You can't un-grease the tech wheel

Ben Thompson:

One could argue that friction was the foundation of our privacy, and now friction is gone.

Ben Thompson had a slightly sideways piece today on his site stratēchery1 which was a little more up my alley than his usual stuff on “high-tech strategy, value chains, and app store economics,” which — I’ll be honest — goes a bit over my head.

He makes the very salient point that the loss of friction — the things that previously made it prohibitively hard to spy on millions of people simultaneously or relocate jobs to India or sell a product — is a catalyst for good and evil. It intensifies our ability not only to thrive, but to do badness with our thrivitude. Or something, I’m paraphrasing. Read the article.

The NY Times had an article by Brian Chen which, I think, makes a similar point:

After entering my Google mail credentials, Immersion took five minutes to stitch together metadata from e-mails going back eight years. A quick glimpse at my results gives an accurate description of my life.

In an Immersion chart, each person is represented by dots. The more you’ve e-mailed with the person, the bigger the dot gets. In my results, the biggest dot was my boss at my last job; the second biggest was my long-term former girlfriend. The medium-size ones were some of my closest friends. Lines that connected some dots showed friends of mine who knew each other.

Well, yeah. Surely any sane person nowadays has to operate with the assumption that everything you do online is potentially public. If not right away then in the future, once you’ve passed on and your GB of data are bequeathed to your children. That’s why I’ve infuriated countless email correspondents with cheeky asides to my eventual biographers.

There’s no escaping new technology. No matter how deep in your burrow you get, it’s going to find you eventually. Adapting to new circumstances and turning them to your advantage is how you win at this game.

  1. No, I can’t pronounce it either, although I’ve spent time trying. Ben, you owe me some minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.