The Fifth Estate

Mark Zuckerberg, in his speech last week at Georgetown University, called social media “the Fifth Estate.”

The first three “estates” of society, classically, are the clergy, the nobility, and everyone else.

When the printing press arrived during the Renaissance/Enlightenment period and a mainstream press emerged, a fourth voice, The Fourth Estate, arrived on the scene and the mainstream press has had a long, strong, and lasting effect on society.

As far back as the counterculture years of the 60s, the term Fifth Estate emerged to describe underground newspapers. But it was the web, first with online communities, then blogging, and finally social media, that gave a voice to everyone.

And that is why Zuckerberg called social media “the Fifth Estate.”

As someone who has been blogging for most of the last two decades and who has enjoyed a voice that has been amplified by technology, I very much believe in the power of this Fifth Estate. I think it will have as strong and lasting effect on society as the Fourth Estate has had and will continue to have.

I also understand that the platforms that currently host the Fifth Estate have a tremendous amount of power to shape it, regulate it, and constrain it.

The reason this blog runs on open source software (WordPress) and is hosted on a server that I control is that I don’t want my voice hostage to one of these tech platforms.

I do use Twitter regularly and in doing so, I participate in a constrained platform. I don’t use Facebook regularly, partially because I don’t want to be exposed to or constrained by that platform.

But this post is not about Facebook vs Twitter. They are more similar than they are different. They are large and powerful tech platforms where the Fifth Estate materializes in our society.

They are not the only platforms that host the Fifth Estate. There are so many that matter. There is Reddit and the many other message boards like it. There are blogging platforms like Medium. And there are communities that exist to serve particular interests, including ones that cater to hateful and awful people.

The question that Zuckerberg posed for society last week is what power do we want to convey in these tech platforms to shape and constrain the Fifth Estate.

My vote is very little, if any.

I believe that the power that Facebook and Twitter and other platforms wield on society by virtue of their dominance is a fleeting power and that in time they will be replaced by something else that is better for society.

For now they have a lot of power and that is causing a lot of hand wringing in the halls of Washington and elsewhere.

But we should be careful not to hand them more power. Or worse require them to censor some voices and not others.

This tweetstorm by my friend Balaji says it very well.

Particularly this one:


Comments (Archived):

  1. MikeSchinkel

    I would gladly give up my voice on social media if it would stop the the zealous vested interests and narcissistic authoritarian world leaders from being able to leverage the platforms to rally the disaffected with false promises and scapegoating of “others” for societal-damaging self-interest. But that is just me.

    1. William Mougayar

      Why give it up? Use it to fight them, and do it proactively. Truth and persistence trumps false promises and deception because word for word, your weapons are equal to theirs.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        They can automate low level “hit” talking points, spreading hate, etc.. Filtering through knowing who is real or a bot, who is simply an indoctrinated citizen of a tyrant nation state or a paid propagandist – they will have the money, and it literally may be their survival or livelihood, for them to engage this way all day long.”Truth and persistence trumps false promises and deception because word for word, your weapons are equal to theirs.”That’s a nice idea until you understand the mechanics at play.

    2. JLM

      .In a political context, social media allowed candidates to leap frog over the censorship and filter of the media who attempted — successfully for decades — to control the message thereby thwarting the will of the people.In many ways, social media liberated America to obtain real information.It is like automobiles — an enormous good until someone runs into someone else at 70 mph.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  2. MikeSchinkel

    On another note, I have been thinking that — effectively — bad behaviour on social media follows the same economic model of email spam.Given that, one of the things that Twitter could do would be to start charging for message exposure, just like all media properties did prior to the advent of the Internet. You know, having to pay for ads on TV, newspapers and in magazines?Consider the following: The first 10,000 followers are free. After that, each tweet costs US$1.00 for every additional 10,000 followers.If Twitter were to enact this it would still be free to almost everyone, but those who have built following into the millions — and are thus wildly profiting from it — would need to start paying to reach those people because, well, reaching them has a major significant value.Twitter could also choose to offer higher free limits to certain types of non-profits — American Red Cross, for example — but not for non-profits whose efforts are controversial ti a large segment of the population.This would have the side-effect of causing people to clean out their followers to ensure their followers are real people who really want to hear from them, so as to either stay under the 10k limit or to minimize the cost of tweet a message.It could also possibly turn Twitter into one of the most profitable companies in the world, overnight.And finally, demagogues who gain a huge following and use Twitter to stir up resentment in a large segment of the population would be checked by the fact they can no longer do so without significant financial expense.#justathought.P.S. This could somewhat work for Facebook, too.

