Tech giants face US Congress hearings on competition

Just came across this article on the US Congress hearings of the giant Tech companies Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. What called my attention was the approach from the executives (you know, corporate diplomats) in stating that they face competition and are not monopolies – which, let’s be honest, is not quite accurate.

I believe that the issue with governmental affairs professionals in private organizations is the short-sighted vision on matters of public interest. This is the core scope of their work and yet, governmental affairs specialists bring this fierce attitute of business strategy to the public debate – definitely not a win-win approach. This approach will only continue to get the exact conter-productive reaction they got from congressman David Cicilline, as reported by Wired:

“I don’t think there’s any question that we cannot expect them to regulate themselves. We’ve seen the total absence of any ability to regulate themselves, so I think it will absolutely require some action by congress.”

Would it be reasonable to say that the new data economy revolves around data as the raw material of its production systems? Does this mean that these tech companies are extracting data as a commodity?

They are arguing that they extract these commudities to serve their consumers. But, aren’t their consumers the people who they also extract the raw material from?

And what do the consumers/suppliers get in exchange? Not much except an overwhelming load of personalized advertising (is this a benefit, anyway?) and access to content creation and sharing platforms – which is the over-the-top (OTT) infrastructure of the production system.

Well, I believe that it basically comes down to the fact that the emerging production mode (knowledge production systems) does not close the economic feedback loop. In the industrial mode of production, in which raw material is in fact extracted from space territory, there is a feedback loop – concessions pay taxes and royalties to the States that have sovereignty over territory and wages to workers who provide labor to extract the material. However, in the emerging information age, the story is completely different. And my argument is that people – the data subjects from which raw material is extracted, hence data providers – are shut outside of the economic loop. This has something to do with the flawed assumption that all individuals performing economic agency (i.e. as both end consumers and data providers) are conscious homo economicus.

But anyway, this is a long academic argument which I will try to elaborate on further in my next article. Until then, I offer a couple of links to the respective US Congress hearings that made headlines this week.

Elon Musk’s cyborg technology

Let me start by apologizing for the rather radical shift in the nature of my post today, but this is actually a reflection of my ongoing scientific research. I do believe, however, that this shift presents itself quite appropriately.

Our technological apparatus is advancing in such a rapid pace that I believe human-machine symbiosis is becoming an increasingly critical phenomenon in our contemporary society. Herbert Marcuse (One-Dimentional Man, 1964) anticipated our need to reflect on the totalitarian character of technological rationality in advanced industrial societies. As far as I can tell, technologies such as artificial intelligence and human-machine integration is at the verge of transforming humans into a new life form – we’re becoming cyborgs. It only sounds reasonable to discuss the political implications of such extraordinary transformation.

For this reason, I would like to share Elon Musk’s Neuralink streaming that took place on this past July 16 2019. Musk is pushing forward with yet another incredible breakthrough technology!

I also recommend the following article written by Tim Urban on April 2017: Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future. It is quite a long read, but it is definitely entertaining and extremely informative, insightful and absolutely worth it for those who are interested in further understanding the broad aspects of advancements in cyborg technologies.

The future has arrived!

Ad Hoc: Complexity in Science, Culture and Society

The research group Complexity met on April 1st of 2019 at the Research College for Human Sciences (Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften) in Bad Homburg, Germany to participate in a discussion with the South African cosmolgist George Ellis. His recent work The Dynamical Emergence of Biology From Physics: Branching Causation via Biomoleculeswas the basis for the workshop held throughout the day.

Complexity Workshop April 2019 Bad Homburg
Research group on Complexity in Science, Cuture and Society at Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften in Bad Homburg, Germany.

The increasing complexity in research and society is accelerating with new phenomena such as big data, digitization, migration flows, technologisation or even automation. As a result, science has an obligation to identify strategies for successfully dealing with complexity and solving complex problems. Examining these expectations is one of many starting points of the research project.

The overarching goal is to investigate different concepts of complexity and their theoretical justification from an interdisciplinary perspective and thus not only show new patterns for the practical handling of complexity, but also to gain new insights for the scientific research itself. A starting point of the project is the scientific-philosophical definition of complexity as a property of systems that show unexpected and unpredictable behavior due to the interaction of their elements, Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary cooperation between the natural sciences and the humanities explores questions as to whether and how such a definition can apply and be applied to scientific systems as well as to cultural and social systems.

Development and operation of the project

Since the beginning of 2017, researchers from various disciplines at the Goethe University have collaborated in the project »Complexity in Science, Culture and Society«. After a successful pilot phase funded by the Aventis Foundation , the project was headed by Prof. Dr. med. Harald Schwalbe (chemistry) and Prof. dr. Matthias Lutz-Bachmann (Philosophy) another funding commitment from the Aventis Foundation for the period from 2019 to 2020.

The research group consists mainly of natural and life scientists from the Goethe University and the University of Darmstadt, but also from humanities scholars from other institutions in Germany and abroad. She meets regularly at the Research College Human Sciences of Goethe University (FKH), where the project is administratively located. In addition, joint workshops and lectures are organized, to which internationally renowned scientists are invited to discuss with the research group different aspects and topics in the context of the complexity question.

An important part of the project work are the Complexity Fellowships , in which international guest scientists are invited to the FKH. There, they will be given the opportunity for their own research and active participation in the questions and events of the project.