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Subscription Capitalism: The Story of a Power Shift

The emergence of the internet changed the business landscape in fundamental ways. Computer-based services could be offered to anyone irrespective of geographic restrictions. This meant that internet companies could become globally significant with relatively little initial investment, as demonstrated by Facebook, Google, and several others. Their ability to rapidly concentrate wealth with relatively little overhead…

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Algorithmic Governance and Political Legitimacy

In ever more areas of life, algorithms are coming to substitute for judgment exercised by identifiable human beings who can be held to account. The rationale offered is that automated decision-making will be more reliable. But a further attraction is that it serves to insulate various forms of power from popular pressures. Our readiness to…

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Financing Advanced Manufacturing: Why VCs Aren’t the Answer

In 2013, a group of MIT researchers published a study examining the business trajectory of 150 start-up firms that grew out of technology developed at the university. These were production-related “hardware” firms that actually manufactured things. The firms were able to attract early stage venture capital (VC) funding. They were also able to find the…

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Automation Anxiety in an Age of Stagnation

A cursory glance at Google Trends reveals that interest in robot­ics and automation was far less intense throughout the last decade than interest in proposed solutions to the problems that these tech­nologies are supposedly creating, especially universal basic in­come (UBI). Automation—the process of applying technology and organ­ization to do more with less, with robotics being…

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Rethinking the Knowledge Economy

A new practice of production has emerged in all the major economies of the world. The simplest and most telling of its many names is the knowledge economy. It holds the promise of changing, to our benefit, some of the most deep-seated and universal regularities of economic life and of dramatically enhancing productivity and growth.…

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The Illusion of a “Marketplace of Ideas” and the Right to Truth

The traditional model of a “marketplace of ideas” was intended to justify freedom of speech in terms of its optimal outcome in the production of truth. But today our behavior on the internet, the main locus of the “marketplace of ideas,” is continuously monitored and processed through the analysis of big data. Complex algorithms categorize…

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Losing Momentum: A Warning from the Fracturing British Left

In mid-November 2018, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez issued a rallying cry that was not given sufficient attention. She called on left-wing activists to take over the Democratic Party. Her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti went one step further, openly calling on left-wingers to primary sitting Democrats. Together with YouTube personalities Cenk Uyger and Kyle Kulinski, Chakrabarti is…

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America’s STEM Crisis Threatens Our National Security

On October 4, 1957, a steel sphere the size of a beach ball and bristling with four radio antennae circled the Earth in eight minutes. Dubbed “Satellite-1,” or “PS-1” (Prosteyshiy Sputnik-1) by its Soviet fabricators, it was the first artificial Earth satellite. The Soviets had launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit, where it…

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The Decline of American Science and Engineering

Imagine sitting in front of your television in 1969, watching the Apollo lunar landing, and noting the marvels of modern engineering. The person sitting next to you responds, “Oh yes, but this is a passing fad; soon we will return to premodern engineering. Groping in the dark requires so much less intellect…

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Peter Thiel, Rachel Carson, and Regulatory Double Standards

Buried in the middle of a two-hour debate in 2014 on religion and modernity is a thought-provoking observation by Peter Thiel regarding technology and the modern economy. Instead of praising Silicon Valley for its tremendous digital inventiveness, Thiel criticized the technological advances of the last fifty years…

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