back to article Mummy, what's the point of Evgeny Morozov's tedious columns?

I often find myself mystified by Evgeny Morozov and his writings. I find it terribly difficult to work out what he's actually for, or what worldview it is that he thinks he's propagating. Unless, of course, it's just to piss off the libertarians or perhaps to show us how clever a Morozov can be in uncovering the feet of clay …

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And FWIW, I identify you as Worstals sock puppet and I claim my £5

You just get stupider with every post, don't you?

A quick comparison of my posting history and Worstal's articles easily demonstrates that we have different writing styles, areas of expertise, interests, and beliefs.

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You know what else is annoying?

Rambling essays which appear to have started halfway through with no introduction to the subject matter or the background. Who the fuсk is Evgeny Morozov?

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Re: You know what else is annoying?

What a lot of people here get cranky when not spoon-fed with every detail. Truly you lot lead hard lives.

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I think that both points are valid. However wealth inequality is more than just being able to afford a house in a nice area, it's also being able to live in an area with the facilities that you need. If you've got children and you live 50 miles away from the nearest school because you can't afford to live closer... Or you're living next to a land fill site because you can't afford anything anywhere else, or even you're living 2 hours away from where you work because the houses that are nearer where you work are more expensive and there's no work near you. These are all examples of how consumption equality do not help wealth equality.

If you're lucky enough to be able to work from home, then the cheaper capital prices on houses aren't offset by the increased costs of commuting (time and fuel). If you can't then these costs can be a massive burden.

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Just to add, that renting is also a form of wealth inequality because you are throwing money into a pit that you're never going to see a return on, while if you own a home at least you have better guarantees that no-one is going to be able to remove you from your home for reasons outside your control. But counter to that, you are now responsible for the upkeep of the building...

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@ DragonLord

"Just to add, that renting is also a form of wealth inequality because you are throwing money into a pit that you're never going to see a return on"

When rents were reasonable you were getting a roof over your head at a price lower than a mortgage. Even now that can be the case but rents have shot up due to the last gov. If you buy a house you are tied down to the location of that property and paying for its maintenance. The return associated with a house assumes it will increase in value. So far that has happened but requires the gov to continue to avoid new building and open immigration. In the end how does the rise in property value compare to the amount you sink into it to keep it standing and make it suit your needs? And then you have the labour party looking to wipe out housing valued around £1m just for fun.

Tenancy laws tend to be a problem for landlords because it is easy to abuse but hard and expensive to deal with. Assuming inequality through home ownership is dependent on the persons goals. The key problem I see with renting is when the last gov distorted the market and caused prices to shoot up.

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Re: @ DragonLord

Even when renting is cheaper than buying, it's still a sunk cost that you have to pay forever rather than buying where eventually you own the property free and clear. With both properties you still have most of the same bills, however you do need to arrange your own maintenance if you own your own home (which could be buying a ladder, paint, brushes and DIY). Equally though you have no power to redecorate if you don't like the carpets or wallpaper.

Unless you value mobility more than you value stability and you are actually going to move house a lot, renting will almost always come out more expensive once you take into account the costs of moving and time sunk into finding somewhere to relocate to.

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Re: @ DragonLord

Renting is always more expensive than owning in the long term. Otherwise, why would landlords be in business? Most landlords use mortgages to buy their properties.

Renting provides housing for people who can't raise the capital required to buy. It's necessary. But let's not pretend that it's financially as rewarding as ownership in the long term. It isn't.

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And once again...

... Tim Worstall cherry picks a bit of someone else's writing and then uses it to build a Straw Man around so he can knock it down and show the "superiority" of his position.

For instance the article he (eventually) links to says:

"To take advantage of all the opportunities offered to us by Silicon Valley – including such fancy-sounding projects as Internet.org – one must first agree to share one’s data in exchange for free services. One has to be very naive to believe that this data is not going to shape how we live the rest of our lives, especially when insurance companies and banks are so eager to incorporate it in their decision-making."

Now I think most El Reg readers accept that the massive data agglomeration by the Googles, Facebooks and so on of this world is not necessarily a good thing for *us*, yet TW ignores this point completely.

