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数字服务并非免费 免费信息的高昂代价

时间:2016-11-25 15:34阅读:

In the past few weeks something we always knew to be true, but which we preferred to overlook for convenience’s sake, is proving harder to ignore.

过去几周,我们一直都知道是怎么回事、但为了省事而不去深究的某些事情,变得更难忽视了。

The fact is that digital services are not free, they never were and that any entity from Silicon Valley that ever claimed they could be did so only because it suited their agenda or that of someone else.

事实是,数字服务并非免费,它们从未免费过,硅谷任何声称能够提供免费数字服务的公司之所以那么说,只是因为这话符合它们或其他什么人的利益。

Think of all the free digital services you use every day without paying a penny: email, travel apps, social media, YouTube, search, Wikipedia.

想想我们每天不花一分钱就可以使用的所有免费数字服务:电子邮件、旅行应用、社交媒体,YouTube、搜索、维基百科(Wikipedia)。

If you had to pay for all of them, how many would you use?

如果要为所有这些服务付费,你还会使用多少?

This revelation is not the result of a crash in the share prices of companies providing free internet services.

我们醒悟到这一点并非提供免费互联网服务的公司股价暴跌的结果。

Nor is it because a plethora of app companies has run out of financing options for their lossmaking operations.

也不是因为众多app开发商的亏损业务的融资选择越来越少。

It has hit us because the fake news scandal has led us to question whether the news and information we have been consuming online for nothing was ever being generated in our interests.

我们之所以醒悟过来,是因为假新闻丑闻使我们开始怀疑,我们在网上免费消费的新闻和信息,是否以符合我们利益的方式生成?

However, the outrage that has followed this realisation — with free services such as Google and Facebook being urged to censor and filter the news — misdiagnoses the situation.

然而,这一认识带来的愤怒——要求谷歌(Google)、Facebook等免费服务提供商审查并过滤新闻——是对现实的错误诊断。

The right diagnosis is this: over the past 20 years we have normalised a digital economy that funds itself either by appealing to the sort of investors who will tolerate long-term cash burn if the ultimate pay-off is monopoly control or by creating business models that profit from morally ambiguous situations.

正确的诊断是:过去20年,我们已经让这样一种数字经济正常化,这种经济通过两种方式募集资金:一是吸引那些愿意为最终获得垄断控制权而忍受长期烧钱的投资者,二是创建能够获利于道德上模糊的情况的业务模式。

Where traditional media institutions feared to tread with advertising-funded models because of a belief in editorial responsibility, balance and context, social media platforms — free from any industry codes of conduct — moved right in.

传统媒体机构基于对采编责任、平衡与大背景的考虑,不敢随便引入广告赞助模式,这恰好让不受任何行业行为准则约束的社交媒体平台趁虚而入。

The lines between editorial, advertising, entertainment and political propaganda became entirely blurred in the quest for clicks.

为了追求点击率,编辑、广告、娱乐以及政治宣传之间的界线变得完全模糊了。

The growing cyber-industrial complex has normalised this further, with cross-subsidisation models that gouge wealthier customer segments for the benefit of non-paying ones referred to euphemistically as ecosystems.

日益壮大的网络工业复合体使这种状况进一步常态化,它们搞出交叉补贴模式——向较富裕客户群体收取较高费用,以补贴非付费客户——还美其名曰生态系统。

An ecosystem, in case you do not know, is a state of mutual co-dependence between organisms, often where one organism has to submit to the other in order to achieve balance.

一个生态系统(如果你不知道这个)是不同有机体相互依存的一种状态,往往其中一个有机体必须屈从于另一个,才能保持平衡。

None of this is new.

这一切都并非新鲜事物。

The last time a country normalised a complex web of interdependencies, it was called Gosplan.

上一次一个国家让一个复杂的相互依存网络常态化,还是苏联国家计划委员会(Gosplan)时代的事情。

Just like today’s internet economy, this Soviet system was based on the idea that a technocratic and scientific central planning process could justly punish some to the benefit of others.

正如当下的互联网经济一样,苏联这一体制基于的理念是,某种技术官僚的、科学的中央规划过程,可以理直气壮地为了造福于某些人而惩罚另一些人。

And, like today’s internet economy, it normalised the false idea that scientific progress could cultivate a cornucopia of free resources with no associated costs or losses of freedom.

也像当下的互联网经济一样,它让一种错误理念正常化:即科学进步可以培养一种免费资源的聚宝盆,而不会有相关成本,也不会失去自由。

That fallacy ended abruptly in 1985.

这种谬误在1985年轰然倒塌。

A spate of economic crises, consumer shortages and regional instabilities, including the re-emergence of nationalistic sentiments, revealed that the centralised, cross-subsidised economy of the Soviet Union was bankrupt and had to be reformed.

当时一连串经济危机、消费品短缺及地区不稳定(包括再度高涨的民族主义情绪)揭示出,中央集权、交叉补贴的苏联经济模式已经破产,不得不进行改革。

What followed was the era of perestroika and glasnost, meaning restructuring and openness respectively.

随之到来的是改革(perestroika)和开放(glasnost)的时代。

By that point, however, it was too late to save the Soviet system.

然而,那时要挽救苏联体制已经太晚。

Its internal imbalances had become too large.

其内部失衡过于严重。

In 1991, the USSR collapsed under the weight of its own failing economy.

1991年,苏联在经济每况愈下的重压下解体。

Yet, in the wake of that collapse, something else happened.

但在苏联解体后,又出现了新情况。

The removal of subsidies from those who had grown so hopelessly dependent on the system that they could not fend for themselves outside it led to a backlash.

对于那些已经无可救药地依赖于苏联体制、没有这个体制就无法养活自己的人,取消补贴引发了强烈抵制。

Many yearned for the return of the old system, no matter the totalitarian cost.

许多人渴望回归旧体制,无论极权政权的代价有多高。

Political freedom, it turned out, was in some cases just too costly.

事实证明,有时候政治自由的代价实在太大。

Imagine what the outcome would be if the digital economy experienced a similar adjustment.

想象一下,如果数字经济经历类似的调整,会有什么样的结局。

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