitsdrivers?

Onedemandsabsoluteefficiencyandthelowestpossibleconsumercost;theotherwantssteadyschedulesandlivableratesforthepeopleprovidingtheservice。

Justassoftwarelogisticssweepsthroughestablishedindustries,itcouldstreamlineunions,makingthemmoreefficient,lesspronetopoliticaldistraction,moreeffective,andlesspreciousaboutthepast。

Wouldn’tthatbegreat,ifsoftwarecouldgotobattlenotjustforthebenefitofcompaniesandtheirconsumersbutagainstitself,forthebenefitofthepeoplelivingunderitsnewmandatoryreality?

Sure!

(AlthoughIcan’tthinkofanythingthatwouldacceleratethereplacementofhumanlaborwherepossible?

—?

self-drivingUbersareastatedobjectiveofthecompany?

—?

morequicklythanalgorithmiclaborunions。

)Butit’snotclearthatthetechmoney’sheartisreallyinthis,andit’saconvenientwaytobrushoffamajorconsequenceofathoroughlydisruptedversionofourcurrenteconomy。

Itisthesoftwareequivalentoffullmarket?

faith。

Besides,thisisjustabriefdetouronthewaytotherealnextinternet,accordingtoWilson(and?

others):

Ibelievethatinthelongruntheseplatformsmay/willbereplacedbyblockchainbasednetworksoflaborwherethereisnoplatformmiddlemanandtherewouldbenoneedforalegalrighttoanAPIbecauseallthedatawouldbepublicby?

default。

Yes,noworries,Bitcoin’sgoteveryonecoveredinthelongrun。

Dixon’sfirmisbullishonthistoo:the“blockchain”?

—?

adecentralizedpublicledgeroftransactions?

—?

willprovideaneweconomicfabricfortheinternetthatwouldprecludetheexistenceofmiddlemanservicesforpaymentsandtradeingeneral;thisiswhen“thependulumwillswingback。

”Itwouldarrive,forlackofanaptcomparison,likeamillionCraigslistsatonce,sappingvaluefromallthosecompaniesthatcolonizedtheinternetwithpromisesofefficiencybeforebecomingexemplarsofarbitraryinefficiencythemselves(tech’smetaphoricvampiresquidsareidentifiablebytheircompanyt-shirts)。

Thisisnarrativelyappealing;it’sthekindoftwistyoumightexpectattheendofasci-fibookaboutthesingularity,aglitchthepreventsthemachinesfromfulfillingtheirdestinybyeradicatinghumanityentirely。

“Don’tworry,”itassuresreaders,withrichdramaticirony,“eventhemostpowerfulcompaniescouldn’tseetheblockchaincoming!



Butbooksendthatwaysothehumanstorycanremainintact,andsoreadersmightconsiderreadingthesequel。

Here,onEarthInternet,wehavenochoice。

Fromaventurecapitalists’mouth,suchpredictionssoundlikepolite,conversation-endingpromises;fromanyoneelse’s,theysoundalittletoomuchlike?


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