TW then says "that consumption inequality of tech products has been falling", but the article also says: "It conceals the fact that the nominally free information available on Google is not equally useful to an unemployed graduate and a secretive hedge fund with access to sophisticated technology to turn data into trading insights", yet he ignores this too, seeming to think that we should be content with the Bread and Circuses we are offered and ignore the man behind the curtain.

TW makes a dig: "how clever a Morozov can be in uncovering the feet of clay of our current gods" but what, exactly, is wrong with this?

Should we sleepwalk blithely into a future where we find that we have given away control of our data and our lives to businesses which have no accountability to us or, possibly indeed, our elected governments (see TTIP etc for details)?

These corporations have no interest in our well-being, only in what we can do for their bottom lines and that is something that can be seen by looking at what happened with the "well they did it in the past, so it must be ok" Barons such as Carnegie, JP Morgan and Rockefeller to name a few who made their money by screwing the little guys who worked for them and buying out or bankrupting their competition simply so they could increase their own bloated fortunes even more.

As George Satayana said: Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, yet that is what Tim Worstall seems to want to happen.

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Re: And once again...

Well, yes, it's a pretty weak rebuttal - indeed, not much of a rebuttal at all, since (as you note) it doesn't address most of Morozov's points. On the other hand, Morozov's piece is also pretty trivial. Probably necessarily so, given the forum, but still there's so little substance that it's hardly worth defending. As other commentators have noted, Morozov's argument here basically comes down to "techno-utopians are pretty naive and material inequality is still important", while Tim's is little more than "hey but technology has reduced poverty". Both are true; both are facile.

It is entirely possible to acknowledge and understand that ICT has, in various domains, reduced poverty and promoted liberty, and that in others it has done the opposite. And that shouldn't be at all surprising to anyone with even the vaguest conception of how hegemonic capitalism works. Nor should any such person arrive at any conclusion other than that hegemonic capitalism is Pretty Complicated and does not, therefore, admit of simple solutions to its problems. Techno-utopians and anti-techno-utopians are equally, and similarly, deluded in believing otherwise.

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Anonymous Coward

Sure, Jobs and Bezos have loadsamoney, but their fortunes aren't out of line with those made by the pioneers of the steel industry, oil, aerospace and so on. Nor, in fact, out of line with those made by entirely different technological changes, like the Normans, whose cavalry and castles conquered England. Odo, brother of William the Bastard, has been estimated to have owned 11 per cent of the entire output of the country.

Exactly! If it was good enough for medieval feudalism, it's good enough for me!

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Headmaster

Shurely shome mishtake?

Nobody called it "The Grauniad"...

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Pissing off the libertarians ...

... is a worthwhile exercise in its own right.

However, it appears that Evgeny Morozov is having a pop at Net Neutrality here and as such he is probably correct that "equalising access to communication services" is a bit of tech company spin to get us to give them another wad of cash in the form of a subsidy. Lets take wikipedia zero, where comms companies don't make data charges for wikipedia access, net neutrality would says that this is illegal as it favours one form of traffic over another. Why should data downloaded from wikipedia be free and data downloaded from a university site be charged for? It favours one source of communication over all others, and in effect disadvantages any newcomers to the market.

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Hmm

I often find myself mystified by Evgeny Morozov and his writings. I find it terribly difficult to work out what he's actually for, or what worldview it is that he thinks he's propagating.

Having never read any of his other writings and only the article on the guardian I can only assume Evgeny is lost and confused at the world and by the world. I am amused by-

Death of starvation is still a possibility but death of content starvation is no longer in the cards.

Yes it is possible if you are in a poorly run care-home or NHS hospital (in the UK) but as I understand it there are many food supplying charities and soup kitchens in existence which makes the starvation unlikely. And by having greater access to information you also by the same rule have greater access to help. And so have less chance of falling so far due to the abundance of information and assistance for problems. Compare that to places with genuine population starvation problems and they have nowhere to go nor information to find help.

