Daily Archives: May 7, 2019

The trilemma of Big Tech

By Karin Pettersson – Last week Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage in San Jose, California, and presented his vision for the future at the company’s yearly developers’ conference.

The attention given to the conference by the world’s media was testimony to the fact that Facebook is now more powerful than most nation states. Its products provide the infrastructure for core democratic functions such as free speech, distribution of news and access to information. Our societies, to a larger and larger degree, are shaped by how Zuckerberg and a small elite of Silicon Valley business leaders choose to do business. And the results, frankly speaking, are catastrophic.

‘Have social media made the world a better place?’ Poppy Harlow of CNN asked the influential tech writer Kara Swisher ‘No, not now’ was the dry answer.

The founder of the modern web, Tim Berners-Lee, has called for regulation of the internet as the only way to save it, and the virtual-reality pioneer and internet philosopher Jaron Lanier has written a book about why people should get off ‘social media’ as soon as possible.

The current situation is clearly unsustainable and the measures taken so far to address it insufficient. But before discussing solutions we need to define what the problem is. And here it is easy to get lost in details and anecdotes. Not all of the problems of social networks are fatal to democracy.

The economist Dani Rodrik has framed the discussion around the state of the world economy as a trilemma, where hyperglobalization, democratic policies and national sovereignty are mutually incompatible. We can, he argues, combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full.

It might be conceptually useful to structure the discussion of the global information space in an analogous manner. One can have democracy, market dominance and business models that optimize for anger and junk—but only two at a time. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

How opinion polls are presented affects how we understand them
By Alice G. Walton – Oleg Urminsky and Luxi Shen used data provided by the prominent data-driven forecasting organization FiveThirtyEight leading up to the 2016 US presidential election.

The researchers presented the then-current forecasts to two groups of study participants, but in different formats. One group saw probability projections that, on average, said Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had a 74 percent chance of winning. The other group saw margin forecasts that said, on average, that she would get 53 percent of the vote.

On a given day, both forecasts represented the same snapshot in time—two essentially identical takes on Clinton’s expected victory. But participants interpreted the forecasts differently. When people saw the probability forecast and were then asked to estimate a margin by which Clinton would win, they overestimated, predicting she would get 60 percent of the vote on average, more than the 53 percent. Meanwhile, people shown the second, margin forecast predicted the probability of her winning at 60 percent on average rather than the actual 74 percent average.

Both predictions turned out to be incorrect, as Clinton won 48 percent of the vote and lost the election to Republican candidate Donald Trump, who received 46 percent. But they illustrated bias in people’s perceptions.

The difference in interpretations is unlikely to be explained by forecasters having the wrong assumptions in their models, the researchers say. more>


Updates from Ciena

Top 5 business benefits of modernizing legacy networks
By Wayne Hickey – Modernizing legacy networks is a hot topic, and for very good reasons.

Consider this – your legacy network is rapidly headed to obsolescence, while your packet-based applications are growing. Legacy applications are hindering your revenue growth opportunities, consuming your budget, and degrading your customers’ quality of experience, which can lead to the loss of your existing and/or new customers.

Two primary factors are driving the migration of legacy networks; (1) the imminent phase-out of legacy systems, and (2) the need to use modern packet networking techniques to improve network efficiencies, serve end-users better, and open up new revenue-generating business opportunities.

Let’s further break it down into the top 5 business benefits of modernizing legacy networks:

The biggest bang for your buck is to reduce the number of networks you operate with the goal of getting to a single, common network. Why? Running parallel networks is costly, complex, and ultimately unrealistic. Network silos are costly to manage and prevent the use of common features, toolsets, and services. more>


Internet capitalism pits fast technology against slow democracy

By Tom Wheeler – Technology-driven changes—like those we are presently experiencing—produce demands for security and stability that pose a threat to liberal democracy and capitalism. Across the world, autocrats are on the rise because they claim they can deliver answers; symbols such as Brexit or the Wall pose as solutions; and old economic “isms” are reborn as “new” solutions. This is not a unique experience; our struggles in the information age echo similar struggles in the industrial age.

When change attacks at gigabit speed, the quest for solutions also accelerates. It took the telephone a leisurely 125 years to connect one billion people. The Android mobile phone, in contrast, reached the same milestone in less than six years. The buffer of time that traditionally helped individuals and economic activity acclimate to new technology is compressed.

Liberal democracies, however, are hard to condense. A representative democracy of free and fair elections and an equally-applied rule of law is, by design, a slow process. In a time of rapid technological change, innovative capitalists step up to make the rules regarding how their activities impact the rest of us. Previously, such self-interested rule-making has been confronted eventually by a collective public interest, democratically expressed, to create new rules that protect the common good.

The second criteria necessary for democracy to work is for us to overcome our inherent tribal instincts and band together. Unfortunately, the business plan of the internet economy undermines this priority by hastening a retreat to tribes. Internet companies—both networks and those that provide services over them—have discovered a digital alchemy that takes your private information and turns it into their corporate asset. Using that information, the companies slice and dice us into tribal groupings to sell to advertisers—or foreign interests seeking to sow discord by playing one tribe against another. more>