Turn in Social Mood: Internet is Totalitarian Tool, Americans Itching for Trade War

Technology is a tool, like a hammer, an automobile or a gun. These can be used to build homes, transport goods and keep order. They can also be used to smash buildings, move soldiers for an invasion and murder people.

When people are optimistic, they prefer the positive and optimistic views of technology. The Internet became a mass phenomena at peak social mood. People mainly focused on the benefits and ignored costs for many years. They thought it would unite the world, expand people's right to free speech and even break totalitarian regimes as online freedom directly or indirectly triggers demand for more liberty in the wider society. Instead, social media tears diverse nations apart because each subgroup (however defined) can form its own media and narratives about society. Internet companies that used to be at the forefront of the "information wants to be free" zeitgeist, are now among the most secretive, they're serial violators of privacy. Some, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, are the most repressive companies in the world when it comes to speech rights. Finally, authoritarian regimes led by China are harnessing the power of the Internet.

Instead of preventing 1984, the Internet has enabled totalitarianism like never before. Fifty years ago, extreme repression was required for totalitariansm because thought control required physical control and punishment. Today, the government can control what you think by controlling the information you receive. It knows what you're thinking if you are online. It can implement a thorough totalitarian program without you ever seeing a secret police officer. In fact, you might not even have a negative experience as your life is gameified. You will get dopamine hits for doing what Big Brother wants. Digital currencies will eventually give the government 100 percent control over your economic life. Unless you wander into the woods and become a hermit, you will be at their mercy. Most terrifying for those in the West is that the framework of this system is already being implemented by Silicon Valley companies. Good think is rewarded and bad think punished by social media companies. The end goal in China and Silicon Valley is the same, to use technology as a means for totalitarian control over society.

Turning back to social mood, China also benefited from positive mood. It was a country experiencing rapid economic growth. It was the future, a land of opportunity, and one day an partner for developed countries. As mood turns negative, China is a military, economic and political threat. Any negative story about China gets covered like never before.

Boston Globe: China and the AI threat to open societies
I want to warn the world about an unprecedented danger that’s threatening the survival of open societies.

The rapidly improving instruments of control that machine-learning and artificial intelligence can produce are giving repressive regimes an inherent advantage. For them, these instruments of control are a help; for open societies they constitute a mortal danger.

In China, President Xi Jinping wants a one-party state to reign supreme. Xi is trying to consolidate all the available information about a person into a centralized database to create a “social credit system.” Based on these data, people will be evaluated by algorithms that will determine whether they pose a threat to the one-party state. People will then be treated accordingly.

The social credit system is not yet fully operational, but it’s clear where it’s heading. It will subordinate the fate of the individual to the interests of the one-party state in unprecedented ways.

I find the social credit system frightening and abhorrent. Unfortunately, some Chinese find it attractive, because it provides information and services that are not currently available and can also protect law-abiding citizens against enemies of the state.
The irony is that's written by George Soros, one of the advocates of implemented a velvet-gloved version of this system in the West.

PJ Media: SPLC Leads Soros-Funded Groups in 'Orwellian' Attempt to Ban 'Hate Speech' on Social Media
Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) teamed up with five other groups funded by George Soros to pressure tech companies to "reduce hateful activities on their platforms." While this sounds like a noble goal, mainstream conservative and Christian groups that have fallen afoul of the SPLC warned that these liberal organizations have an "Orwellian" definition of hate that most Americans would disagree with. Worse, social media companies already seem biased against conservatives, and this SPLC campaign would only embolden that bias.
The difference between Soros, Silicon Valley and China is the latter has more power and far less fear of reprisal. Both think they are doing good for their society and moving it forward into a progressive, socialist future.

MIT Technology Review: The real reason America is scared of Huawei: internet-connected everything
5. Why is Huawei’s 5G causing so much concern?
As the world’s biggest supplier of networking equipment and second largest smartphone maker, Huawei is in a prime position to snatch the lion’s share of a 5G market that, by some estimates, could be worth $123 billion in five years’ time.

Stalling the company’s expansion into Western markets could have the convenient side effect of letting competitors catch up. But there are also legitimate security concerns surrounding 5G—and reasons to think it could be problematic for one company to dominate the space.

The US government appears to have decided that it’s simply too risky for a Chinese company to control too much 5G infrastructure.

The focus on Huawei makes sense given the importance of 5G, the new complexity and security challenges, and the fact that the Chinese company is poised to be such a huge player. And given the way Chinese companies are answerable to the government, Huawei’s apparent connections with the Chinese military and its cyber operations, and the tightening ties between private industry and the state, this seems a legitimate consideration.

But the ongoing fight with Huawei also goes to show how vital new technology is to the future of global competition, economic might, and even international security.

On trade, China can do no good.

NYTimes: China’s Online Censorship Stifles Trade, Too
China has long defended its censorship as a political matter, a legitimate attempt to protect citizens from what the government regards as “harmful information,” including material that “spreads unhealthy lifestyles and pop culture.” But you don’t need to be a trade theorist to realize that the censorship is also an extremely effective barrier to international trade. The global internet economy is worth at least $8 trillion and growing, yet the Trump administration has focused chiefly on manufacturing, technology transfers and agriculture, and does not seem to have pressed for concessions on this issue.

Sheltered from American, Japanese and European competition, Chinese internet businesses have grown enormously over the past decade. Nine of the world’s 20 largest internet firms, by market value, are now Chinese. Some of this growth reflects the skill and innovation of Chinese engineers, a vibrant start-up culture and the success of Chinese business in catering to local tastes. But it’s hard to believe that this has been unaided by censorship.
Even one of China's reform achievements, opening its stock market, is coming under scrutiny.

WSJ: How China Pressured MSCI to Add Its Market to Major Benchmark
The move by MSCI Inc. came after it came under heavy pressure from the Chinese government, which tried to curtail the company’s business in the country, according to people familiar with the matter.
If President Trump doesn't know it, he'll soon learn the American public is itching for a trade war with China.

It is still too early to say the die is cast, but if social mood continues on a negative trend, it's a guarantee that Silicon Valley companies will be targeted for political reprisals. The political right has a personal reason for hating Big Tech because it is the target of political censorship, but censorship is so widespread (and often hamhanded) that is has made enemies all over the political spectrum. Add in privacy violations and antitrust, and it may not be long before companies such as Google find their allies in DC are few and far between. They will be as untouchable as tobacco companies.

Reuters: Google, Facebook spend big on U.S. lobbying amid policy battles

The same can be said for China. We'll know in a few weeks if the die is cast on trade, but the shifting social mood has uncovered widespread dissatisfaction with China. All corners of American society are coming out with China-negative stories as would happen in the run-up to a real war. If I was betting solely on President Trump I'd lean towards a deal getting done, but negative social mood and the news flow indicates the public might outflank Trump on trade and eventually find a candidate who will launch a full-blown trade war.

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