Samuel P.N. Cook
Dec 13, 2021
In 1492, an Italian sailor hired by the teenage queen of Spain landed on a strange Island.
Christopher Columbus thought he was on his way to India.
When he landed on part of an Island that is in what we now know as the bahamas.
He didn’t let it stop him from calling it India - of course.
Instead of discovering India, he discovered a far greater bounty for his adopted monarch.
Within a generation of his discovery, Spanish Conquistadors had toppled and subjugated the peoples of once great civilizations in modern day Mexico and Peru.
Within less than 50 years, Spanish mining of Silver had jumped from one million tons to thirty-five million tons.
The discovery of this vast store of Silver re-wired the Financial System across the world, all the way to China.
China’s decision to base it’s entire financial system on Silver created extreme demand for the newly abundant silver, creating an extensive new global trading economy.
At the same time, an enterprising young Island nation called England also developed a thirst for precious metals.
Not powerful enough to challenge Spanish power overtly, the English did the next best thing.
They funded startup ventures known as pirates that set up in the Caribbean islands to steal the valuable cargo from Spanish Treasure Ships on their way back to Seville.
While European diseases ravaged the new world, potatoes and other crops from the New World transformed crop yields across the world.
The Dutch government decided to turn their trading companies into state backed ventures called the Dutch West Indies and Dutch East Indies.
At one point, the Dutch East Indies company had the largest navy in the world.
The English followed the Dutch lead, and also chartered stock companies to create colonies in the New World.
Too poor at the time to fund and control these ventures, the English benefited from the consolidation of these companies under a Royal Charter 100 years after they were founded.
The New World’s vast bounty of energy resources - first high yield cash crops, and then mountains of coal, and lakes of oil - as well as its precious metals transformed Europe from the backwater of the world economy.
Within three short centuries of discovering the new world, Europe launched the Industrial Revolution and colonized the world.
But the price of this bounty wasn’t free.
An estimated 130 million native Americans (90% of the original 145 million in 1492) died of disease, starvation, and mistreatment by the European settlers within 120 years of their landing.
The European masters of the New World then forcibly enslaved 10.7 million Africans who were brutally captured, tortured, and shipped across the ocean.
The scars of the slave trade and the slave economy it created continue to reverberate through American society to this day.
As Marx teaches us in Das Kapital, surplus of these ill-gotten gains generated the excess capital and wealth that funded the industrial revolution.
The wealth of Europe and the descendants who settled North America came at a tremendous cost.
They got away with it, because they made up the rules as they went along.
Nobody was there to hold them back.
In 2017, the Economist Magazine famously declared that Data is more valuable than oil.
In this video Jaron Lanier in a Harvard Business Review Journal article that estimates the average value of the data from a family of four could soon be worth around $20,000 per year.
And the value of this data would be nothing without you willingly ceding control of your data to the companies that create it.
The more people participate in this data economy, the more valuable the collective data sets become.
The data that is taken from you is contributing to the greatest creation and concentration of wealth in world history since the discovery of the New World.
Just like the Conquistadors of the new world, the Tech Giants are loath to share any of the rewards with you.
And the societal and economic costs of their vast digital colonies will drastically re-order the world in which we all live.
Yes, they tell you that the free solutions they provide for us are a gift from Silicon Valley heaven.
But the price you pay for these free services is more than most of us can even fathom.
The fundamental problem here is that the shareholder value of these companies goes up the more data you give them.
The way they get more data from you is by increasing the time that you willingly or unwittingly spend on these platforms under passive and even active surveillance.
The problem with the Digital Economy is that your property - your data - is fundamentally not valued properly.
Imagine you own a piece of land and you discover oil in your backyard.
Despite having property and mineral rights to your property, an oil company is coming to your land and drilling without paying you anything.
Google and Facebook have created a Digital Hunger Games economy where we are all slaves.
The origins of the surveillance capitalism data economy were built by Google in 1999.
