Techno-Feudalism & the End of Capitalism

“If you know of Yanis Varoufakis, you know him as the economist and Greek finance minister whose nuanced analyses of the crisis of 2008 became perhaps the defining voice among left-wing critics of global finance. If you don’t know who he is, it’s never too late to get to know him – and conveniently Yanis’s most recent works are also his most accessible.”
Following 2017’s Talking to My Daughter: A Brief History of Capitalism is 2020’s Another Now: Dispatches From an Alternative Present. Where Talking to My Daughter was, well, exactly what it says on the tin, Another Now is Varoufakis’s first adventure in fiction. Future technology causes a rip between universes, giving our heroes Costa, Iris and Eva a glimpse at what their lives could have been, had the crisis of 2008 gone a bit differently.

We spoke ahead of Yanis’s online talk for Sheffield’s Festival of Debate on 7 May.

What prompted you to jump genres in this way?

For decades, I was avoiding writing a book by which to answer the question, ‘Well mate, if you don’t like capitalism, what’s the alternative?’ I was avoiding that question like the plague, because it’s just so hard to indulge oneself in writing a modern utopia. Yet another utopic book.

But at the same time I felt the need to answer the question, because we tried Marx’s way. Marx never spoke about communism. He declared himself a communist, and spent all his life describing capitalism, but he never ever, not once did he describe communism. When he was pushed remorselessly, he came up with a nice slogan, which was “from each according

— source | Yanis Varoufakis | 16/05/2021

Nullius in verba

Major Media Outlets That Use Invasive User Tracking Are Lobbying Against Regulation

News outlets entrusted with promoting transparency and privacy are also lobbying behind closed doors against proposals to regulate the mass collection of Americans’ data.

In a filing last week, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade group, reported it was lobbying against a push at the Federal Trade Commission to restrict the collection and sale of personal data for the purpose of delivering advertisements. The IAB represents both data brokers and online media outlets that depend on digital advertising, such as CNN, the New York Times, MSNBC, Time, U.S. News and World Report, the Washington Post, Vox, the Orlando Sentinel, Fox News, and dozens of other media companies.

Under President Joe Biden and FTC Chair Lina Khan, the advertising technology industry is facing its first real challenge of federal regulation. There are several bills in Congress that attempt to define and restrict the types of data collected on users and how that data is monetized. Last July, Biden called for the FTC to promulgate rules over the “surveillance of users” in his landmark executive order on competition, which identified unfair data collection as a challenge to both competition and privacy.

In December, the advocacy group Accountable Tech petitioned the FTC calling for regulation of what it calls “surveillance advertising”: the process of collecting mass data on

— source | Lee Fang | Feb 2 2022

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How Big Tech Helped Big Oil Automate the Climate Crisis

When it comes to increasing profitability through automation, the orbits of Big Tech and Big Oil have merged, and household names such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have led the way. They’ve done so under the umbrella of their lesser-known subsidiaries Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure. Both Microsoft and Amazon had a major presence at the recent CERAWeek conference in Houston, considered one of the biggest annual convenings of oil and gas industry thought leaders in the world. Andrew Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, even spoke at the event. Let’s listen a little bit what he had to say.

ANDREW JASSY: A lot of the things that we have built and released recently have been very much informed by conversations with our oil and gas customers and partners. And these are companies like Shell, and BP, and ConocoPhillips, and Halliburton and Woodside. You know, we have a pretty broad group.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Tech companies often bill themselves as pioneers in the use of renewable energy and clean technology. But a far different reality arises in recent reporting by Gizmodo reporter Brian Merchant. Brian

— source | Apr 1, 2019

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On Brexit and the task of confronting technofeudalism

ONE YEAR since the final deal for Brexit was announced, it remains one of the most divisive political subjects for a generation. Perhaps unknown to most, the incendiary B-word had its genesis in the term “Grexit” — coined during tumultuous years after the 2008 credit crunch when a Greek exit from the EU was speculated, as the nation’s people suffered punitive austerity measures imposed by the “troika” of EU Commission, central bank and IMF.
After subsequent periods of mass civil unrest, rioting and national catastrophe, the democratic socialist party Syriza was elected in 2015, with Yanis Varoufakis serving as finance minister during crucial crisis talks with the deep establishment of the EU, as dramatised in the 2019 movie Adults in the Room.
Varoufakis became a familiar face in British media during the Brexit period and expresses dismay concerning some of the dogma surrounding the debate.
“Undoubtedly, the hard Remainers were as unsophisticated in their narrative as the hard Brexiteers. Mirroring the latter, for whom the EU was the source of all evil, the hard Remainers portrayed the EU as a splendid utopia — and in so doing they did enormous damage to the cause of Remain.

— source | Yanis Varoufakis | 03/01/2022

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Online Tracking Device That is Virtually Impossible to Block

A new, extremely persistent type of online tracking is shadowing visitors to thousands of top websites, from to

First documented in a forthcoming paper by researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium, this type of tracking, called canvas fingerprinting, works by instructing the visitor’s Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because each computer draws the image slightly differently, the images can be used to assign each user’s device a number that uniquely identifies it.

Like other tracking tools, canvas fingerprints are used to build profiles of users based on the websites they visit — profiles that shape which ads, news articles, or other types of content are displayed to them.

But fingerprints are unusually hard to block: They can’t be prevented by using standard Web browser privacy settings or using anti-tracking tools such as AdBlock Plus.

The researchers found canvas fingerprinting computer code, primarily written by a company called AddThis, on 5 percent of the top 100,000 websites. Most of the code was on

— source | Julia Angwin | Jul 21, 2014

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US Opposes a Ban on Killer Robots

human rights activists in some countries are calling for an all-out ban on the use of lethal autonomous weapons known as “killer robots” that can make the final order to kill without a human overseeing the process. They are coming under review during high-level talks on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons next week. The Washington Post reports at least 30 countries have called for a ban on killer robots. Last Tuesday, New Zealand said it would join the international coalition demanding a ban, declaring “the prospect of a future where the decision to take a human life is delegated to machines is abhorrent.” But so far, the Biden administration has rejected calls to ban the use of killer robots. During a U.N. meeting in Geneva Thursday, the U.S. instead proposed establishing a code of conduct for their use.

— source | Dec 06, 2021

[Does things clear? US even does not obey their own law.]

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Teaching Cybersecurity in an Age of ‘Fake Security’

I teach cybersecurity. It’s something I really believe in, but it’s hard work for all the wrong reasons. First day homework for students is watching Brazil, No Country for Old Men, Chinatown, The Empire Strikes Back, or any other film where evil triumphs and the bad guys win. This establishes the right mindset – like the medics at the Omaha beach landing in Saving Private Ryan. Not to be pessimistic, but cybersecurity is a lost cause, at least as things stand today. If we define computer security to be the combination of confidentiality, integrity, and availability for data, and as resilience, reliability and safety for systems, then we are failing terribly on all points.

As a “proof” after a fashion, my students use a combination of Blotto analysis from military game theory, and Lubarsky’s law (“there’s always one more bug”). It is a dispiriting exercise to see how logic stacks up against the defenders, according to which “the terrorists always win”. Fortunately, game theory frequently fails to explain a reality where we are not all psychopathically selfish Bayesian utility maximisers (unlike corporations which are programmed to be). Occasionally hope, compassion, gratitude, and neighbourly love win out.

Could things be worse than having mathematics against you? Actually yes. You could live in a duplicitous culture antithetical to security but favouring a profitable facsimile of

— source | Andy Farnell | 11.29.21

Nullius in verba