PARRA-YAGNAM

or there is a systemic asymmetry of power and a loss of ability for self-determination in the countries of the Global South vis-à-vis tech platforms

This is a short article that comes as a fast-follow from (1) my previous research currently in press for Nuevas Voces de Política Exterior and (2) the Platform Governance Research Network Conference (@PlatGov on Twitter) discussions on diversity.

Dependence theories and neo-colonialism: where economics meets knowledge

Teoría de la dependencia (dependency theory), in the mid 1960s, represented a critical effort to understand the limitations of economic development initiated during a historical period where the world's economy was dominated by the hegemony of large economic groups. In this scenario, Latin American scholars came up with an alternative understanding of the economic inequalities seen across regions in the world. In short, they indicated that there were economic “centres” that dominate the economy and that in order to continue to be on top they required the countries in the “periphery” (e.g. the global south) to be subject to a power dynamic that forced them into being kept underdeveloped (see works by Raul Prebisch, Anibal Quijano, Theotonio Dos Santos and more). The idea that some countries are “dependent” on others for their economic development or position within the economic network gives the theory its name.

These novel ways to understand economic realities, that drew theoretically from dialectic methods and from a marxist understanding of the world, have been contested and criticized for different reasons (see Solorza and Cetre 2011: 135-137 for some of them). However, I'm not here to assess the merits of the theory in terms of its explanatory power or its economic fit. Rather, I believe that the phenomenon of dependency once studied by these Latin American scholars is happening in Tech Platform behavior and governance. Moreover, I believe this situation displays characteristics that could be seen as a form of neo-colonialism.

I show arguments in two sections: (1) asymmetries in the production of Platform Governance knowledge and access; (2) the behavior of Tech Platforms syphons power away from the periphery and their acts might be characterized as neo-colonial given the power dynamics that they exhibit.

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Dado el momento de discusiones pre convención constitucional, hace un tiempo que vengo pensando que vale la pena discutir la oportunidad que se nos abre para adelantarnos a los cambios tecnológicos. La idea de que la constitución puede incluir posibles cambios para lidiar con futuras realidades (“make it future-proof”) parece de sumo interés en este contexto. En este articulo (1) trato de tratar con la idea de “efectos horizontales y verticales” inherentes a los derechos fundamentales; (2) doy algunas luces sobre derechos que se entrelazan directamente con las nuevas tecnologías; (3) considero brevemente el dilema de seguridad versus privacidad; (4) toco otros temas que deberían ser discutidos.

Es mi humilde opinión que la constitución debe incorporar elementos que aseguren los derechos y libertades fundamentales de los ciudadanos en el espacio digital y que sobrevivan desarrollos tecnológicos futuros. Esto no significa, necesariamente, tener cláusulas especificas para derechos digitales o tecnológicos cuando derechos civiles fundamentales ya cubren esos elementos cruciales. En ciertos casos, mas bien, resulta fundamental avanzar en legislación y precedente judicial que sea relevante al espíritu de los tiempos.

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Or where the cuban missile crisis meets tech decision making and governance

It is time that we move on from simplistic assumptions to explain the reasoning behind organizational behavior. These generalized unconscious biases contribute to make us ineffective in understanding the incentives and decision-making paths tech companies actually display. Thus, making us more prone to finding the wrong solutions to the problems of free speech, moderation and AI ethics. To achieve alternative, more intentional, version of these assumptions, I've decided to go back in history (both to my past as a political scientist and also to historical events) because part of the path towards that understanding has already been charted for us.

In 1962, at what some consider the closest moment the world has ever been to nuclear war, the USSR had set up ballistic missiles in Cuba in response to the US' move of doing the same in Turkey and Italy (and their failed Bay of Pigs invasion). After the month and 4 days that the crisis lasted, scholars turned rapidly to find explanations as to why both States had acted the way they did (why did the USSR put missiles in Cuba? Why did the US react by blockading Cuba? Why were the missiles withdrawn?). One of them, Harvard Professor Graham Allison, understood the value of getting this right better than anyone, writing his seminal book “essence of decision” in 1971 to try to explain why the events unfolded the way they did.

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Bill Evans during rehearsal for BBC Television's _Jazz 625_ series, London, 1965. David Redfern.

Check out my Spotify playlist of (most of) Evans' music ordered chronologically (+1100 songs, 101 hours worth of music): The Quiet Genius – Bill Evans

“I believe that all people are in possession of what might be called a 'universal musical mind'.” – Bill Evans

I've been reading “Bill Evans: How my heart sings”, by Peter Pettinger (Yale University Press) Considered one of the finest jazz pianists in history, Evans' story is breathtaking. From his humble origins in Plainfield, NJ to his career in New York at the Village Vanguard and his European concerts (Paris, London and Switzerland being very prolific for him).

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Mondo Grosso, big world in Italian, Shinichi Osawa's other stage name is a band that I have cherished for the longest while in my obsession with Acid Jazz / Rare Grooves (or to everything related to Soul, Funk and R&B, really). Famous for his DJing skills, Osawa embarked on a musical adventure with Mondo Grosso – my interpretation is that the band's name hints to the fact they would be exploring sounds outside of Japan – that lead him to publish under his own record label and to collaborate with people like Monday Michiru, N'Dea Davenport (who has also sung for The Brand New Heavies) and Tania Maria. They produced some of the most iconic acid jazz, indebted to its roots in Funk, R&B, American Disco and, Brazilian Samba.

