Big tech's disruption promises stability and convenience - but only causes chaos

Three things to read today

Today I read three things today that do a good job of highlighting how big tech creates a kind of cycle of chaos. By this I mean that although the largest platforms and companies promise stability and convenience by creating integrated ecosystems that make it easy for us to access information and products, they ironically have the opposite effect - distrust, confusion, complexity. That, I suppose, is the very nature of disruption.

Nieman Lab looks closely at the Facebook algorithm’s part in forthcoming elections

I wrote recently about the intersection of technology and modern geopolitics - but this on Nieman Lab asks an interesting question about what Facebook can do to provide the level of stability needed for a democracy to function. In particular I like the idea of focusing in on ‘the algorithm’ as a technology that is instrumental in forming the foundation of the social sphere.

Want to know why Libra could cause chaos? Look back at history

Libra is the cryptocurrency ‘founded’ by Facebook (it’s not strictly run by Facebook - that will be the job of the Libra Association of which Facebook is a part). To say it’s causing headaches to legislators and others is a bit of an understatement - it’s hard to know exactly what its impact is going to be or even if it’s going to succeed.

This on MIT Technology Review looks back to the early nineteenth century to demonstrate the destructive consequences of privatised currency.

The cat and mouse game of ad-blocking

If you want to ask where most things have gone wrong with the internet you could do a lot worse than to point the finger at ads. Digital advertising is such a huge part of the economy that it’s the thing that manages to do everything from eroding consumer privacy to forcing journalism down the path of clickbait.

But as publishers, platforms, and consumers remain locked in a cat and mouse game that goes round and round, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at how we’ve ended up in this situation. This, by Cory Doctorow, is well worth reading on the subject.