A Merger Robs Our Freedom

Here’s a merger that can rob our freedom.

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For many centuries, those who controlled transportation ruled the world.  Britain reigned supreme as it controlled transportation of the seas.  Then robber barons used steam and steel to change everything.   Many of the railroad based  industrialists (Vanderbilts, Mellon, Carnegie and Rockefeller, Astor, Morgan) are still household names.

Autopia came next.  The idea of uni modalism derived around the internal combustion engine allowed roads to overwhelm rails.  Freeways and airlines doomed the railway as a public transportation.

Gradually dominance has passed from those who controlled transportation to those who control information.  This is why AT&T – Time Warner merger creates so much freedom risk.

The Justice Department has been deeply investigating this deal to determine if this violates competition laws but after eight months of investigation there is still very much unknown.  The merger is expected to be approved because AT&T and Time Warner don’t directly compete. But there is a deeper more sinister problem that makes this merger trickier from an antitrust perspective and more dangerous to you and me.

AT&T has such a large control over media with its wireless and DirecTV satellite service that they could gain illegal control over media companies and other cable and satellite firms.

Even worse for your freedom and mine, the most dangerous aspect of this merger has not even being reviewed.

However, the Justice Department may not make the final decision because there is a political wildcard that may be played. Members of the White House have looked at ways to use merger pressure to gain leverage over Time Warner’s news network, CNN.

Is this possible we must ask that the government would use politics in this way?

All we have look at for an answer is the 1998 Banana Wars.  The US started a trade war in a quarrel with the EU over bananas. The US complained that they gave banana producers from former colonies in the Caribbean special access to European markets which broke free trade rules.  This did not make a lot of sense since only seven per cent of Europe’s bananas come from the Caribbean.  Large US multinationals controlled the Latin American banana crop that held three-quarters of the EU market.

Despite this, the US started a trade war by imposing a retaliatory range of 100 per cent import duties on over $500 million of European products, encompassing everything from Scottish cashmere to French cheese. This helped out the giant US multinationals who controlled bananas in Latin American, where production was cheaper because they are grown on large-scale, mechanized plantations.

Why would the US government react in this way?

This was during the impeachment process of President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair.  The White House administration wanted the giant multinationals to put pressure on their congressmen to vote against impeachment.

So, we ask, what’s the big deal if the AT&T merger goes ahead? 

The big deal has nothing to do with the issues being reviewed, it has to do with AT&T’s control and connections to companies that specialize in Social Network gaming.

With the AT&T merger, this company will increase its control over a large part of the TV, internet and cell phone industry.   This allows AT&T to collect huge amounts of integrated information about each of us. They, under the current legislation can use (and even sell) that data.  This information can direct what types of news we see.

Our personal information harvested by AT&T can be used so they control what we see on the internet.  Developments in social network gaming, controlled by AT&T can make their news addictive and even influence how we react to and use their news.

The gaming industry has become so expert at making games “sticky” that it is taking over the lives of many people.

The makers of computer games and social network games aim to create “clinical impulse control disorder,” an addiction much like compulsive gambling.  Game designers specialize in understanding the basic ways people react to different patterns of rewards. They experiment with different regimens of reward and test results.

An entire new area of psychology has been formed that influences the addiction factor of game designs. Social network games are especially more addictive because they use glory and shame to make to enhance the addictive qualities of the game.

Playing a stand-alone computer game can provide challenge, release, escape, frustration, and satisfaction.  They cannot provide glory or shame. Glory and shame can only take place within a social group. Glory and shame requires that other people be present.

One game designer wrote: “Having large numbers of simultaneous players in an environment that records and preserves player records and actions diminishes anonymity and builds relationships among players, but it also creates the emotionally charged possibility of glory and shame in a game world.”

The designers use tactics such as maximizing.

For example, game designers have learned this:  A contingency with an element of randomness will maintain the player’s interest longer and be more attractive. For example, subjects will generally prefer a 30 second variable interval schedule (rewards being delivered randomly between zero and sixty seconds apart) to a 30 second fixed interval schedule (rewards being delivered exactly 30 seconds apart), even though both provide the same overall rate of reward.

There are other, subtler tactics game designers have discovered such as rate of reward return and item-collecting, to name just two.

Game designers continually look for ways to get inside our heads and make us want to stay at their site and click on what they want us to see.  They want to direct us toward their agendas, and inhibit our free range of thinking so we’ll look for information that’s of value to us, not them.

The risk to our freedom comes from gamification. Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game situations.  Gamification can be sued in beneficial ways.  It is is used to improve user engagement.  Gamification is used to motivate employees, create healthy competition, generate buzz encourage customer loyalty and improve learning.

The quandary is over who gets to decide what improvement means.

The AT&T – Time Warner merger increases this company’s ability to monitor our internet, TV and phone service.  AT&T has not only developed and acquired a vast stranglehold over America’s flow of information, they have developed social gaming contacts, tactics and expertise. This improves their ability to control the direction and content of information we receive and pass on to others.

This could allow AT&T to become the Robber Barons of the Information Age.  This fact and the description that has applied to robber barons of every era should give us a pause for thought.

“Business leaders, on the whole, a set of avaricious rascals who habitually cheat and rob investors and consumers, corrupt government, fight ruthlessly among themselves, and in general carry on predatory activities comparable to those of the robber barons of medieval Europe.”

Learn how How 2+2 = Disaster for our freedom.  The loss of freedom and so much more is at risk from two mergers (AT&T-Time Warner and Bayer- Monsanto). The power of collusion from these two mergers provides control over data transmission and access to the personal information we send and receive.  This control and the psychology of gaming can disrupt our freedoms of knowing about and obtaining chemicals, medicine and food.


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