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Don’t Read This Blog Post

By Martin Kihn | July 02, 2016 | 0 Comments

Happy 4th, marketers! Today I’m happy to guide you away from this idle forum to a couple of extraordinarily well-delivered arguments with relevance to us all. Both are beautifully done, instantly vogue, and are on tap this weekend for your quiet hours.

Well, not hours. They each take about 15-20 minutes to enjoy.

Consider these my curated content moments for the year:

1. “Four Horsemen” keynote by Scott Galloway – you can see it here on YouTube

The four horsemen are Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, and the apocalyptic thunder is overt. In this year-old talk — delivered in rat-a-tat fashion before a panel event at a DLD conference — NYU Stern marketing professor slash agent provocateur Scott Galloway jumps onto each horse, one by one, and delivers his diagnosis.

Then jumps off. Galloway is like a human pistol sharp-shooting the truth. Like all sharp-shooters (so I imagine), he’ll miss the target from time to time, but the show is worth the price. It’s refreshing to hear such an unfiltered litany of convincing reports.

Galloway treats each horseman with respect — he calls them all “fantastic companies” — but he doesn’t see them all on hand at the final trumpet. Necessarily. Faring best in his view is Apple, which he reads as a luxury fashion brand that signals erotic desirability to potential breeding stock (don’t look at me — this is how Galloway talks).

(And he’s probably right.)

On the other hand, Amazon needs to open stores (“… the music has stopped for e-commerce …”), Facebook is riding the express lift based on imagery and identity and “bait-and-switch” kvelling to advertisers, and Google should worry because search is outre.

But he says it better than that. Highly recommended, along with this lesser side-dish.

2. “Moral Economy of Tech” talk by Maciej Ceglowski – read it here on his blog IdleWords

Also delivered in front of a panel – this one for the imposingly named Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics convention at U.C. Berkeley last week – Ceglowski lays down the computational truth to the collected sociological youth and no doubt exploded some minds. Seriously.

Who is Ceglowski? He’s a self-described “painter and computer guy” who appears to be a youngish Polish-born American dude who likes to travel, runs a couple websites (including a bedbug database), and writes about food and travel on his surprisingly non-technical personal blog. So a free agent and man-of-mystery last seen raising money on Kickstarter for a 36-day voyage to the Ross Ice Shelf. (He went.)

Ceglowski’s little talk is the best-written piece of prose on computers I’ve read since Paul Ford’s ode to code … and a brilliantly pointed illumination of the crippling hypocrisy at the dark heart of mighty, mighty Silicon Valley.

Ceglowski explains the coders’ view of the world: as a set of “systems” that can be reduced to symbols that can be manipulated and — in the end — controlled. Programmers apparently suffer from the delusion that because they can write software that (sometimes) works, they can ultimately understand, define and improve anything.

“Success in the artificially constructed world of software design promotes a dangerous confidence.”

But he doesn’t stop there. As a developer, he knows: life in the cone of code makes a person arrogant, selfish, unaccountable, controlling and a certain kind of crazy.

What then? A deeply rifted world — a “residential theme park for tech workers, surrounded by areas of poverty and misery that have seen no benefit and ample harm from our presence” (San Francisco). And then into a deeply troubling scroll of dystopian fantasies of surveillance capitalism that we can only hope are overblown.

“My greatest fear is seeing the full might of the surveillance apparatus unleashed against a despised minority, in a democratic country.”

But Ceglowski explains himself better than I can. So go forth.

Happy (surveillance) Independence Day!

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