(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘cable cars

“The advance of machine-technique must lead ultimately to some form of collectivism, but that form need not necessarily be equalitarian”*…

Whither our relationship with the technology that’s become so engrained a part of our lives? And what of the companies that provide it? Tim Carmody muses…

The end of the heroic age of the tech giants does not imply that tech giants are in decline, but confusing the two is natural. Observers and analysts usually talk that way about companies, especially tech companies and the platforms they enable: they grow, mature, then decline (in relevance if not in revenue).

In general, what characterizes this phase of the tech giants’ development is a shift from unlocking user creativity and customer value to doubling down on surveillance, usually augmented by AI. Mass surveillance was always an important emergent part of the tech giants’ strategy, but was arguably secondary to delighting users and giving them greater capabilities. Now surveillance and nonhuman solutions are dominant, and the creative possibilities are now almost all residual.

(Yes, this “emergent/dominant/residual” schema is a Raymond Williams reference.)…

… Both of these declines — the decline of the consumer experience and the decline of the market forecasts — are driving tech companies’ retreat from what I’m calling their heroic phase. But neither are identical to it.

We can imagine — in fact, I predict — that these companies’ stock prices will rebound along with the rest of the market. Their profits will soar — the newfound emphasis on profits rather than reinvestment demands that they soar. Their technical innovations will continue, especially in AI, automation, and cloud computing. And yes, customers from you and me to the DoD will continue to shop for, use, and stream their products.

The main difference is that it’s now clearer than ever before that these companies’ interests are not the same as their customers’, or their workers’. There’s nothing universal about the technology revolution, no rising tide that lifts all boats. We have to give up that fiction in order to see things as they really are…

Eminently worth reading in full: “Two ways to think about decline,” from @tcarmody via @sentiers.

* George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

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As we (re-)think tech, we might recall that it was on this date in 1871 that Andrew Smith Hallidie received a patent for an “endless wire rope way” which he then put into practice as the Clay Street Hill Railroad– the start of the San Francisco cable car system.

source

A view of the railroad in 1876 (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 17, 2023 at 1:00 am

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