Here's my Mondo Grosso Spotify playlist and below you will find some of my comments on ten of my favorite Mondo Grosso songs.

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Longer article with some ideas about police reform. It speaks about defunding and disarming the police, crowd control and, use of excessive force. It lays out an alternative approximation to a problem that seems to be hostage to ready made rhetorics. Pick up a coffee and enjoy.

For the longest while I've been thinking about police reform in the light of what is going on in Chile, my country, and three common rhetorics that have been found across countries with social upheavals in the past year or so.

On the one side, we have the more conservative, right-wing if you will, that calls for 'law and order' and use of force (to the extremes of me having actually heard people say that protestors and looters should be dealt with el paredón a.k.a. firing squad). These people are also completely oblivious to the realities of marginalized communities and neighborhoods – they are blinded by their own realities, which they use as benchmark.

And, on the other, people on the left, incited by what some characterize as anarchist, who use the slogan ACAB ('All Cops Are Bastards') who make an apology of violence against the police ('the first line defenders') and equate awful societal conditions to physical violence. These people have been seen to call to defund the police and are completely desensitised to the consequences of their violent behavior.

In between, there's a bunch of well intentioned citizens who tend to sway one way or another depending on the news, their experiences and the opinion of their closest circles. I would add academics and other politicians to this mix by the mere common ground of the fact that they will “condemn violence across the board” and also “defend the right to protest” as republican values.

In short, all of these rhetorics are expressions of a main underlying problem. A problem which in its own way undermines the possibilities of a State that owns the monopoly of legitimate violence (as opposed to narcos, organized crime, violent groups, etc.) and that there's value in having a strong, respected police organization fiercely controlled by civilian powers (congress, citizens, justice departments).

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[Scroll down for Spotify Playlist]

'How is it possible that these guys are not ultra famous?' was the first thing that came to mind on a cold winter morning of 2020. I was listening to 'AM Waves' – Young Gun Silver Fox's album released in 2018 – a mixture of new sounds made old, with a West Coast aesthetic that reminisces 70s pop, rock & soul.

AOR or Yacht Rock is what this is, a genre that in it's purest form evoques the sights of sandy beaches, cliffs, blue oceans, convertible cars on an open highway with a cold breeze that combs your hair. This is the place, paradise if you will, where both Young Gun Silver Fox and Mamas Gun have taken me as we sheltered in place for months.

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September 18, 2020

I'm going to start by declaring that the more I read his books, I have found a certain personality/academic affinty with Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I tend to attribute this “closeness” to the fact that he is one of the few people that I have read recently who have written non-fiction in a way where the personality and style of the author really shines through. [I wonder how many fights he must have had with his editors...] The fact that he is also an avid humanities, philosophy and classics reader (yes, please!) shines through his book. However, I can see how people would be bored by that and would deem those references as pretentious or even pernicious to his core argument. I've heard many people say that in order for your argument to be effective with a wide audience, you need to make it as easy as possible (I don't think you always want/need to appeal to a wide audience). I'm pretty sure that Taleb wrote it in such a way where the book would find its audience and not à l'envers. After all, appeal and fame is not everything, according to him. Moreover, it would seem that he derived much more pleasure from writing it his way rather than conforming with editorial directions. In spite of the possible critiques that one could make to his style or the extensive usage of references to epistemology, philosophy or greek classics; if you are into those things (as I am), you will like it.

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April 19, 2020

This mammoth of a book came into my hands highly recommended – not only by the wise internet crowds and professional book reviewers at prestigious news papers – but also by trusted friends: the very few that were brave enough and had the discipline to read through the sometimes immensely emotionally taxing 1288 pages of this book (well, that's the count on the edition I was able to procure from my favourite bookshop before it closed down because of COVID-19).

As with all accounts of historical events there's no 'absolute truth' and in 1200 pages you are most certainly going to find inaccuracies and mistakes. However those faults do not take any merit away from the point that Fisk was trying to make in his 'opus magna'. In fact and, if anything, the central motivation of this book was summarised by him quoting Amira Hass: “There is a misconception that journalists can be objective ... What journalism is really about is to monitor power and the centres of power.” This is his account of Middle Eastern history and a very personal one at that.

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'What made you decide to operate in our country?' 'Can't you see the state in which the peasants live?' Che asked. 'They are almost like savages, living in a state of poverty that depresses the heart, having only one room in which to sleep and cook and no clothing to wear, abandoned like animals ...' 'But the same thing happens in Cuba', Selich retorted. 'No, that's not true,' Che said. 'I don't deny that in Cuba poverty still exists, but the peasants there have an illusion of progress, whereas the Bolivians live without hope. Just as he is born, he dies, without ever seeing improvements in his human condition.'

This biography achieves what I thought was inconceivable when dealing with a figure like Ernesto “Che” Guevara: being relatively objective.

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