It’s ironic that it’s unofficial motto was Don’t Be Evil.
The book Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshanna Zuboff painstakingly traces the creation of what she calls the Surveillance Capitalism Model.
Roger McAnee, and an early investor in Facebook, is the author of the book Zucked, which describes how facebook followed in Google’s footsteps into the corrupt business model of Data theft.
Beyond the individual consequences we pay for the data economy, the geo-political consequences are far greater.
Imagine if the United States took it’s Navy off the coast of France and started drilling for oil in France’s coastal waters.
The French Navy of course would respond and threaten to start a war to prevent the theft of it’s natural resources.
Three years ago, France proposed a 3% digital tax on all of that ad revenue that companies generate off of the population of France.
The conquistadors of the digital age - Google and Facebook - went running to President Trump for protection from this outrageous tax in their view.
Of course, President Trump threatened to tax French Handbags, Wine, and Cheese imports in retaliation.
Let’s step back and think about this for a moment.
The attention of the French citizens - their time which is their most valuable resource - was something wholly created by the French government.
If it weren’t for the French hospitals that gave birth to its citizens and keep them healthy, there would be no data to harvest and sell.
If it weren’t for the French Schools that educated them to read and the written and spoken words on all of these ads, there would be no data to harvest and sell.
If it weren’t for the French Military that fought for the freedom and safety of its population through the centuries, there would be no data to harvest.
Moreover, the reach of Google has destroyed the local newspaper industry across the globe whose classified ads were decimated by Google’s paid search ads efficiency.
The local newsrooms we all relied on to bind us together with a common shared story of our lives has been replaced by conspiracy theory laden news that we get in our Facebook news feeds.
Google and Facebook have effectively hijacked the local narratives we used to tell ourselves with local news companies, and refuse to share any of the profits of their loot.
The American Data Giants are so powerful now, that they are above governmental control - like the Dutch East Indies Company once was.
Despite all the rumors that Mark Zuckerberg wants to run for President, why would he seriously want to run a country of 330 million in an office where he is still accountable to the voters?
Facebook is a digital empire of over 3 billion people where he has absolute dictatorial voting rights control over all other shareholders.
So far American regulators and the government have not shown the ability or willingness to regulate or address the fundamental problem here with it’s big tech companies.
America likes to preach to countries like Ukraine about stamping out corruption.
But the United States just branded and created an entire industry out of corruption and called it Lobbying.
No wonder it’s hard to see anything changing related to the data industry that is eating the world.
It’s little wonder that China early in the Digital Age decided to create the Great Firewall of China and ban big American Tech companies from their billion person market.
Now China has created the opposite of the Corporate Surveillance Capitalism Model that the U.S. has created.
China has perfected the State Owned Surveillance data economy model.
The Age of AI is a PBS documentary on the Future of Data, and the two competing models emerging, perfectly capture the promise and peril of the future of data.
In this documentary, you will see how China effectively uses data to see and control every aspect of their citizen’s lives.
So instead of submitting to corporate surveillance, it’s people just submitting to state owned and controlled surveillance.
Russia is fast following in the footsteps of China in going down the State Surveillance Economy Model.
And that leaves the rest of the world.
India and other non-aligned countries are watching closely to see which model emerges victorious.
But we don’t have to settle for a faustian bargain of a choice between state sponsored vs. corporate controlled surveillance states.
There is a third way.
The Sovereign data economy.
As Balaji Snirivasim talks about in his Podcast with Tim Ferriss, there will be a rising awareness and demand for states where you and your data are truly Sovereign.
Welcome to web 3.0.
Web 1.0 was the age of digital publishing at scale.
The challenge with web 1.0 was it was a one way distribution of information.
Web 2.0 was the age of social media and user generated content.
While web 2.0 created real social interactions and 2-way conversations.
But the problem with Web 2.0 is that it created a tech data oligarchy and trampled on data property rights.
