"The second inverted idea I want to talk about is the idea of the right to be represented by a bot. A bot is a piece of software that acts on your behalf. Let me make this more concrete.
I went on Facebook the other day, because I remembered that a couple of years ago I had written something witty on somebody else's wall. And I was trying to remember who it was. Turns out that Facebook makes this quite difficult.
You can't actually search your own wall posts. Now, Facebook has all these data, but for whatever reason, they've decided not to make it easily searchable. I'm not suggesting anything nefarious here, it's just how it is.
So now imagine for a moment if, [in] my relationship to Facebook, I was able to use a piece of software. I could now instruct this piece of software to go through the very cumbersome steps that Facebook lays up for finding past wall posts, and do it on my behalf. That would be one thing.
The other thing I could have done is, if I've been using this bot all along, the bot could have kept my own archive of wall posts in my own data store and I could simply instruct it to search my own archive.
Now you may say, well, that's a trivial example. But actually it is very foundational. It completely inverts the power relationship between networks and their participants.
It also inverts the present legal situation. There are lots of laws, at the moment, that allow networks to restrict to what degree you can use a bot to interact with them.
They basically can restrict you to only use the existing application programming interfaces, or API's, and say, only these are legitimate and on top of that we can limit how much you can do.
Now to see that this is a powerful inversion, I want to talk for a moment about on-demand car services, companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar.
If you are a driver today, they each have a separate app. It makes it very hard for you as a driver to participate in more than one network at a time.
If you had the right to be represented by a bot, somebody could write a piece of software that drivers could run that would allow them to simultaneously participate in all these marketplaces. And the drivers could then set their own criteria for which rights they want to accept.
Now clearly those criteria would include, for instance, what the commission rate is that the marketplace is charging. And drivers would go for marketplaces that charge less of a commission.
So you can see in this example how the right to be represented by a bot is quite powerful. It would make it very hard for an Uber, or a Lyft or any one of these companies to charge too high a commission, because new networks could come up.
A cooperatively owned network, cooperatively owned by the drivers, for instance, and the drivers could participate simultaneously in the new network and the old network. And it's the very threat of the creation of these new networks that would substantially reduce the power of the existing networks.
This is important not just for drivers.
We are all freelance workers on Facebook, and on Twitter, and all these big social networks.
Yes, we in part get paid through free services, free image storage, free communication tools, but we are also creating value.
And it's not just the distribution of value that we are worried about.
We are also worried about what these companies do.
We are worried about questions such as censorship.
We are worried about questions such as:
Are we being manipulated by what has been shown to us in the feed?
And at the moment, what regulators are doing is, they're trying to come up with ad hoc regulations to regulate each and every one of these aspects.
And many of these ad hoc regulations are going to have completely unintended consequences. And often these consequences will be bad.
Let me just give you one example.
The European Union has said: If you want to have information on people who live in the EU, you have to keep it on EU servers. That actually makes it harder for new networks to get started, not easier. It actually cements the role of the existing networks instead of saying we need to create opportunities for competition with existing networks."
-- Albert Wenger [published Jan 15, 2015]
(also found at https://continuations.com/post/108912689660/big-and-bot-policy-proposals-transcript )