He does seem stumped at the concept of market-

one must first agree to share one’s data in exchange for free services

Yes trade is based on a transfer of goods. If you dont have money you may have something else, such as time, skills or data. The service is free as in cost no money. As for the bit quoted by Tim, it seems Evgeny wants an all or nothing approach. Equality of consumption isnt enough for him, he demands giving away free homes and food. Basically a thick socialist argument than reasoned or thought through. Silicon Valley has nothing to do with food and homes, but there are already shelters for the homeless and food for the hungry which are provided by others instead of one great behemoth resembling something like a government. An entity that demands more to live up to the expectations of free stuff for the voters while quietly stuffing their hand into peoples pockets and running away with what they can grab.

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Happily resorting to dogmatism :-)

I'm going to get into the spirit. Tim can't be a "lackey dog capitalist running pig". As any Maoist knows the correct expression is "A Capitalist running dog* and a lackey of US Imperialism". He's pretty likely to also be a revisionist and a paper tiger.

* possibly of course a bloated one...

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Re: Happily resorting to dogmatism :-)

"A Capitalist running dog"

Yeah, but that's a cliche by now and as that little book "How to Write A Column" I have secreted away says, always try to mix up cliches to make them new.

didn't work then, eh?

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Re: Happily resorting to dogmatism :-)

"That hoary old cliche again. I told him to find a new one. "

Jim Hacker

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Re: Happily resorting to dogmatism :-)

I got the joke. It wasn't funny though.

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Tim, if there's a weakness in the argument you've presented here

it's in the assumption that cities have higher real wealth than rural areas. I've lived in both and the truth is, I had a better life in the rural area than the city where I live now. Wages were lower, but so were almost all costs food, housing, taxes, even medical costs. About the only thing that was consistently priced from city to rural was ironically computer equipment. Where I grew up, $7.50 bought a person a good meal at a sit down diner (including tip). When I moved to the city the same amount of money got me a Big Mac meal at McDonald's.

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Re: Tim, if there's a weakness in the argument you've presented here

A load of bunk. Goods and services are frequently more expensive in rural areas due to lack of competition and cost (monetary and time) of travelling to alternate providers that are cheaper.

In London, with in 5 minutes of my house I can walk to 8 different shops that will sell me a litre of milk. All of them are around the same price, because if they weren't, they wouldn't get trade. The convenience stores that are open 24x7x365 charge a little more, but I can pop in to them at 3 AM on Christmas Eve and still get milk and bread.

Where I grew up in rural Suffolk, within 5 minutes walk I can get to a cow. 10 minutes in a car gets you to the nearest store - the only store for 8 miles in any direction - where you can buy milk for about 50% more than it costs than in Tesco. If you want a supermarket, its a 25 minute drive in the opposite direction, costing you a fiver in petrol.

Speaking of petrol, you'd better fill up at that supermarket, because everywhere else is 5-10p a litre more expensive. If they are still open, that is.

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Re: Tim, if there's a weakness in the argument you've presented here

It depends on your definition of rural Tom.

Back in the mists of time when I met my missus I lived in Bermondsey. I now live in the centre of a largish village on the far side of Essex. Granted we haven't got eight shops open all hours, we've three and they shut at 10. But the prices are about the same and Tesco & Asda deliver for less than the cost of the petrol to get to them. So whilst it feels rural to me, it probably wouldn't to you.

Best of all as we move to remote working I will be in the position of being paid London rates whilst living in a 4 bed cottage costing the same as a one-bed flat in Bermondsey.

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1) "Given that Facebitchbook and Google are free to use then there's not in fact any inequality at all between our access to these things. So I do argue that, given that I think consumption inequality is the most important of the three, inequality is falling as a result of the digital revolution; that tech that y'all spend your time upon."

-So you say "consumption inequality" is falling as a result of the digital revolution

While citing :

"Silicon Valley, after all, has done little to equalise things like home ownership and there is no prospect of it ever disrupting the world of real estate."

-Which shows Morozov believes that the effect of the digital sector is only marginally important considering that its affects have very little knock (he uses Real estate as an example I believe).

Would you like to offer a real reason that why "consumption inequality" is falling overall as a result of the the digital revolution, such as the manner in which free email reduces the effects of poor diet (which are said to be increasing) , or how every body having access to the same web browser (assuming when you say 'everyone' you mean westerners who care to use the internet) balances early death becaue you can't afford the same medicines as the rich?

