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数字时代|《经济学人》:你的一举一动,尽在他人掌控

2017-05-11 从余启 我与我们的世界 我与我们的世界

欢迎打开“我与我们的世界”,从此,让我们一起“纵览世界之风云变幻、洞察社会之脉搏律动、感受个体之生活命运、挖掘自然之点滴奥妙”。

我与我们的世界,既是一个“奋斗”的世界,也是一个“思考”的世界。奋而不思则罔,思而不奋则殆。这个世界,你大,它就大;你小,它就小。

欢迎通过上方公众号名称打开公众号“查看历史信息”来挖掘往期文章,因为,每期都能让你“走近”不一样的世界、带给你不一样的精彩


本期导读:现在的这个社会,是一个高速发展的社会,科技越来越发达,信息流通越来越快,人们之间的交流越来越密切,生活也越来越方便。马云曾在演讲中表示,未来的时代将不是IT时代,而是DT的时代,DT就是Data Technology,数据科技。


大数据就是这个数字时代的产物。大数据(big data),是指无法在一定时间范围内用常规软件工具进行捕捉、管理和处理的数据集合。大数据需要通过新的处理模式才能进一步促生更强的决策能力、洞察能力和优化能力,因而,大数据便是具有海量性、高增长性以及多样性的信息资产。


大数据技术所具有的战略意义,不在于对海量数据信息的掌握,而在于对这些含有特定意义的数据信息进行专业性的加工处理。换言之,如果把大数据比作一种工业品,那么这种工业品实现盈利的关键,在于提高对数据这种产品的“加工能力”,通过“加工”实现数据信息的“增值”。


当前,我们的生活已进入数字时代,很多技术甚至已超越人类。我们的生活中,电脑不仅能决定货架上要摆放的商品,而且还能从事法律等专业服务,甚至能在游戏中胜过真人,不远的将来,它们很快还能为我们开车,帮我们看病。


The world’s most valuable resource

世上最具价值意义的资源


Vast flows of data give some firms unprecedented power. To keep them in check, antitrust rules must catch up. 

海量数据信息能赋予某些公司前所未有的力量和能量,要防止它们胡作非为,相关行业的反垄断法规必须跟上。


A NEW commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable. They are the five most valuable listed firms in the world. Their profits are surging: they collectively racked up over $25bn in net profit in the first quarter of 2017. Amazon captures half of all dollars spent online in America. Google and Facebook accounted for almost all the revenue growth in digital advertising in America last year.

新型商品总会促生飞速发展、利润丰厚的新兴行业,这也会使得对商品掌控者制定反垄断规则迫在眉睫。一百年前,那样的商品是石油。现在,数字时代,数据信息便成为了那样的商品。掌控海量数据信息的巨头们,包括谷歌的母公司Alphabet、亚马逊、苹果、面簿、微软等,都是全球市值最高的上市公司,并展现出势不可挡之势。这些公司的利润也急剧膨胀,2017年第一季度这几家公司净利润总额已超250亿美元。美国在线消费额的一半,由亚马逊收入囊中。去年美国数字广告营收增长额中,几乎全部被谷歌和面簿霸占。



Such dominance has prompted calls for the tech giants to be broken up, as Standard Oil was in the early 20th century. This newspaper has argued against such drastic action in the past. Size alone is not a crime. The giants’ success has benefited consumers. Few want to live without Google’s search engine, Amazon’s one-day delivery or Facebook’s newsfeed. Nor do these firms raise the alarm when standard antitrust tests are applied. Far from gouging consumers, many of their services are free (users pay, in effect, by handing over yet more data). Take account of offline rivals, and their market shares look less worrying. And the emergence of upstarts like Snapchat suggests that new entrants can still make waves.


But there is cause for concern. Internet companies’ control of data gives them enormous power. Old ways of thinking about competition, devised in the era of oil, look outdated in what has come to be called the “data economy” . A new approach is needed.