    1. Michael Elling

      The internet has completely imbalanced risk; it’s all on the receiver. We need settlements to begin to rebalance risk and also better distribute value from network effects. The people don’t need to be just the food, but should be allowed to eat at the party as well.

  3. Twain Twain

    Machine and network logic have the power, not people:https://uploads.disquscdn.c…Everyone’s busy focusing on $ ad and network efficiencies with consideration towards people being tertiary. Primary = growth to exploit network effects, secondary = $ adtech efficiencies. Both made a very narrow group of people super-rich (the 1%) whilst not distributing either value, equity, money or power to everyone else (the 99%).That’s the underlying logic of democracy (and its attendant capitalism), technology and society as set up by Aristotle and the Western logic giants who followed him.The only way to properly restore “power to the people” would be to re-engineer pretty much all the various stack components built up since the early 1950s in the US, at a minimum.At a maximum, some clever people would need to solve some hard logic problems to overwrite Aristotle’s zero-sum dualism from 2300+ years ago.It’s not going to happen in the US because these deep-rooted problems with the system aren’t something the clever PhDs and MBAs in the biggest techcos are aware of or can troubleshoot.https://uploads.disquscdn.c…So … the US will continue to repeat its bad tech+business models.https://uploads.disquscdn.c…I was in the US for a few years, trying to flag people to these potential system risks and offering a solution forward to avoid them.No one got it or helped me — maybe something to do with only $0.02 of every $1 of investor money going to female founders. Maybe male VCs just like backing “bros” to build bad tech and toxic consequences, who knows.So the US will continue on with its toxic tech problems because tech executives’ incentives are (1.) Growth to exploit network effects and (2.) adtech efficiencies:https://uploads.disquscdn.c…I’m in Asia Pacific where there’s a lot more scope and opportunities for me. Asia Pacific has the most self-made FEMALE billionaires in the world, btw. The US keeps talking about “equality” but doesn’t walk that talk.I don’t believe any of the “Fifth Estate” talk will change anything — just as post-2008 talk didn’t change the 1%-99% thing. It’s just not in US’s knowhow or values about people.

    1. Michael Elling

      In nature, network effects are distributed; but of course not fully, because then they wouldn’t be networks. Only mankind’s socio-economic and political networks lack efficient value and risk balancing; aka settlements between actors at core and edge, top and bottom and between networked ecosystems..Twain, sorry to see you so disaffected by America. We’re far from perfect and our emphasis on winners and the individual come at the detriment of the community, but we are still the most heterogeneous and disruptive society out there. I’m speaking from the perspective of being a dual citizen, with a good part of my upbringing having been euro-centric.

      1. Twain Twain

        I bought into “The American Dream” as a teen and have lived in democracies throughout so have a reasonable grasp of their advantages and also the defects in their processes as well as the differences between democracies (each country of Europe has subtle variances in its thinking about democracy that’s not the same as each other or the US).It’s well known that everything that’s human is a “work in progress.”My disaffection with democratic processes is only to do with the logic mechanisms I’ve examined as part of trying to understand why the machines do this:*…*…*…I’ve discovered there are Americans who aren’t even aware of the toxicity of their own technologies — yet they want to beat their chests as they bury their heads in the sands and to deny these deeply broken systems are their own making.There is someone in AVC community who writes the most xenophobic, defamatory and ignorant comments about me just because I’m of Chinese origin that I then have to defend myself against and remind him that the US’s history is one of slavery, police brutality and killing of innocent citizens, $22 trillion value loss to US households caused by 2008 Wall St crisis:*…It doesn’t even register in his mind that I’m a citizen of a democracy — even when I REPEATEDLY remind him.He’s shown me the ugliest sides of Americans and is a huge disappointment since I had thought AVC community and Albert Wenger’s blog was where intelligent people went to exchange knowledge in open-minded, intelligent and cross-cultural ways.In any case, I’ve learnt my lessons that it’s not productive to do East <=> West perspectives exchange on USV team’s blogs. There are communities and groups I belong to that are multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural where I don’t encounter people parroting xenophobic Fox News rants.I’d rather spend my time with multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural communities.

