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The network effect keeps many of us hooked on social media platforms, and many businesses captive to online marketing platforms. What would happen to our autonomy online if each of us, as consumers, had to rely on the same company for our payments and our credit scores?
John Gapper argues in his column on Thursday that Alibaba’s Ant Financial is a risky experiment in just this dual online role, and one that will keep customers locked into a version of a video game, compelled to keep making purchases to chase good credit ratings.
With a potential valuation of $120bn when it goes public, the Chinese social credit experiment has 520m users already. Although John believes these private credit rating schemes are less sinister than the state’s ambitions towards monitoring all its citizens’ online behaviour (in order to then impose rewards and punishments on individuals) the private schemes are troubling, he says — not least because tech companies have a more lax attitude to data than banks.
But the most worrying aspect of this Chinese innovation is perhaps how it “gamifies” how customers achieve (very opaque) credit ratings — “a tournament in which people must compete to raise their numbers through activity, like a financial version of social networks and mobile games.”
Africa’s changing of the guard
David Pilling questions whether the new faces as heads of government in Angola and Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and South Africa, are anything more than a switch in personnel. The ruling elite may just have successfully perpetuated itself in spite of appetite and hopes of real transformation.
Trump boxed in by Mueller’s chess moves
Edward Luce argues that Robert Mueller is gradually ensuring Donald Trump is on the defensive about ties to Russia. If Watergate is any guide, the investigation may take two years and could corner the US president.
Pro-Brexit sums do not add up
Chris Giles analyses the promise of a 2 to 4 per cent boost to the UK’s national income after Brexit, included in this week’s paper from Economists for Free Trade. He concludes that the model they use is flawed, their assumptions are unjustifiable, and so the conclusions cannot be right. In short: “Put rubbish in, you get rubbish out.”
Should public galleries be selling art or buying it?
Tiffany Jenkins argues that acquiring new works is a crucial part of the mission of public galleries. But in an age of tighter budgets and political demands about social mission, some are instead becoming merely museums with fixed collections — or, worse, having to sell their treasures.
Best of the rest
Why the Jeremy Corbyn spy story won’t change minds and what could — Stephen Bush in the New Statesman
The slaughter in Syria should shame us all — Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian
Romney faces complicated path as he runs for Senate seat — Dan Balz in The Washington Post
The game-changing success of Black Panther — David Sims in The Atlantic
What you’ve been saying
Think very carefully before regulating speech— letter from Donald E Graham
Any call to regulate Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple should be careful to say: what is it we are to regulate? I have lived through more than one time when a president would have preferred that fewer people read news stories in The Washington Post. I would suggest that voters in any country approach the idea of regulating speech on Facebook and Google with extreme caution. Readers should make up their own minds whether to read the Financial Times and government should have no role in their decision. The large technology companies must comply with laws that all companies must obey. They must pay their taxes. They must obey the antitrust laws and mustn’t overcharge consumers. But when it comes to what stories they publish on Google News or Facebook, or whose advertisements they accept, governments should keep their hands off.
Comment from Leftie on Millennial insecurity is reshaping the UK economy
Times are hard for millennials because the dice of government policies are loaded against them. Government prefers to support the huge cost of pensioners’ healthcare and “triple-lock pensions”. Why’s that? The simple answer is that close to 90 percent of pensioners are registered to vote and they do vote. Whereas, millennials and many other pre-middle aged voters do not vote. Does that matter? Of course it does! Politicians are just like ordinary people, they want to hang on to their well-paid jobs. So they vie with each other to be the strong friends of pensioners and the over-fifties who actually make a difference to politicians’ careers.
Our presence in space is helping us manage climate change— letter from Robin Russell-Jones
Robin Russell-Jones is right to assert that solving climate change will involve a variety of Earth-bound commitments. He is wrong though to dismiss the improvement of access to space by private companies as pointless and harmful. The relevance of space-based technologies to climate change mitigation has been self-evident since the “Blue Marble” image of Earth, taken in 1972 by the crew of Apollo 17, helped give rise to the modern environmental movement. Since then our knowledge and understanding of the causes and effects of climate change on the planet, as well as how to better manage the consequences for its inhabitants, have been immeasurably improved because of our presence in space.
How can we protect workers from AI? FT readers respond Ideas and counter-arguments poured in after Rana Foroohar asked for your thoughts
Poland’s pollution gives Vogue a less glamorous backdrop Polish cities’ poor air quality regularly breaches European standards in the winter
Why Donald Trump will never escape Russia The US president is being outplayed by special investigator Mueller’s chess moves
Public art collections in an age of austerity and superwealth Museum and gallery curators are under pressure from politicians and soaring prices
Free Lunch: Intangible does not mean untaxable While rent extraction persists, at least capture it for the public good
Instant Insight: The gulf separating the two camps of eurozone reformists The German-led group remains opposed to the France and Italy contingent on sovereign debt
Instant Insight: The latest pro-Brexit analysis has got its sums badly wrong Assumptions used for the Economists for Free Trade paper are absurd
Africa’s power shuffle is a renewal, not a revolution The ruling elite has engineered a personnel change in the interest of self-preservation
FT View: A plan to make Warsaw pay for its defiance In principle EU funding should be conditional on respecting EU rules
FT View: Making progress against the American gun plague As the culture changes, incremental steps can help slow the killing
The Big Read
The Big Read: Driverless cars: mapping the trouble ahead Competition between companies is putting a brake on the highly complex 3D maps autonomous vehicles need to function
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