App Stores, Streaming Music, and Community Voice: A Thought Experiment

My post on community groups and augmented reality (AR) covered a lot of ground. Today I’m going spend a little more time on one point: what could this sort of organizing accomplish?

So, a thought experiment:

Imagine that if before Apple created its iPhone apps store, instead of making decisions unilaterally, it was in dialogue with communities from Compton to Letcher County, Kentucky to the suburban Rust Belt of Ohio — people who by the Internet Age our society had effectively written off. And imagine that people from these communities had a voice not only because they could vote or organize economic pressure but because in each of these communities many people were fluent with the tech behind iPhones.

Now imagine that if before Spotify, YouTube, and other players “disrupted” the music industry, transforming an already unjust, racist system so that now most musicians can’t earn a living by selling/streaming their records, these same communities had a real say in shaping the new rules of the road and who benefited from them.

Now take that impact and multiply it by 100. Sometime in the next 10 to 20 years we are going to reach a point where similar decisions are being made about how robots/AI will dramatically reshape our economy. Only this time the stakes will be much higher: a staggering amount of wealth will be created, and it’s possible that an unimaginable number of jobs may be destroyed.

That’s why it’s worth figuring out how all communities can have a seat at the table where the rules of this new road are made.

In turn, that’s why it’s critical that in each of these communities there are enough people who are working with this new tech and can explain them to the rest of their community. A seat at the table is meaningless if you don’t understand the nuances of this new tech well enough to understand a rule’s implications. And often the table where community groups need a seat won’t be in Congress, it’ll be at meeting of coders.

NOTE: Just in case it wasn’t clear, the Apple and Spotify/YouTube examples really are just thought experiments. For example, in the real world it wouldn’t be fair to expect that Apple would’ve shared enough of their iPhone plans with the public in advance so that communities could have had a real say. What I’ve learned from talking with people about Makers All is that it’s hard for most folks to imagine what an economy might look like when robots/AI are ubiquitous; these thought experiments are a small step in helping folks wrap their head around it.

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