  4. jason wright

    Europe can do this to people.

  5. reggiedog

    *Disclosure – The author is blogging from a European vacation paid for by his investments in Twitter and other social media.Seems to me that an evidence-based analysis show that these players are bad for humanity. (not that anyone uses evidence and overall good as a yardstick anymore.)Diabetes, teenage suicide rates, heart disease, depression, overdoses, global warming all skyrocket and “leaders” continue to argue for “freedom!” and “American capitalism!” to cover their sociopathology.

  6. John Francis Charles

    The fifth estate or the fifth column? As a social media junkie, I have decided to err on the side of transparency at the expense of popularity, and it still blows my mind what I pick up on my newsfeed in terms of valuable content. I remember when Microsoft’s terraserver started and now look where we are . . . it is often on social media where these new technologies and applications are announced.The danger to this decade of transparency is the lack of verification and its impact on elections.

  7. Seth Godin

    Who pays?Both Twitter and Facebook made fateful decisions before they went public: they chose to not be for and by the public.If users paid to subscribe to the tools and amplification that these services offer, the services would be optimized in a very different way.…As it stands, they will always seek short-term profit over long-term satisfaction.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      The decision to use ads instead of allowing a subscription based model to grow – by increasing demand by providing actual innovation and improvement to the platform(s) – is an artifact of the VC industrial complex’s pressure to scale and exit.To answer, society is who is paying dearly for the external costs not accounted for in the “free” ad revenue driven model.And who trusts Mark Zuckerberg? No one I know. Mark’s success with Facebook came from a lack of conscience or morals:1) The twin brothers hired him to build out ConnectU including the exclusivity mechanism of .edu emails only2) Mark purposefully mislead/lied to the twins claiming he was working on ConnectU that he was contracted/paid to do – meanwhile actually focusing on his own version called TheFacebook to launch before them; him knowing that you didn’t need to platforms so he wanted to be first to market, a transcript of him saying as much exists3) The university was already planning to take their real life physical “The Facebook” and make an online version. Mark’s quoted in the university newspaper saying he didn’t understand why it was taking them so long, that he could get it done quickly. The reason it was taking “so long” is the committee, group doing it was thinking/brainstorming through potential privacy, security, and safety issues that could be a problem, presumably to design the platform with solutions to protect people; we clearly know now Mark has never thought about or cared about this, nor proactively cared for any such things, except for optics purposes.And then the VC industrial complex was happy to fund an immoral, sociopath.Mark’s revised origin story unfortunately, and a signal for continued danger for society for the power he immaturely wields, still doesn’t include the real narrative, the truth I describe in short above.

      1. jason wright

        Facebook spends more than $20 million annually on Citizen Mark’s personal protection.Rosebud.It will be interesting to observe the decisions VCs make in the brave new world of crypto staking. We’ll see just how liberal they really are.

        1. awaldstein

          What does PoS as an architecture, better distributed and ecologically sound than PoW have possibly to do with the cost of his protection?

          1. jason wright

            Nothing. I can cover two points in one comment window.

          2. awaldstein

            Ahh–couldn’t understand the correlation between the two. You are usually pretty precise.What’s your beef with PoS? Big believer in it.

          3. jason wright

            I also like its potential.Over time i’ve gained the impression that what VCs (but not just VCs) are doing on the inside of their game and what they say they are doing to the world on the outside may not be quite the same thing. Staking could influence this.

          4. awaldstein

            Dunno.How blocks are verified whether PoS or PoW is fascinating,Did work on alternative energy to drive PoW and involved with a project that is fractionalizing nodes to provide access to PoS income for the more mass market.Both interesting slices of the core network mechanics.

        2. Andrew Cashion

          Why because people can make similar bets?

    2. Salt Shaker

      How many sub based biz are consumers willing to underwrite? $10 a month for Twitter doesn’t seem like a big ask in the abstract for those fully engaged in the platform, but in the context of other sub based biz they also subscribe to the platform’s price/value will likely decline in value. The food chain of affordability only goes so deep. The beauty of Amazon Prime’s rollup is there are a bunch of benefits to satiate the needs of the many (variety of product, convenience, free shipping, video programming, streaming music, great customer service). None of these offerings are likely strong enough to function as a stand-alone, but on a rollup basis the Prime sub model has a very strong p/v relationship, and delivers legit points-of-diff vs. other sub based biz.When a company is beholden to eyeballs and clicks for ad dollars, over time there often is a push in directions that lead to unintended consequences and a sacrifice of standards/vision/policy to drive company metrics and monetization.