Quantity has a quality all its own

数量就是王道


What has changed? Smartphones and the internet have made data abundant, ubiquitous and far more valuable. Whether you are going for a run, watching TV or even just sitting in traffic, virtually every activity creates a digital trace—more raw material for the data distilleries. As devices from watches to cars connect to the internet, the volume is increasing: some estimate that a self-driving car will generate 100 gigabytes per second. Meanwhile, artificial-intelligence (AI) techniques such as machine learning extract more value from data. Algorithms can predict when a customer is ready to buy, a jet-engine needs servicing or a person is at risk of a disease. Industrial giants such as GE and Siemens now sell themselves as data firms.


This abundance of data changes the nature of competition. Technology giants have always benefited from network effects: the more users Facebook signs up, the more attractive signing up becomes for others. With data there are extra network effects. By collecting more data, a firm has more scope to improve its products, which attracts more users, generating even more data, and so on. The more data Tesla gathers from its self-driving cars, the better it can make them at driving themselves—part of the reason the firm, which sold only 25,000 cars in the first quarter, is now worth more than GM, which sold 2.3m. Vast pools of data can thus act as protective moats.


Access to data also protects companies from rivals in another way. The case for being sanguine about competition in the tech industry rests on the potential for incumbents to be blindsided by a startup in a garage or an unexpected technological shift. But both are less likely in the data age. The giants’ surveillance systems span the entire economy: Google can see what people search for, Facebook what they share, Amazon what they buy. They own app stores and operating systems, and rent out computing power to startups. They have a “God’s eye view” of activities in their own markets and beyond. They can see when a new product or service gains traction, allowing them to copy it or simply buy the upstart before it becomes too great a threat. Many think Facebook’s $22bn purchase in 2014 of WhatsApp, a messaging app with fewer than 60 employees, falls into this category of “shoot-out acquisitions” that eliminate potential rivals. By providing barriers to entry and early-warning systems, data can stifle competition.


Who ya gonna call, trustbusters?

把巨头分拆了,就能解决问题?


The nature of data makes the antitrust remedies of the past less useful. Breaking up a firm like Google into five Googlets would not stop network effects from reasserting themselves: in time, one of them would become dominant again. A radical rethink is required—and as the outlines of a new approach start to become apparent, two ideas stand out.


The first is that antitrust authorities need to move from the industrial era into the 21st century. When considering a merger, for example, they have traditionally used size to determine when to intervene. They now need to take into account the extent of firms’ data assets when assessing the impact of deals. The purchase price could also be a signal that an incumbent is buying a nascent threat. On these measures, Facebook’s willingness to pay so much for WhatsApp, which had no revenue to speak of, would have raised red flags. Trustbusters must also become more data-savvy in their analysis of market dynamics, for example by using simulations to hunt for algorithms colluding over prices or to determine how best to promote competition.


The second principle is to loosen the grip that providers of online services have over data and give more control to those who supply them. More transparency would help: companies could be forced to reveal to consumers what information they hold and how much money they make from it. Governments could encourage the emergence of new services by opening up more of their own data vaults or managing crucial parts of the data economy as public infrastructure, as India does with its digital-identity system, Aadhaar. They could also mandate the sharing of certain kinds of data, with users’ consent—an approach Europe is taking in financial services by requiring banks to make customers’ data accessible to third parties.


Rebooting antitrust for the information age will not be easy. It will entail new risks: more data sharing, for instance, could threaten privacy. But if governments don’t want a data economy dominated by a few giants, they will need to act soon.



往期精彩:


天罗地网|《经济学人》:你只要享受了信息技术所带来的便利,就逃不出它无所不在的魔掌

大英帝国|《全球脑库》:脱欧后退守英伦小岛,该如何生存?

诗图一家|《心境》:命由己造,相由心生,境随心转,有容乃大

驻足人生|《幽灵岛》:你存在的意义,完全由你自己定义

点滴之间|《大师有话说》:我们处于同一个世界,却有着不同的世界

民族精神|《中华民族》:一概鬼子都杀尽,祖国一统庆升平


注:

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