Web 3.0 is designed to correct for the errors of Web 2.0
It is going to be a very different world.
Web 3.0 will be all about digital property rights and technology to give the individual control back over their life.
This is in line with what I wrote about last week in the return to our demand for sovereignty as individuals.
Hence the era of AI, Blockchain, NFTs, Crypto-currencies, and the future of the internet will be upon us soon.
More on this in Web 3.0 in future issues of this newsletter.
In February 2021, Facebook decided to cut off access to news articles on it’s app to the entire country of Australia.
Australia passed legislation on compensation to news sites that Facebook didn’t like.
How could facebook get away with it?
Because it is so big that it can afford to bully small countries and try to have it’s way with them.
Enter the European Union with it’s population of 447 million people.
When the EU came out with it’s GDPR privacy legislation, Facebook could not afford to not comply with a law it despised.
The European Union has created the world’s strictest data privacy laws and the right to be forgotten.
Google and Facebook are under increasing scrutiny and pressure from it’s regulators for their monopolistic and anti-competitive behavior.
Europe is also working on legislation about the ethical use of Data and Machine Learning by tech companies.
This is why the future of technology will be created in Europe.
Europe lacks (and will probably never create) a strong centralized government as the U.S., China, or Russia.
Due to it’s long history of living under opression (in the east), and across Europe (under the Nazis) Europe’s member states are obsessed with data privacy.
As more people start waking up to the giant tech data oligarchy they are funding, the strategic sands will start to shift under these sandcastles.
Just like the Spanish Empire ate through its considerable riches in 150 years, Facebook and Google face a strategic challenge.
Both companies fundamentally pursue the best interests for their shareholders at the expense of their users.
Fundamentally, to survive in the long run Google or Facebook either have to change their business model.
But changing a big company that is built in a certain business model is hard.
It’s like turning a battleship.
There is simply too much inertia.
As much as Facebook wants to call itself Meta, it’s still generating all of its money from a corrupt and increasingly toxic platform.
The only reason people stay on Facebook and Instagram and Google is they have little other choice.
We’re trapped, and everyone is slowly starting to realize it.
The future of the Web will come with the new technology around Web 3.0 that is coming (more on this in a future newsletter issue).
History also leaves clues here.
The first industrial revolution happened in England in 1750 - 1830.
Within 2 generations, England built a world empire where the sun literally never set on the British Empire.
The second industrial revolution (1850 - 1910) was funded by English investors who funded new ventures in the United States in Germany.
Within two generations, these Germany and America vaulted over the ossified legacy of industrial England, and they never looked back.
If you look at Europe, its strong regulations around data are inevitably going to create a better world for people in the long run.
The Sovereign Data Economy will be built in Europe.
It will be a better world for both users and entrepreneurs to create the future.
Europe has a much more educated, and bountiful tech labor force in raw numbers, education and talent.
The only thing Europe lacks is the capital and the business development experience from Silicon Valley.
But that is fast changing with VC funds setting up offices in Europe.
In Europe, your money just goes so much further than it does in the United States when it comes to labor, rent, and basic expenses.
The smart money that was created in Silicon Valley will fund the future of tech that will be built in Europe.
In the borderlands of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova - due to the geopolitical risk of being under the nose of Vladimir Putin - the cost advantage and the concentration of talent are even richer.
In a future special series of articles, I will outline why the Future of tech in Europe will be created in the borderlands of Ukraine
More importantly, I will also address the geopolitical stakes over the current crisis in Ukraine.
We all must understand why it’s so important that Europe stands firmly for the sovereignty of Ukraine.
Ironically, just as millions of Ukrainians flocked to the new world 100 years ago in search of opportunity….
...I believe tens of thousands of tech entrepreneurs will soon start streaming East.
The future of innovation and data dignity will be created in Eastern Europe (specifically Ukraine) - where people are actually willing to fight for their individual freedoms.
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