      1. Michael Elling

        What’s needed are virtual paywalls where industry players work together to maximize the utility for themselves and end users. But, as always, we are just ending up with silos and walled gardens. It’s human nature.

        1. Salt Shaker

          A testable proposition, no? I’m surprised TWTR hasn’t explored (and maybe they have) compensating thought-leaders across a variety of genres and providing them w/ “advocacy” or marketing tools to help grow their user base, which inherently benefits both the thought-leader and the platform. No one can deliver a better sales prop than those who are most heavily invested in the platform. There’s a strong marketing engine to tap into right w/ in the platform. It’s an empowerment strategy.

          1. Michael Elling

            Agreed. But Twitter is not the true source of the content it trades. They should look to the source(s) for monetization opportunities. And I’m not talking about subscribers; except maybe the top 5%. Ping me at michael at ivpcapital dot com to discuss further if interested. Would welcome your feedback given your background.

    3. JLM

      .They were always businesses, no?A profitable business has the cushion to engage in silliness.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    4. Michael Elling

      It’s the innate lack of settlements in the internet structure. Lessons learned from the early 1900s were either forgotten or rejected out of self-centered greed. And the unintended consequence was a complete imbalance of risk. Rather than going down, systemic risk increased.

      1. Twain Twain

        The logic mechanisms simply don’t exist in the nodes-edge structures of the US’s Internet.It’s the way Aristotle set up the mechanisms of “democracy” in the first place: True / False.Then later, there was probability % of it being true or false.Nowhere in that is WHY it’s true or false. So the US’s biggest companies are in this situation because of that defective logic:*…*…In any case, only the Chinese have solutions to these deep-rooted logic problems.@JLM writes about how he applauds the critical, independent thinker but in reality he doesn’t. As soon as you mention the Chinese, he goes into auto-xenophobe mode and rants ignorant nonsense which exposes how little he knows about technical matters as well as how he whitewashes and denies the US’s systemic racism, sexism, fascism that’s now recycling in the Valley’s AI tools.*…Anyway, it’s people like him who made me disaffected with the US: the xenophobes, the close-minded, the ones who think the US has moral superiority when it had slavery, started wars and been at war except for 16 years in its 243 year history (…, and who now don’t accept responsibility for the toxic systems they were also part of creating.My reading of the settlements mechanism and toxicity problems is that the US will continue with the same-old same-old toxic mechanisms in its Internet.The Chinese will build their infrastructure. Then the US will be on its Internet. The Chinese will be on theirs.

        1. Michael Elling

          Twain, I’m going to take this on the same way I take on net neutrality, UBI, 1619, etc. Both sides are right and wrong.What’s missing in both (Chinese/eastern and US/western) approaches is the way value captured at the core (and top) is redistributed to the edge (and bottom); the latter where the costs mostly reside. Mind you, everything is a network, or follows the same maths.Value grows geometrically in networks and costs more or less linearly, but with wide marginal differences the closer one is to the edge and bottom. Hence all the resulting divides we observe; even as there is supposed overall lift/gain. My kind of settlements would better equilibrate value with costs. I suspect these divides are becoming even more extreme in China; although I don’t fully know. It is network math, not culture, that is the root cause for skewed pareto and standard distributions. The understanding of the math is missing in most if not ALL of (wo)mankind’s socio-economic and political institutions.Your comments are heartfelt and based on readership of and commenting on this blog, apparently widely shared. Unfortunate that we let a few unhinge the many. But as I say, without any risk for the sender we raise systemic risk (and disaffection). Hence the second role of incentives; they are mechanisms for incentives and disincentives.Cheers! And best of luck in all your endeavors. Keep the bridges open!

