Tech Law Policy Blog Tracking the Most Important Research and Developments in Tech Law & Policy

Friday Links 3/8/19


[I]n an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it…. Our attitudes toward information reflect the culture of poverty. We were brought up on Abe Lincoln walking miles to borrow (and return!) a book and reading it by firelight. Most of us are constitutionally unable to throw a bound volume into the wastebasket. We have trouble enough disposing of magazines and newspapers. Some of us are so obsessed with the need to know that we feel compelled to read everything that falls into our hands, although the burgeoning of the mails is helping to cure us of this obsession. If these attitudes were highly functional in the world of clay tablets, scribes, and human memory; if they were at least tolerable in the world of the printing press and the cable; they are completely maladapted to the world of broadcast systems and Xerox machines.

Herbert Simon, Designing Organizations for an Information-Rich World, 1971.

What’s amazing is not just that Herbert Simon had such incredible insight into the challenges of processing information in an information-rich world, but that he was able to articulate them so clearly back in 1971. How much more true are those words now than when he originally wrote them?

The attention economy is dead!

Long live the attention economy! The brilliant Ben Thompson of Stratechery about why Facebook is actually well-positioned to profit from recent concerns about privacy issues on its platforms (paywalled, but worth it).

Matthew Sag provides an excellent summary of the new legal landscape related to text data mining.

Reason number 7,326 why complete automation of our driving fleet might take a little longer than expected: Self-driving cars might be more likely to hit drivers with darker skin.

Related: Uber is not criminally liable in 2018 fatal car crash with self-driving vehicle. The back-up driver might not be out of the woods yet, though.

Rick Swedloff on the various regulatory issues that arise due to increased algorithmic decision-making in setting insurance premiums. Not an expert here, but I think the net-net of increased algorithmic decision-making in insurance markets is that insurance companies will reduce premiums and compete more for high-yield, low-risk candidates and that they will charge more or not insure at all higher-risk candidates. The factors that make someone a candidate for lower premiums will likely be strongly correlated with socioeconomic status, leaving the government holding the bag to provide back-stop insurance for the higher-risk candidates. So yeah, Swedloff’s not wrong to think that increasing government intervention is likely.

Soak the tech giants, French edition.

Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, proposes a sort of Glass-Steagall for tech giants, whatever that means.

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