By: Eli Moyse
Image Credit: AI-Generated Photo
It’s hard to quantify stimuli. Subjectively, one thing seems obvious: we live in a time period in which information exists and is transmitted at a pace and volume that has never existed before. The speed at which we have adopted new technologies like smartphones and broadband is also unprecedented, and this adoption speed only seems to increase with each new innovation.
New technologies have captured the world’s imaginations and attention. They have also transformed the landscape of business and changed the definition of a viable business model. It is now possible to make billions and billions of dollars by giving your products away for no monetary cost to the user. In exchange for a customer's data and use, a firm can derive profit from nothing more than human attention and time. In other words? Humans have entered an entirely new era of economics and market existence: one in which markets prize ownership of the human mind above all.
There have been elites since the inception of society, and elite groups of individuals have exerted influence on the world around them using countless tools: organized religion, control of financial institutions, and more recently mass media. Having a ruling class is inevitable in any free market society, and it is not always a bad thing. These groups often promote stability, create and contribute to philanthropic efforts, and create wealth for members of greater society. The United States when compared to other developed counterparts has a markedly more hands-off approach when it comes to the government’s treatment of elites, in part because there is significant overlap in these spheres. A laissez-faire approach to regulating elites fundamentally shaped domestic policies from financial regulation that characterized the Roaring Twenties to the Trickle-Down theory of President Reagan. These practices have let the wealthy develop and change their approaches to business and influence with very limited oversight.
When financial regulation does happen in the United States, it is highly reactionary. There have been major phases of regulatory change, marked almost exclusively by financial crises that have forced legislators to act and respond closing obvious loopholes that caused the crisis in the first place. This pattern is uniquely challenged by technological innovation, though. Crises caused by technological development come on quicker and can be far more destructive than a conventional financial panic. They are also difficult for regulators to understand. These facts often come together to prevent efficient regulation, which has left many new innovations rife for exploration and exploitation by wealthy entities which either have the resources to help them harness the technologies or were themselves the progenitors.
The United States of America is now at a unique crossroads of unprecedented technological innovation and an unregulatable market. Previous observations about the United States have criticized its hyper-commercialization and prioritization of healthy private markets above almost every other aspect of society. To describe the United States with these same characteristics today would be incredibly generous. Over the last 45 years, the United States has become a vassal to profit and wealth–its structure and many of its laws have been transformed with the exclusive goal of deriving wealth from its citizens for those at the top, and technology has given the ruling an unprecedented ability to drive this derivation.
One thing is clear presently: technological advancements and the United States’ financial status quo have forced the United States into a new stage of capitalism. Markets and wealth are now based on the commodification of identity and information rather than a product. It has become clear to me that a full and accurate summation of this reality does not exist. That is why I intend to outline the history of the United State’s transformation and its modern implications in a series of essays to follow this one. They will describe how corporations have hijacked our government, how technology has hacked the human mind, and how these elements have combined to facilitate Identity Capitalism, a new stage of economics that is both incredibly tolling on the American people and dangerous for the founding principles of the United States.