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Monday, March 30, 2009

Privacy, innovation, the credit crunch, and free-speech, via Hirschman

Chandrachoodan has has speculated that the clamour for privacy stifles innovation in web companies.

In many respects I agree with him that as a voluntary subscriber of a service, one does tacitly agree to the potential risks that come with an innovative product. What if they steal my credit card number? What if they know how large my penis is? Well, bulk ordering condoms online does have such risks attached, but it is so much more convenient no? And who ever asked these people to buy those houses?

Yet, there are certain things in his argument that don't cut it for me; and C being the nice chap he is had a brisk chat with me this morning so that I could clarify my arguments and write this here.

His primary case is for hitherto undiscovered and gloriously beneficial uses of mined data. Now come on, what if there is conclusive proof that those whose visits to the Savita Bhabhi website consistently lasts more than 7.5 minutes everyday have erectile dysfunction? A strategically placed advertisement could save many relationships.

Granted, mindless activism stifles innovation in the name of keeping the best interests of the consumer in mind. But dear Chandru comes up with an equally audacious Orwellian claim to highlight his point: "information about you is essential to safeguard you".

For being respectable proud Capitalists, we tend to be extremely vary of any and every Commie trick.

Unfortunatement!

The market is self correcting, the market is perfect, and the market is good... and that is where we fuck up. For all this to be true, one needs to do two things: have a defined idea of what 'the market' is, and believe that optimum solutions are best solutions. i.e. make a value judgement (always positive in case of Capitalists and negative if your persuasion is Commie) of the 'market product'.

In my continually evolving understanding, neither does the 'market' exist with finite definition, nor is it wise to call it 'good' (or bad). Any high-school nerd who reads Shaiva siddhantha via popular quantum mechanics will tell you that what we desire to understand just is... neither wave not particle. Well, the market is a process, an emergent process, and like the Shiva lingam... just is!

So to attribute values to the outcome of a market process is dubious, more dubious is to assume positive externalities and enforce our limited understanding of the Market/Shivam to define and conserve it.

As a result we believe that "information about you is essential to safeguard you". Why not? We did tell that guy who saw his bank taking up them securitized mortgages, "What on earth you complainin' about, you risk-averse commie nitwit? Don't you know this is the Market? If we sell a duff product, it is rejected. Plus look at what the credit agencies are saying?"

Albert O Hirschman spoke about ‘exit’ and ‘voice’. Basically, as a consumer when you have the option to exit you do. When you have the option to voice, likewise. When exiting is difficult you voice, and when voicing is difficult you bloody well try and exit.

In politics we call ‘voice’ free-speech. And that is because not all nations have open borders that somehow glorious market competition and consumer ‘exit’ will ensure freedom and justice. Unqualified free-speech is essential in the absence/limits of exit (or entry) options.

Therefore, dissent is very much part of that emergent market process. If we think that dissent kills innovation, we must also remember that if there is money to be made of an innovative product, at-least the next bloody inventor will tailor his product to minimise consumer resistance or opposition. Therefore you have innovation as well as safeguards. And products evolve until we get extremely interesting things such as securitized mortgages. This belated, and therefore harder market correction is going to make that innovative product just that bit better.

So it is not just wonky incentives, and copy-cat mentality that perpetuates stupid and risky products or web services. It is also the really dim understanding that Shivaroopam is Shivam. That if it looks like the Market, it is perfect and needs no correction. The Commie cannot kill Capitalism, but can surely thrive on its carcass! As a result you have more regulation, less innovation, and are well on your way on the road to serfdom.

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Comments to Privacy, innovation, the credit crunch, and free-speech, via Hirschman

Hi Anand,
sorry offtrack.
how are you? Hope you remember me. We met in the London Bloggers meet in 2005 :)
Wanted to write to you for sometime but couldn't get your email. Please give me a buzz on r_ramn at yahoo dot com when you have a minute. Wanted to touchbase with you. Cheers

posted by Anonymous Dubukku 

12:37 am, May 28, 2009
 

அருமையா நடிச்சிருக்கேள்! வாழ்த்துக்கள்.


-- RaajK.

posted by Anonymous Anonymous 

3:45 pm, September 19, 2009
 

Hey.. Where is your post related to UPO??!!@@

posted by Anonymous Anonymous 

10:50 am, October 03, 2009
 

Much of what you say is true... the problems arise when (especially in the digital world) rules get changed around without the consumer's knowledge- and sometimes opting out doesn't safeguard your privacy like you think it would- your data continues to remain on the provider's servers- they may promise not to use it- but that's not the same as saying that they don't have it- which still leaves you vulnerable.

posted by Blogger nandini 

2:47 pm, June 24, 2010
 

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