  8. William Mougayar

    But why single out “social media” specifically? Zuckerberg said that it is the power of expression via digital speech that is a representation of what the Fifth Estate is about.It is the entire “online world” that enables the Fifth Estate, and social media (such as Facebook & others) is a part of it.On a day when citizens around the world are launching massive protests against their governments (Spain, Italy, Hong Kong, Lebanon, UK), citizens wouldn’t be as enabled to self-organize without the power of online connections whether it’s social media, instant messaging or online publishing platforms, and that is indeed the important trend that continues to sweep the world.If anything is missing, we need more independent and protected ways to voice opinions without fearing reprisals because of identification, and that’s a part that the Web has not made very easy for those who desire an anonymous and safe voice.

    1. reggiedog

      “But why single out “social media” specifically?”Because they are so easily used for propaganda when they unwittingly, or now explicitly, enable it. Facebook and Twitter are fully-complicit propaganda tools of unprecendented proportions.

      1. William Mougayar

        Why shoot the messenger? Use them like others do.

        1. reggiedog

          right after I take up vaping….

    2. Michael Elling

      Surely there are many ways to blow a whistle, or whistles to blow, no? Isn’t it quite clear that the downside of giving people anonymity is the megaphone effect and lack of accountability? If the sender has no risk, then systemic risk rises out of control or beyond the risk diminution of the network.

      1. JLM

        .What goes through the head of a guy like Mitt Romney undertaking the Carlos Danger — oops, Pierre Delecto persona?I used to think Mitt was “normal” but now I know otherwise.Anonymity is a weird thing.JLMwwws.themusingsofthebigredc…

  9. Tom Labus

    These are both advertising companies with unusual social impact. As soon as someone figures a better way to sell us stuff their power will diminish.

    1. fredwilson


  10. kidmercury

    They already are censoring, and the censorship is becoming more egregious and increasingly ignored or even celebrated by the tech media. Ultimately though the migration is already occurring, platforms like dlive,bitchute and entropy are growing substantially as YouTube in particular silences anyone who shares forbidden knowledge.The silenced ones are openly looking for a dapp solution, and so here is the fun part where we get to find out who is in it for the love of the chain versus who is in it for the love of money.

  11. William Mougayar

    And we Canadians always thought that The Fifth Estate was a TV documentary show! (launched in 1976 & equivalent to 60 Minutes)… https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. JLM

      .One more reason why we should merge.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Michael Elling

        They won’t want to; they now have the better soccer team.

  12. pointsnfigures

    Twitter and Facebook are perceived to be very uneven in the way they apply their “rules” on censorship.

  13. JLM

    .The “estate” view of things is an archaic framework that no longer reflects how the world is organized. Once upon a time it was royalty/faux royalty — the nobility, the clergy, the “everyone else” which was the bourgeois, the middle class, and the lower class.”Who are you, my good man?” asked the noble.”Pardon me for breathing your air, I am the lower class, sir.””Well, as long as you know your place, you can breathe my air. Let me tell you what your opinion is on such and such a matter.””Why, thank you, m’Lord, so gracious of you.””Not at all, my deplorable young person.”You will recognize that this “lower class” construct is what we call the deplorables today. The deplorables are no longer waiting to be issued their opinions and therein lies all the conflict.Interestingly enough, this is the underpinning of many governmental schemes with the nobility and the clergy being mashed together to form the House of Lords and the bourgeois/middle class/lower class becoming the House of Commons. This parliamentary approach still answered to the King/Queen who could not deign to be involved in governance.Those daring Colonies started out by getting rid of the King (Geo Washington could have been King, but he decided against it, thereby setting us a hugely different course that has worked well for 243 years, the longest such scheme of governance in the history of the world).We then ended up with the Senate (the House of Lords) and the House (the House of Commons). The Establishment allowed us to pick between their handpicked nobility — the Bushes and the Clintons.Today, our estates are more like:Government/politics/Deep State and their handmaidens the mediaThe uber wealthyThe Intelligentsia — the professionsThe Illuminati and the keepers of all that is or should be correct in our societyThe entertainment class — never, ever make a decision until you know where Taylor Swift stands on the matterAcademia — the shapers of the opinions of youthThe modestly wealthy — those with fuck you money, but not uber wealthyThe working schlubsThe Deplorables — the 50% who pay no taxesWho no longer figures in the scheme of things? The clergyWhat is totally missing — because it is in such short supply — is the independent, curious, critical thinker, the man who cares not what society may think, who has curiosity about the world and how it works, and who can form opinions and make decisions based on data, evidence, facts, and logic. Son of a bitch may go to church and talk directly to God.This critical thinker is dangerous because he has a strong bullshit detector, speaks freely while often keeping his own counsel (a true internal tug of war), and speaks truth — not just to power (cliche alert), but to himselfBlogging unleashes this critical thinker, but the critical thinker truly flourishes when he is engaged in robust debate — wherein novitiate ideas wrestle with master crafted ideas and both ideas leave the better for the conflict. It is only through conflict that ideas are smoothed and refined.All of this is about control. If one looks at the top of any totem pole — royalty/nobility or government/politics/Deep State/media — it is a contest in which those at the top want to control — physically, financially, intellectually, thought — those beneath them.That is why the independent, curious, critical thinker is so powerful (and dangerous). He does not willingly embrace the yoke of control. He does not put his head in the noose. He does not climb the totem pole.On its best days, is the intellectual pasture in which those bulls gather to ponder life. On the days when Freddie is undergoing one of his periodic menstrual comment days — a tantrum spurred by not being able to control the thought — the gates are open and the thinkers bolt.To think critically, one must find the good ideas, the truth, but to do that they must be compared against the bad ideas, the dross, the lies.The digital playground, the digital pasture is where that takes place.What is left untouched is the issue of censorship in which some ideas are not allowed to see the light of day. We can weather the conflict of good v bad, dross v brilliant, but we cannot hear the voices that are stifled.Bravo the critical thinker.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. jason wright

