Facebook worries me.

by Laoch1 min read22nd Jun 201225 comments


Personal Blog

This article let's me know I'm not the only one concerned at the dominance of companies like Google and Facebook. I don't have enough data or information to judge whether my continued use of these services are going to be detrimental to me or the rest of humanity. What I do know is that increasingly I'm feeling like Facebook and Google know too much about me and have too much of my attention. I feel a little bit like a puppet, a little bit strung along. How do others here feel?

It reminds me or is analogous to this. In my opinion the food industry having a monopoly on what we eat, just as Google and Facebook will have a monopoly web content. Is this a risk on society?

25 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 6:13 PM
New Comment

How do others here feel?

I feel fine. Thanks.

In my opinion the food industry having a monopoly on what we eat, just as Google and Facebook will have a monopoly web content. Is this a risk on society?

By definition, "the food industry" is that set of all suppliers that supply food to consumers. It shouldn't surprise us that they have a "monopoly", because if there were another supplier, they too would be part of the "food industry". In general, tautologies aren't cause for concern. Also, both Google and Facebook can't possibly have a "monopoly" on web content. If there are two of them, there is a duopoly (but there are, in fact, many more than just those two).

What does this have to do with rationality exactly (or unexactly, if you prefer)?

+1 for

In general, tautologies aren't cause for concern

This would have been a useful phrase during philosophy classes.

Yes I see what I've done there and you pretty much dissolved the problem for me. Thanks.

dissolved the problem

So, you didn't have an underlying concern regarding concentration in the food industry?

If you did, here's some data on full-service restaurants. (Actually, this table does not use the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index. Instead, it gives data on the top 4, 8, 20, and 50 firms in the sector.)

Perhaps someone out there is better at interpreting this table than I am, but it looks like, as of 2007 in the US, the top twenty firms took in slightly more than a sixth of the total revenue.

Note: This is only about full-service restaurants. Here is data about other sectors, though. I did not see anything else specifically about food.

I'm not sure what my concern was, I was probably just panicking at the thought of FB's power. It is worrying however that people still consume food from fast food chains and the centre aisles of supermarkets. I most say the post was sloppy and not well thought out, but I need to articulate more so I had to start somewhere.

In my opinion the food industry having a monopoly on what we eat,

Every industry by definition has a monopoly on what you can buy, since new entrants into the field instantly become part of that industry. Using the word "monopoly" in this way abuses the word and makes it meaningless.

Every industry by definition has a monopoly on what you can buy

In my opinion the food industry having a monopoly on what we eat

Some food is grown or killed by people for personal consumption. Some of that is shared or traded between rural neighbours. Therefore, rural living can indeed mean that the food industry doesn't have a monopoly on what you eat. (I'm eating fresh strawberry from my parents' garden/store right now. It's great.)

(Remember checking assumptions every once in a while!)

Since you can do almost anything for yourself or your family, your claim is also an example of: "Using the word "monopoly" in this way abuses the word and makes it meaningless." Except for the only real-world monopolies, which are always government enforced.

I nearly wrote a cranky response along these lines, but then I re-read it. Note the words in bold. Monopoly is about market power, not brute force coercion at point of consumption. The OP made two errors in the use of the word 'monopoly'. This response objected to one, and Multiheaded's response caught another.

I'd also object to your assertion that real-world monopolies are always government enforced. Unless you're being extremely specific in your definition of 'monopoly', or liberal in your definition of 'government enforcement', I do not think this holds up to much scrutiny.

More to the point, eating something is a biological function, while buying something is a market transaction. Barring outlandish sci-fi scenarios, it's kind of silly to talk about a company having "a monopoly" on the act of me putting organic matter in my face.

[-][anonymous]9y 6


I've been thinking about how that would have to work. The idea of monopoly power is that it allows you to exert distortionary pressure on a market. Someone who straps me to a chair, forces my mouth open and feeds me grapefruit doesn't hold a monopoly over what I eat; they're forcibly coercing me.

The only way I can immediately think of someone having monopoly power over what went into my mouth is if they owned my mouth, or rented a mouth out for me to eat with, (or talk, or do whatever it is I like to do with my mouth), and their enforceable terms of service stipulated I could only eat certain things.

That's actually genuinely horrifying.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

What if it was a monopoly of your past-self, using some sort of implant as an anti-akrasia dieting mechanism?

That's just forcible coercion, not exercising monopoly power.

Monopoly is about being able to charge higher prices for inferior products because you're the only supplier in town, not because you're the only one with a gun.

I find it likely that your feelings of anxiety are not well correlated with actual risks in this area.

And I'll add that I believe the purpose of ethics is to improve people's lives .Ethical standards which turn the ordinary facts of living into worry that one is doing the wrong thing are a bad idea.

Shouldn't we be worried about what we consume to sustain our tremendously crap bodies?

What do you mean by crap bodies?

I mean the fact that they age and are kludges in both design and behaviour.

I think you accidentally a word, and an important one (I can't parse the sentence as it is right now).

I'm not overmuch worried about Facebook, because reasonable people don't treat it as at all private. Sure, it could stand to be a little more memetic that what goes on the Internet becomes immortal, but if, say, someone discovered that any person with an Internet connection had access to their profile, their reaction would probably not be flustered outrage. There exist social networks for minority communities that profess to keep their users' information private, but which are actually about as secure as Facebook itself; that's a problem.

Every person who uses the internet chooses how much information to put there. There are a lot of solutions to the problem of one's data being used for unwanted purposes, such as attaching different accounts to different email addresses/IPs or just keeping it private. This kind of information sharing tech is without precedent, but not actively concerning to me except where users are misinformed about how private their information is.

I've gotten along since deactivating my Facebook account in college (about eight years ago) without being overwhelmingly inconvenienced by its lack. I use a number of Google products but I'm aware of alternatives to all of them (and aggressively prefer the known alternatives to Google Docs, which I hate and will only use when others insist). I'm not that worried.

What's your preferred mechanism for document sharing?

If it has to be online and collaboratively editable, Etherpad clones are nice.