[iDC] Thought experiment for Independence Day...

Samuel Tannert samuel.tannert at gmail.com
Sat Jul 5 17:53:58 UTC 2014

First some links!

Astrid Mager's introductory post:
Astrid's essay, "Is Small Really Beautiful? Big Search & its Alternatives"
(pp 59-72):
My reply: https://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2014-June/004978.html

The most compelling alternative is the distributed YaCy index which uses
automated web-crawlers as well as manual user-browsing to map the network.
Unfortunately it is currently rather limited and thus its search results
(and users' productivity) suffer... but maybe we ought to do our part to
build the future! As you say, 'the window may be shrinking.' The farther
'ahead' Google gets, the harder it will be to catch up, and the more
apparent the productivity loss will be. Another option could be a
supranational index run by the UN, but I'm sure all sorts of
anti-institutional critiques could be mobilized against it. And it wouldn't
ease my fears about NSA snooping or State censorship.

These two paths really define the field of possibility, though. When a
corporation has realized a first-mover advantage, thus gaining control of a
particular flow/vector of information, how do you counter it? One option is
always to explode the vector, 'decentralization,' like we've seen in P2P
sharing and its devaluation of traditional publishing, film and music
firms. The other is to nationalize the vector, removing it from corporate
control (and thus the 'verticalised extraction practices,' to use Henry
Warwick's term, which devalue the free flow of information in favor of

I keep thinking of Uber! On one hand it would make sense for states to
simply give their cabbies a toolset which rivals the Uber platform. On the
other hand it would make sense to give them a tool which operated on a P2P
basis, removing the need for a firm like Uber and the (avg.) 20% it skims
off the top of each ride. I think we ought to all favor the latter, but I
don't know how it would be possible to get people to use a public tool now
that Uber has so many users. I suppose 20% cheaper rides would lead to an
economic advantage, but it would definitely take a sustained 'marketing'
campaign... and then one wonders, "How do you pay for that?" (Maybe this is
where crowdsourcing comes in!)

I hope you had a good Independence Day! Thanks for the thoughts!
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