2) "is that there's three different types of inequality". Unfotunately, there are more types of inequality than 3 such as 'inequality of opportunity' (why do Eton dropouts stil do better that state school graduates?)

3) "Simply being around lots of other human beings increases economic output as there's more interaction and experimentation. That's also what makes housing more expensive in cities."

-Is it really? In that case I assume you can cite rearch that shows the cost of housing is directly related to economic output? So by your reckoning Monaco's economuic output is double Londons and nearly 10 time's Berlin's (here http://www.globalpropertyguide.com/most-expensive-cities)

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@ Paul Hampson 1

I will have a shot-

"Would you like to offer a real reason that why "consumption inequality" is falling overall as a result of the the digital revolution"

Cheaper, faster, better. Technology falling in price quickly as new stuff replaces it making it abundantly available to those who could not previously afford it (e.g. firefox phones for africa). It means people have communications and information availability above what they had before.

"such as the manner in which free email reduces the effects of poor diet"

Why email? Greater access to information allows us to choose our diet and know the pro's/con's. It makes it easy to trade tips in food prep and allergy advice.

"or how every body having access to the same web browser balances early death becaue you can't afford the same medicines as the rich?"

But you can have access to the same medical information and advice. This is a huge advancement.

"Unfotunately, there are more types of inequality than 3 such as 'inequality of opportunity'"

Very true. However thanks to the improved nature of communications and information people have more opportunity now. They have the access to train up on new skills, search far and wide for opportunities and to expand their list of contacts which increases the pool of vacancies even across state lines or even countries borders.

"Is it really? In that case I assume you can cite rearch that shows the cost of housing is directly related to economic output?"

More economic output generally means more jobs, more employment, more people, better wages and so higher prices. Why is it more expensive to live in london than manchester? Why do people pile on people pile on people to live in what I consider a cramped hellhole at vastly more expensive pricing and increasing? It is usually cheaper to live outside of a city (within reason) but then there will be less jobs and less people. Your comparison of cities across the world ignores the factors of the country, it would be more fair to compare the city vs non-city in the same country/state.

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Anonymous Coward

without "victims"

then no one can get rich and/or powerful by simply advocating the saving of those victims.

It also makes it hard to be "proud" if you have to look into the mirror and acknowledge that your current position and failings are your own fault. Self esteem uber alles, apparently.

Problem is, without self acknowledgement, there is neither incentive nor means to improve. So you can do nothing but whinge, and empower the charismatic putz who is "standing up for you".

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Point

Evgeny Morozov's point is obvious, having read his Guardian column. While digital tech may help somewhat in creating more equality, this is being over-hyped, and it's not going to solve the serious existing problems of inequality we face any time soon. So it won't "make those old debates irrelevant".

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Re: Point

@ John Savard

That is the same as complaining that while things are vastly improving there will always be a problem to be found somewhere. The best part of the inequality problem is it is unsolvable. Unless everyone has the same as everyone else there will be a problem of inequality. But when everyone gets the same it is always much less than they want and so is a problem

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Meh

Why the rant Tim?

I've never knowingly read any of Morozov's stuff (my Portuguese is a bit rusty), but the article referenced doesn't seem to be very contentious.

A few comments on how Silicon Valley tends to oversell tech solutions to problems, and some cautionary advice on how information can have a different value to different groups, depending on what they (can) do with it.

Did I miss something?

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Re: Why the rant Tim?

1 - He doesn't like Morozov's politics or philosophy in general.

2 - He has a column deadline to hit.

3 - Here's a recent column by Morozov.

4 - That's it...One limp throwaway rant that merely fills space and earns him a a few hits and a little paycheck

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We've all done it

At school we got told off so we waited until the playground to say what we should have said back. At work we get hassle from our boss so we go home and tell our partners how we were right all along and in the pub when we get threatened by a big bloke we go put on some bravado to our mates. We all find a friendly and submissive audience when we have been challenged.

This is no different, rather than pointing out why he thinks he is not wrong to the person who thinks he is wrong he just comes here and explains it to a placid audience who doesn't care.

