This week I’m interested in the Gilded Age, monopolies, and technology.
- This talk from Zeynep Tufekci is excellent. “What we need to fear most is not what artificial intelligence will do to us on its own, but how the people in power will use artificial intelligence to control us and to manipulate us in novel, sometimes hidden, subtle and unexpected ways.”
- Added to my to-watch list: PBS’s The American Experience: The Gilded Age. This overview from Salon piqued my interest: “The richest represent a patina, a shiny exterior camouflaging the rot underneath.” Hilariously, you can stream the program via Amazon.
- This is a long, dense read–took me several days to digest it all–but worth your time. It made me think and that’s never a bad thing: The case for breaking up Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.
- And that got me thinking about the Ma Bell break-up in the 80’s, which I honestly thought had happened earlier, and while I was researching that I found this (now-quaint) article from 1983 about what was going to change and what wasn’t–and some of the things in the article are entirely too familiar to me as a cable subscriber. And then I went looking for a history lesson, and this seemed like a reasonable overview and then there’s this chart, which is a bit…well, you’ll see.
- Telecommunications and technology aren’t the only industries that have had to wrestle with monopolies: the government broke up DuPont’s gunpowder business, American Tobacco, and Standard Oil. Here’s something else: when you go looking for articles about these monopolies, you can very easily fall through a mirror into bizarro libertarian world, where monopolistic companies are seen as being “punished” for being too good at what they do.
- And finally: Monopoly (the game!) was originally created by Elizabeth Magie in 1903 and then refined by Quakers in Atlantic City before Charles Darrow capitalized on it. The original game was apparently quite popular in Arden, DE, which is a small Georgist community in North Wilmington. In a terrible twist of fate, you basically have to be rich to buy a house in Arden these days. Just the house–the land is held in common by the community.
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