If the latest literature about information-based business models is anything to go by, the world of commerce is in for some big changes. Basically, the argument is that “platform” businesses (like FB or Don’t-be-evil) will beat more traditional “pipeline” businesses wherever they meet – fascinating and quite worrying! Of course, Szpylbert will keep reporting on this…
Your cartoonist sometimes gets to go to places where business strategy is discussed. Always listening carefully, Szpylbert developed a pet hate for two particularly misleading words: “ecosystem” and “democratisation”. Both are supposed to somehow sound inviting and empowering – but in reality their meaning is very different.
Ecosystems are created by big businesses to get small companies to do risky things or stuff that they think is not worthwhile. Naturally, that includes the possibility of involuntary exit from the ecosystem, a.k.a. “death”. With survival being a struggle, an ecosystem is not a happy place!
Now for democratisation. This is normally suggested to entice amateur usership of technology or something without a proper value proposition, e.g. low-cost 3D printing or blogging. Of course, there is no real commercial opportunity here for the dilettante – and the money is made elsewhere. If there’s a gold rush, don’t join it. Sell shovels!
Szpylbert’s been reading a lot of managment and economics books lately for work. One thing that is apparent is that seeking one’s own benefit usually comes at the expense of someone else. This has always been the case (think Sun Tzu’s The Art of War) and great efforts normally are made to hide this from the naïve. As the saying in poker goes, if you don’t know who the fish is, it’s you!
Hey internet entrepreneurs planning to monetize through advertising, your cartoonist’s favourite quotator (or is it a ‘quotee’?) Arnold J. Toynbee has a message extra for you: “I can not think of any circumstances in which advertising would not be an evil”. Now stop wasting everyone’s time.
An article in today’s Sunday Times cites comedian Stewart Lee, calling Twitter a “Stasi for the Angry Birds generation”. Of course, this is water on the mills of Szpylbert (who says Teutonic idioms can’t be beautiful?). Szpylbert wonders if many users simply forget that they are feeding private and privatestest information to unseen foreign concerns.
Szpylbert is annoyed with an article on artificial intelligence in The Economist (09/05/2015), claiming that there “is no result from decades of neuroscientific research to suggest that the brain is anything other than a machine, made of ordinary atoms, employing ordinary forces, and obeying ordinary laws of nature”. If your cartoonist isn’t entirely wrong, then the article is about the possibility of creating an artificial mind. However, for good reasons, a mind can only be completely unlike a machine (c.f. Thomas Nagel). It should therefore be impossible to create anything like an artificial mind at our current level of thinking...
“I do not understand you, but I believe you” says Weena, belonging to a group called the Eloi, in the 1960’s film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Strange that a century after this very important novel was written, elite silicon valley businesses are relying on you to show exactly this Eloian attitude. Are “Don’t Be Evil”, FB et al. spying on you? What do they actually do with the data you give them free of charge? Are they acting in their users’ interest, as most people think?