The digital revolution and the State

The digital revolution and the State

Monday, 26 February 2018 - 5:00pm
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Venue: 
Seminar Room, European Studies Centre, 70 Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6HR
Speaker(s): 
William H. Janeway (Venture capitalist and Economist)
Chair: 
David Vines (Balliol College, Oxford)
Convenor: 
Charles Enoch (St Antony’s College, Oxford)
Series: 
Political Economy of Financial Markets (PEFM)

Abstract: All of the technologies which combined to enable the Digital Revolution were sponsored by the American state: stored program digital computers, silicon processing, software engineering and the internet. Deployment of the enabling infrastructure and exploration of its potential applications, in turn, were accelerated by the IT/Internet/Dotcom Bubble of 1998-2000.  Since then, the Digital Revolution has taken on a life of its own.  No longer in need of state support, the Digital Revolution now challenges the authority of the state along multiple dimensions. The IT-enabled globalization of markets and automation of work have overwhelmed the capacity of the state to buffer the consequent disruption of employment with destructive political consequences.  At the microeconomic level, disruptive digital services like Uber and Airbnb attack existing modes of regulation in both the directly served markets and in the associated labor markets. Across industries, the application of machine learning techniques to the data generated and captured from interactions with customers has created a new mode of monopolization, additional to economies of scale and scope and network externalities, requiring new approaches to anti-trust regulation. Finally, at the most fundamental level of political economy, digital social media is being mobilized to undermine the political processes on which the legitimacy of the state depends.