      Who is HRC’s (Her Royal Clintonness) proxy puppet in the Democratic lineup for 2020?

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Well, it’s obviously not Tulsi Gabbard.

        1. jason wright

          🙂 Good spot Donna 😉

        2. JLM

          .There is history between HRC and Tulsi Gabbard.In 2016, Tulsi Gabbard (who is a very conventional Dem by any measure) was the Vice Chairwoman of the DNC. She could see first hand the rigging being undertaken to “anoint” Hillary. She saw them baking the nomination cake before the debates even began.All of the Super Delegates were committed to HRC before the first debate moderator was even picked.She resigned. She then endorsed Bernie.But she also spoke out against HRC — she threw Libya, Benghazi, Egypt, Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood on the fire as specific issues that HRC had put her fingerprints on as Sec of State. To this day, Libya and Syria are still monumental cockups.Tulsi is no Republican in Dem’s clothing. Her chops as a soldier may give her a keen insight, an appreciation for nuance, a first name acquaintance with the cost of screwing these things up, but this is a cat fight between HRC and Tulsi Gabbard over the 2016 dust up.You can see that HRC has the ability to fixate and hold a grudge like none other.Stand back, take a deep breath — Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian asset? How fucking crazy does one have to be to gargle those words and spit them out? Pretty fucking crazy.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      2. JLM

        .Pretty clear that HRC has been waxing her legs and her skis. She just may strap the boards on and take another go at it.She is truly nuts and that would be the smart play for those betting on her going all in.Looking at the current crop, I think she is the leader in the clubhouse.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Social media display the best and the worst. There is value in that. Censorship destroys that value.

    3. Peter J. Mills

      “On the days when Freddie is undergoing one of his periodic menstrual comment days — a tantrum spurred by not being able to control the thought — the gates are open and the thinkers bolt.”No, he is simply angry that commenters have hijacked his blog when they should be operating their own.

      1. JLM

        .Not so, my good man. Freddie is at his highest level of dudgeon when he speaks of that of which he knows next to nothing — politics.In matters related to VC, Freddie possesses near Papal infallibility. In matters pertaining to the view of the country, he is another coastal liberal looking down with disdain on the hinterlands.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. sigmaalgebra

          “Freddie” seems to do something, apparently effortlessly, I don’t want to do, have never done, don’t know how to do, but should at least know how to do — fit in with a tribe! He even fits in with especially severe initiation rites, e.g., have to be willing to spout the NYC/NYT Democrat Party tribal catechism convincingly, consistently, flawlessly!!!! That way, I presume, get invited to the private parties and in groups and get in effect something like a high China Social Credit Score!!!I should learn some of how to do that!! But until my startup works, I likely won’t have the initiation or membership fees!! Mom knew a LOT about how to do such things and was quite successful at it, but she never taught my father, brother, or me!!!