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Twitter

this is a bit like slagging off a celeb on Twitter and using their handle in the hope they see it and respond - they usually don't

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Income Inequality is only the responsibility...

of the one whose income is too low.

Really, enough of the "feel good" politically correct BS and socialist baloney.

If you don't make enough money, get a job, get another job or get a better one.

IT REALLY IS THAT SIMPLE.

Being on the dole is not a lifestyle. That's only supposed to be temporary and was never to be for capable people.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself and making excuses and get to work. Get an education, one way or another. Find the counterpoint to any excuse you can come up with.

The world doesn't owe anyone a living, they need to make one for themselves.

Single mothers with 9 toddlers and Handicap persons aside, if you can't even try to do that and you are an able bodied person then you are a failure as a human being and don't deserve to continue being one.

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Re: Income Inequality is only the responsibility...

I quite agree, those of us who have the advantages of highly successful lives, careers and large bank accounts; for whom a serious worry is which soy milk to put in our morning latte are just the people to explain what someone should do! After all, if that homeless person would only get a job, they wouldn't be homeless. Stands to reason.

People like Morozov have it so wrong. These sort of people want everyone to have the same opportunities as any one else; they want the playing field leveled. They seek to destroy the only good thing to come out of the fifties, apart from proper slacks and shirts - the free markets of monopolistic corporate capitalism and the segregated chances of the successful discriminating people.

All those people for whom life's circumstances have put them into a position whereby they cannot escape are just stupid and don't deserve the riches we, as successful human beings, are so rightly granted or seized.

By gum, isn't stereotyping, especially when conducted without thought, favour, compassion, empathy or consideration, fun.

I think I'll have the vanilla soy in my free trade coffee this afternoon. Now, shall I drink it at the espresso bar or take it with me whilst I set off to the very private, exclusive and expensive gym? Oh, the decisions that have to be made...

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Reduced inequality?

85 people have the same amount of wealth as all the rest of world population combined.

Yeah, that seems more equal to me. (I have nothing against being rich, just against dirt poor poverty and artificial, gamed and rigged markets)

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"that tech that y'all spend your time upon"

True, people spend a lot of time on Facebook, and it is free, so even the poor have the same access to Facebook as Bill Gates.

You're ignoring however that they might be spending all that time on Facebook BECAUSE it is free. Given a choice between spending a Saturday afternoon doing free activities like Facebook, watching TV, taking a walk in the park, taking a nap, and tooling around in a megayacht, many might pick the latter. If megayachts were sitting around in the harbor waiting for someone who wants to borrow one like so many Boris Bikes, there might be a lot of people who prefer that to Facebook.

Though one of the big draws of a megayacht, equipping it with women with suggestive names who stick around until some sauve British spy comes along the sweeps them off their feet, would no longer result if the yachts were free for the taking by any old clod.

The poor have always had equality to the rich in terms in certain things, and while that list may grow as technologies are invented that aren't so expensive they are limited to the megarich, that doesn't constitute greater equality unless they are things people want to do. When the poor don't have enough to eat, getting enough to eat makes a difference. When the poor get Facebook, just because they spend a lot of time on Facebook doesn't mean they've gained equality.

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Megaphone

Tech and the City

It should be inarguable to say that the improvement in tech over the centuries has improved the lot of everyone, even those who dont use it much.it has increased the total amount of available wealth to all.

That is nothing to do with perceived wealth inequality which always exists - the Rich like the Poor are always with us.

But weath inequality can't continually get greater there is always a limit beyond which lies very bad things - a quasi-communist / facist revolution is ony one of the possibilities - another fincial collapse is a distinct possibility.

it might pay the elite to ensure that at least they dont own too much and share some of that power, you know democratically?

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Facepalm

tl;dr

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Mummy...

... what was the point of this article?

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Pint

1 percent used to own half the world 10 yrs ago. now they own 60+ percent

thats what this Morozov guy is talking about. obviously, he doesnt quite get to the point like I can.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distribution_of_wealth

quote from that:

A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. The bottom half of the world adult population owned 1% of global wealth.[15] Moreover, another study found that the richest 2% own more than half of global household assets.[16]

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