Skin in the Game
“The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do. The mystery which surrounds a thinking machine already surrounds a thinking man.”Meanwhile, in the emerging field of Behaviorism, B.F. Skinner went beyond Ivan Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning study, eliciting saliva from his now famous dog. Instead, Skinner built a box that gathered data on how rewards and punishments could create, modify, and reinforce voluntary actions. And this historic intersection of human/computer innovation would eventually reward us with the uber-addictive Facebook “Like” button.
B.F. Skinner Contingencies of Reinforcement, 1969
Skinner Marketing: We're the Rats, and Facebook Likes Are the Reward
Bill Davidow, The Atlantic, June 2013
In contrast to the cyber-utopian “Information SuperHighway” for all - a utility that was funded and developed as public infrastructure - the corporate commercial Net Vision was more akin to Cable Television’s Home Shopping Network (HSN). On the ideal HSN version of the Internet, a viewing audience would simply feed their shopping addiction from a Naugahyde recliner with a built-in “buy” button. The only real challenges to achieving this goal were inadequate bandwidth and no secure system for accepting personal financial transactions. The Telecom industry, however, convincingly assured venture capitalists that this was only a minor setback.
After Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications act of 1996 into law, the deregulated Telecom Titans were expected to fulfill their promise of providing high speed fiber optic Internet access to the front door of every American household. Instead, AT&T and the Cable companies battled each other to become King of “Cyberspace” while investment banking bottom feeders gorged on the spoils. All slicked up in bespoke suits, these financial “advisers” preyed particularly hard on rural areas that struggled (as many still do) to get Internet service into the farthest reaches, or so-called “Last Mile”, of an area. The Touch America bankruptcy scandal, a country-bumpkin-esque swindle concocted by Enron and Goldman Sachs, was a prime-time example of these outright robberies. Even Sixty Minutes was impressed.