Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Merchant Princes 2.0

Shoddy workmanship or working practices.

Incestuous relationships with political players.

A seeming imperviousness to regulatory oversight.

A never-ending stream of money from establishment financiers or taxpayer subsidies.

Mercurial, blase but untouchable leaders.

In how many more ways do our tech overlords need to resemble organs of the State before we realise………..they are?

Of course during the days of Empire, it was common for the State to give preferential treatment to merchants and businessmen to assure their success, on the condition that when the State needed funds to fight wars, the businessmen would lend them the gold.

Today, the State doesn’t really need money – once we were off the gold standard they could print all the money they needed. And they are doing precisely that. If anything it’s now the reverse, they need someone to soak up the money they create so we don’t immediately need tweezers to eat our Mars bars.

But primarily, they need information. Information is the new gold.

And in the 21st century, there are two main ways to mine it.

The first involves building massive data centres and the expenditure of trillions of dollars, lots of regulation and feeble, grasping and incompetent oversight, and admitting to ongoing and serious civil rights violations every time you get caught.

The second involves striking a small number of close relationships with companies that have significant market power (ideally monopolies or oligopolies) already in possession of the data you need, and ensuring they remain able and motivated to keep doing so. Ideally, you would help them develop into even more assiduous collectors of the data you think you need.

Thinking for a moment about the types of data governments have always found valuable…….

  • Where we go
  • Who we know
  • What we think
  • What we say
  • What we buy

Capture all that and you’ll know someone quite well.

Companies that have that data?

Well, car companies and mobile phone companies have a pretty good idea of where we go. The social media companies know who we know, and lots of what we say. The search engines reveal much of what we think or care about. And Amazon knows what most of us buy.

To paraphrase…………”Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and Google have become four of the largest commercial entities in the world. Nine out of every ten people use their services online. Their political and financial influence is felt everywhere. In public, they are the world’s leading suppliers of goods, online search, advertising and social media. Unknown, even to their own employees, their massive profits are actually generated by data analysis and supply to various intelligence communities.”

Or more spicily…

“You little prick. You didn’t believe in privacy OR freedom when we funded your startup and turned you into a billionaire.”

When we funded your startup.

When you examine the funding processes for these tech startups, you discover certain footprints all over them. And it turns out that some have worked inside the machine before – before he founded Amazon, Bezos was a central banker at D.B Shaw – a primary dealer.

Given these two choices, the question you might ask yourself is……….“Why would the state needlessly set up massive data centres that are a pain in the arse to fund and keep quiet?”

That’s right. It wouldn’t. Because it needn’t.

But maybe it needs us to believe that it has, so that we keep using YouTwitFace, Google and Amazon. After all, it’s a lot cheaper to pay Edward Snowden a few million to pop up every six months to assure us publicly that they have these capabilities than actually……….buy these capabilities.

For a few million they can have all our data AND convince us they have it in a way we are helpless to avoid. And that’s how to keep the data flowing. That’s how governments today might get a handle on what we buy and where we go and who we know – they don’t need costly data centres out on the middle of the desert chewing through all our data.

Because we are giving all the data to their proxies for free.

Of course they would prefer we not connect the dots, so they pay someone a few quid to pop up in the media every six months or so to remind us “THEY KNOW EVERYTHING! THEY HAVE MASSIVE DATA CENTRES!”

Pay trillions for data centres and an oversight headache, or a few million for a media spokesman?

See if you can spot the difference between these two modern heroes?

Maybe it’s time we started asking why Eddie hasn’t had the full Assange Experience.

Governments need things from you that you don’t want to give them. But as you have no problem giving them to others………

“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”
~ Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, 2001–11

Who needs the NSA when you have Merchant Princes?

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Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
3 months ago

I need a new fridge. I look at possible new fridges on the Internet. I buy a new fridge on the Internet. For the next 6 months, all I see on the Internet is adverts for fridges.

I need convincing that these are commercial geniuses with world-beating AI that can “more or less know what I’m thinking about.”

Snarkus
Snarkus
3 months ago

uncontrolled information about most of us. However, how much of it is relevant to controlling us if one does not participate in echo chambers ? (chambers, chambers) 🙂 Will the final defence be the overlords own bubble ?

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