The central focus of the book is data and how it is captured, processed and monetized by platform owners such as Facebook, Google and Uber. Srnicek is critical of some of the approaches of these companies, particularly Uber, but offers a realistic and useful description of their business models and the challenges they face as their platforms mature and the basic drivers of capitalism force them to seek new ways to grow and increase profits.
Most important for our purpose is the fact that the generalised low interest rate environment built by central banks has reduced the rate of return on a wide range of financial assets. The result is that investors seeking higher yields have had to turn to increasingly risky assets – by investing in unprofitable and unproven tech companies, for instance. (Page 30)
Most data must be cleaned and organised into standardised formats in order to be usable. Likewise, generating the proper algorithms can involve the manual entry of learning sets into a system. Altogether, this means that the collection of data today is dependent on a vast infrastructure to sense, record, and analyse. (Page 40)
Far from representing the future of work or that of the economy, these models seem likely to fall apart in the coming years. (Page 88)
Importantly, ‘once we understand this [tendency], it becomes clear that demanding privacy from surveillance captitalists or lobbying for an end to commercial surveillance on the Internet is like asking Henry Ford to make each Model T by hand. (Page 101)
Rather than improving productivity or developing new markets, the industrial internet appears to drive prices still further down and to increase the competition for market share, thereby exacerbating one of the main impediments to global growth. (Page 116)