One code to rule them all: How big data could help the 1 percent and hurt the little guy –

The essay by Andrew Leonard is worth reading, if only because of its synthesis. The familiar point, that we ought to proceed with eyes wide open and not look to “Big Data” analysis or any other seeming technological system as a panacea, bears repeating. Leonard quotes Morozov, who argues that the outcome will be less not more transparency, and also O’Reilly, who is rather more optimistic:

“The general lesson from algorithmic regulation systems is that you focus on the outcome and you continue to tweak the algorithm to achieve that outcome, precisely because people do try to game the system. At least with an algorithmic regulation system, you have a chance of adapting more quickly. With an old-fashioned paper regulatory system, people game the system too and they go on doing it for years.”

Fair enough. In a perfect world, we will always be tweaking the algorithm. But the nature of those tweaks will be just as contested as the writing of existing regulations is contested in Congress. And the same power law is likely to be as true in the black boxes of software as in the legislative sausage factory. Capital writes the rules. And the more we take humans out of the picture, the harder it will be for real people to fight the power.

I tend to believe that Leonard’s bleaker outlook is likelier to be the one most people encounter. But I also believe that in this case too the future will not be distributed equally, nor even using the same technologies. Here, as with other instances, there will be irruptions of differences that will prove disruptive. Different capital regimes in different polities alone will unmake hegemonic effects, or at least compromise them: there is no single capital market nor single consumer field.

 One code to rule them all: How big data could help the 1 percent and hurt the little guy –

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