Macro Analysis /
Global

The Techno-Feudal Method to Musk’s Twitter Madness

    Project Syndicate
    24 November 2022
    Published byProject Syndicate

    Immediately after taking over Twitter and pronouncing himself Chief Twit, Elon Musk affirmed his commitment to safeguarding the platform as the “public square” where anything and everything is debated. It was a smart tactic, because it successfully diverted the public’s attention from what Musk is really up to.

    ATHENS – Elon Musk had good reasons to feel unfulfilled enough to buy Twitter for $44 billion. He had pioneered online payments, upended the car industry, revolutionized space travel, and even experimented with ambitious brain-computer interfaces. His cutting-edge technological feats had made him the world’s richest entrepreneur. Alas, neither his achievements nor his wealth granted him entry into the new ruling class of those harnessing the powers of cloud-based capital. Twitter offers Musk a chance to make amends.

    Since capitalism’s dawn, power stemmed from owning capital goods; steam engines, Bessemer furnaces, industrial robots, and so on. Today, it is cloud-based capital, or cloud capital in short, that grants its owners hitherto unimaginable powers.

    Consider Amazon, with its network of software, hardware, and warehouses – and its Alexa device sitting on our kitchen counter interfacing directly with us. It constitutes a cloud-based system capable of probing our emotions more deeply than any advertiser ever could. Its tailor-made experiences exploit our biases to produce responses. Then, it produces its own responses to our responses – to which we respond again, training the reinforcement-learning algorithms, which trigger another ripple of responses.

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