Technological Feudalism

Technological Feudalism

Are we technology serfs?

Reeve and Serfs harvesting wheat. Source: British Library

In the Middle Ages, serfs were tied to the land. They weren’t slaves—it was worse. They and their descendants were perpetually bound to their Lord’s estate. They couldn’t just leave. If the Lord wanted different crops, the serfs had to plant them. If the Lord went to war, the serfs had to take shelter. The nobility had a lot of privileges but very few responsibilities. In exchange serfs got security, of a sort: by storing the harvest in the Lord’s castle, raiders couldn’t just steal all their food.

In the tech world today, we are bound to our technological Lords—Apple, Google, Microsoft. We let them gather our data and we hoping they’ll keep it safe. They do maintain some kind of order—looking out for virus-infected apps, or protecting us from other data dangers. But they really are like feudal lords.

And they exact a price. They control the social space around their products; it’s difficult to have an email account not linked to the cloud, it’s hard to get your resume out if you’re not on LinkedIn. And they reserve the right to change the rules of the game, updating operating systems, installing security patches, even rebooting our machines in the middle of the night.

Companies like Facebook and Google insist our data is theirs, to do with what they will. Maybe it has been. But data, like land, can revert to its original owners. Is it time for a data jubilee? Will the serfs rise?

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:30+00:00 January 26th, 2017|Global Market Update|0 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Tengdin is the Chief Investment Officer at Charter Trust Company and author of “The Global Market Update”. The audio version of each post can be heard on radio stations throughout New England every weekday. Mr. Tengdin graduated from Dartmouth College, Magna Cum Laude. He received his Master of Arts from Trinity Divinity School, Magna Cum Laude and received his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1992. Mr. Tengdin has been managing investment portfolios for over 30 years, working for Bank of Boston, State Street Global Advisors, Citibank – Tunisia, and Banknorth Group. Throughout his career, Mr. Tengdin has emphasized helping clients manage their financial risks in difficult environments where they can profit from investing in diverse assets in diverse settings. - Leave a comment if you have any questions—I read them all! - And Follow me on Twitter @GlobalMarketUpd

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