MyData Stakeholder Segmentation (Draft)

For the purposes of our ongoing discussions in the MyData Silicon Valley Hub about a potential North America conference later this year, here is my attempt at segmenting the stakeholders.

Prime mover Follower Neutral Adversary
Product & Services
Channel & Distribution
Catalysts
Customers

where:

  • Prime movers: innovators, inventors, people and organizations that proactively push the vision forward and do things the first time they have ever been done, not waiting for others.
  • Followers: people and organizations who are willing to do things consistent with the vision but only after others have pioneered the way first.
  • Neutral: people and organizations who don’t care about about the vision.
  • Adversaries: people and organizations whose vision is fundamentally different and whose agenda is opposed to ours.

and:

  • Product & Services: creators of apps, platforms, integration products, support and the like.
  • Channel & Distribution: systems integrators, value-added resellers, app stores, retail etc.
  • Catalysts: press, analysts, event organizers, activists, MyData Global itself, governments / regulators, investors.
  • Customers: buyers and users of products and services (consumers, enterprises, governments).

What do you think?

German data for German firms, according to ... Microsoft?

In the US, we think of our struggle over data ownership as a conflict between large, unaccountable companies (like Facebook) versus us as individuals. But it is more complex than that as soon as you look beyond the US.

Take the Germany federal government, for example. How does your sovereignty as a nation look to you, if data is the new oil in the 21st century, but most of that data ends up on clouds operated by American (or Chinese) companies? Critical infrastructure entirely dependent on the goodwill of one (or two) other countries? Who can see anything you do there? Or turn it off in case of a conflict? Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

So what do you do? You might team up with fellow nations, like other EU members, and pass regulations such as the GDPR which erodes the exclusivity US companies have over data. Or spearhead a project called Gaia-X, which is intended to be a European alternative to American (and Chinese) “clouds” with the stated goal of regaining data sovereignty.

And into this fight steps Brad Smith, now Microsoft president, who is being quoted (in German) in the press saying:

German data should serve German companies – not just a handful of companies on the US west coast or the Chinese east coast.

(I will ignore here that this comes across as quite racist, and in case of Germany, one should not make that mistake, even if it comes from an American.)

Clearly, Microsoft has identified an opportunity to make a bundle here, by selling to countries like Germany attempting to set up their own clouds, and we know this because the quote comes from very top of the company, not some regional sales manager.

But the striking part of the quote: “should server German companies” (not “people”, or “Germany, the country”) tells us clearly what the German government has in mind here, to whom it is directed: use data to bolster German companies in international competition.

While we all benefit from new rules such as the GDPR, and their enforcement in Europe as in the recent case of the Irish against Facebook, it’s clear we, individuals, are merely an accidental beneficiary.

It’s really about big company competition, supported by national governments. Let’s not forget that. If they were to accommodate each other somehow, I bet the push for privacy and GDPR-like things would evaporate in a heartbeat.

When privacy and agency are in conflict

In the privacy-related communities I hang out, we often use the phrase “privacy and agency” as a label for the totality of what we want.

But what if those two cannot be had at the same time? What if more privacy, in practice, means I need third parties to take a larger role, thereby reducing my agency? Or what if I have more agency and can do more things in more ways that I solely determine, but only at the cost of less privacy?

Unbelievable?

If so, then look no further than the recent public discussion (dispute?) between the founders of the Signal and Matrix messaging systems, Moxie Marlinspike and Matthew Hodgson. The essence of their arguments, and I paraphrase:

  • Moxie: you can’t build a private messaging system that’s competitive as a consumer app unless a single party, such as the Signal project, takes responsibility and ownership of the whole thing. Lots of privacy, but for the user it’s take it or leave it. Link to full post.
  • Matthew: decentralization, on all levels including code forks and potentially insecure (non-private!) deployments, is an essential requirement to avoid single points of failure: critical people or components turning bad. Link to full post.