    4. sigmaalgebra

      Ah, JLM come ON!!!!! Lots of people like some simplistic, really old stuff, even when they don’t understand even the original reasons, and then you come along with history, facts, and explanations, dump the old stuff on the scrap heap of history (gee, one rhyme and one awful alliteration in just three words, all by accident!), and give a good outline of the present situation!!!!!

    5. Michael Elling

      Network math is so simple: the core and top grow geometrically while the edge and bottom grow linearly. (The core and top is where the value is and the edge and bottom are where the costs are). Left unchecked (which are all mankind socio-economic and political networks) the systems become unstable. Plato just didn’t know about network effects; but he got everything else right. Looked at from an economics perspective both the pareto and standard distributions become skewed over time and then some conflagration or reset happens.

  14. jason wright

    Balaji – “right”. Is it?

  15. Todd Marshall

    There is crime, laundering, drugs etc enabled by crypto, similar to propaganda and lies on facebook advertising platform. Needs a fine penalty infrastructure and some kind of open source regulatory body with teeth that works.

  16. Sebastian Wain

    The fifth estate also includes search engines. All these SEO and algorithmic madness hide excellent content after the first thousand of results (to not say the first 20…). I hope this can also be complemented or replaced by something else.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Did the math for a better solution, wrote the code, finishing up my new office, next will gather some good, first data, e.g., like you find missing or tough to find, and announce an alpha test on Hacker News and a few other selected places.For VCs and me, we agree: I’m a sole, solo founder. So VCs won’t offer me a check now, and by the time I have nice revenue and some C-level subordinates I won’t need or accept their check.Just how to do a better solution is not trivial; my approach is new and very different: I (1) get some new data, (2) have a new and very different user interface and user experience, and (3) do new and very different things with the data. The crucial, enabling core is some new applied math — my users will not be aware of anything mathematical.From the beginning I just regarded the challenge of meeting the need as a math problem. No, not machine learning, artificial intelligence, data science, computer science, analytics, etc. and, instead, just some math — theorem and proof type math, some of it pure, some of it clearly applied. No, I use no neural networks! I don’t need the computing of Nvidia graphics cards! I don’t give a hoot about quantum computing.Sorry, guys, some of the crucial math prerequisites are beyond ugrad math. Some of the math I used is unbelievable — no one would believe that such things are true without rock solid proofs, but they are true and we do have such proofs. It’d be plenty tough even to guess that any such things could be true. In particular, nearly no one in computer science from ugrad freshman to chaired prof studied the math. Nearly no one funded by Sand Hill Road studied the math. Maybe a few people, could meet in an SUV, at Google and Microsoft touched on the math, but likely they soon forgot it, never saw how to apply it, never guessed that it could be applied, always guessed that it was just abstract nonsense, and didn’t do the follow on original applied math I did.Much of the problem is cultural: In an important sense need one foot in one part of pure math and another foot in another part of pure math, and nearly no single students or single departments address both parts. Nearly all the good pure math guys I know have exactly one foot in the right place. Sorry, guys. Yea, I like math — nice subject!My elevator pitch is that Google, Bing, etc. do really well on 1/3rd of the problem, and I’m going for the safe for work, families, children part of the other 2/3rds!

  17. jvill

    “But we should be careful not to hand them more power. Or worse require them to censor some voices and not others.”That’s an interesting construction. You’re arguing we should be censoring some voices then, yes? Perhaps the ones who run ads with demonstrable lies, yes?And also, if we’re looking for patterns of behavior… https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  18. Chris Phenner

    ‘Fifth Estate?’I wonder and worry about the ‘Fifth.’I know it’s not new (Wikipedia is below).…I think coining ‘The Fifth’ as a term, dilutes ‘The Fourth.’I may be missing it, but insofar as (i) principles, (ii) values and (iii) tactics, I see ‘Fourth’ & ‘Fifth’ estates as the same. And if you think about decisions that are made to defend/support (say) ‘social media’ vs. ‘offline media, I’m not sure I follow the division.

  19. Mark Coatney

    Fred-would love your thoughts on this:…I’m working on this, building a platform for the Fifth Estate that is a nonprofit and so sidesteps a lot of the concerns facing Facebook/Twitter, etc.