Take The Power Back
Money is the alienated essence of man’s labor and life; and this alien essence dominates him as he worships it.”
― Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1
‘Senator, We Run Ads’, replied Mark Zuckerberg while testifying before the US senate in April 2018. Mark was responding to Senator Orrin Hatch’s question “So, how do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?”
Mark’s answers explains the internet of today that operates, mostly, on the ‘freemium’ model where services are free as long as its users allow themselves to be targeted for ads. This is the essence of capitalism on the web in specific and of capitalism in general. The purpose of this essay is to highlight how inextricably linked the future of the internet is to the future of capitalism itself. Of course, there is no rule book that says — we, the users of the web, cannot remake capitalism.
Prologue : The Internet Computer
I came across an interesting article penned by Will Douglas Heaven, senior editor for AI at the MIT Technology Review titled ‘A plan to redesign the internet could make apps that no one controls’. In it, the author talks about a variety of different efforts (including Solid, SAFE Network, InterPlanetary File System, Blockstack, and others) to free the internet from the clutches of a few platforms (Facebook, Google, Amazon, Baidu etc.). Consider this, more than 92.7% of the web’s search traffic flows through Google, more than half (56%) of global digital ad revenue goes to 2 platforms i.e Google and Facebook.
Most notably, Will’s article highlights a not for profit foundation, headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland, called Dfinity and its attempts to create an Internet Computer — a seamless shared universe for reimagined software that’s secure and unstoppable, that can power a new generation of enterprise systems and internet services. It’s created by independent data centers, as opposed to private data centers, running the ICP protocol i.e. the Internet Computer Protocol (ICP).