This is a high-quality conversation and we can all be very happy that it is conducted openly, and in a spirit of finding the truth. Go read both pieces, and ponder the arguments, it’s very much worth your while.

Who is right?

IMHO, both are. I don’t know whether all the the tradeoffs described are as unavoidable and unmitigatable as they are made out to be on those posts; maybe more innovation in technology and in particular governance could alleviate some of them.

However, the basic idea of a tradeoff between them, is valid. The Signal and Matrix projects make different choices on that spectrum, both for valid reasons.

If they need to do that, chances are, everybody else who cares about providing products and services with privacy and agency for the user, faces similar tradeoffs. It would serve us well to acknowledge that in every discussion on those points, and respect others who have the same goals as we do, but make different tradeoffs.

The most important point, however, is this: it shows how important it is to have both projects, or a plurality of projects addressing similar requirements but making different tradeoffs. Because that gives us, the users, you and me, the agency to make our own choices based on our own preferences. Including the choice to forego some agency in some aspects in favor of more privacy.

Which is the most important aspect of agency of them all.

Existential Threats

The World Economic Forum, not an organization easy to rock the establishment, summarizes a speech by pundit Yuval Harari at this year’s meeting with the title “Read Yuval Harari’s blistering warning to Davos in full”. Choice quotes:

Three problems pose existential challenges to our species …:

  • nuclear war,
  • ecological collapse and
  • technological disruption.

Technology risks dividing the world into wealthy elites and exploited “data colonies”.

Those who fail in the struggle against irrelevance would constitute a new “useless class” – people who are useless not from the viewpoint of their friends and family, but useless from the viewpoint of the economic and political system.

… some corporations and governments will be able to systematically hack all the people. We humans should get used to the idea that we are no longer mysterious souls – we are now hackable animals.

We are facing philosophical bankruptcy. The twin revolutions of infotech and biotech are now giving politicians the means to create heaven or hell, but the philosophers are having trouble conceptualizing what the new heaven and the new hell will look like.

The global order is now like a house that everybody inhabits and nobody repairs. It can hold on for a few more years, but if we continue like this, it will collapse.

Agree or disagree, go read the whole thing.

Link to article

100 Billion Tons of Materials a Year

Add up all the stuff we, that is humany, take out of the ground, or harvest from nature, for a year. How much is it? Apparently, that amount just hit 100 Billion Tons. (Yes, it’s still rising.)

How much is that? Assuming they are talking about a metric ton (other definitions of ton are not the same but similar):

  • 1 liter of water is 1kg
  • 1 cubic meter of water is 1 ton
  • 1 cubic kilometer of water is 1 billion tons
  • So we are talking about a volume that is 10 km long, 10 km wide, and 1 km high.

That’s what we take from nature every year.

(Yes, some things we take from the ground have higher density than water, like iron ore. Some are less, like oil or wood or many crops. But that won’t change the big picture.)

10 km takes you two hours to walk. Walking around this block of material would take you 8 hours. And it’s 1 km high: about the height of El Capitan.

Raise your hand if you think that’s sustainable.

Link to Guardian article

Union Square Ventures Has Started Working On The Climate Crisis

Union Square Ventures announced in a blog post (below) this morning that they are now making investments to “fight the climate crisis” (“and earn returns for our limited partners”).

Bravo!

But it gets better. They have published their entire research slide deck on the subject that they have used internally to make their case to themselves. It talks about the major themes, trends, numbers and opportunities that they see! So as an entrepreneur in the space, you know exactly what they are thinking – good, bad, ugly, warts and all.

Of course, you will look at the deck and nod in some places and think they missed the point completely in others. Which is the point! Everybody learns – as an entrepeneur, from these very smart people who have already done some work for you (I know from first-hand experience). And they will learn from you when you pitch to them and disagree with them, and nobody wastes much time on reiterating what all agree on already. I’m also fully expecting that they will update their slides as they learn, and acknowledge major influences on their thinking as they go, such as in their blogs.

I wish more people practiced this. On the climate and on any other subject. Not just in VC.