Cryptoparty #2: Accountability

We met near Kenneth Hahn park in Los Angeles, which is adjacent to the Inglewood Oil Field, which is the largest urban oil field. Chris Csikszentmihalyi gave a tour of the park and described the impact of the oil industry on the surrounding communities. We then returned to the trailer for a talk by Csikszentmihalyi on open systems for corporate and governmental accountability.

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“After the industrial revolution, the definitive twentieth-century institution became The Corporation… The Corporation as a hub of economic activity is being challenged by The Platform.”
–Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, How Google Works.

The modern corporation is rivaled in power by only a score of nation states and a few religions. Yet unlike religions or governments, corporations serve no explicit mission to better society, the environment, or to serve the public trust; indeed, some commentators have equated their “personhood” with that of a dangerous and super-powered sociopath. Activists have a limited repertoire of political opposition, like boycotts and “buycotts,” media campaigns, or shareholder activism, but few of these methods seem to have had anything like reciprocal impact. Communities in the path of powerful corporations like those in the oil/gas or logging industries fare poorly, and have faced violence and death for their resistance.

Corporations win because they are by definition organized, rich, and immortal (as if on v), and thrive off their employees: smart individuals employed full time to serve its purpose. New forms of distributed collaboration, enabled by the decreased cost of communication (aka Internets) have proven able to counter the corporation’s advantages in the free market. Microsoft, HP, and the music industry are in precipitous decline as free/libre and file-sharing techniques have repeatedly trounced their well-funded, well-lobbied incumbent efforts: might activism take a hint from these victories?

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