Mobile Apps Bringing a Taste of the Free Market to China

kenli Asia, Internet Policy, Regulation

When Uber launched in Beijing, my first thought was that they were going to have a really hard time in China. However, this was not because I expected there to be protests from taxi drivers like in London or threats of jail time from city governments like in San Francisco, but because there is already so much existing competition from mobile taxi booking apps in the country. While in Shanghai this past March, I was introduced to the latest of these apps, DiDi Dache, which is built in to the popular messaging service WeChat. With DiDi Dache, you simply list where you are and where you want to go, leave a voice message for prospective drivers, and in my experience, within 5 minutes you have a taxi. Even more impressive than the speed with which your taxi appears, is the speed with which the technology has spread throughout the country. Within just a few months of the app being launched, nearly every cab in Shanghai now has it set up in their vehicles and is using it as their primary means of finding customers, which has greatly reducing the amount of time they must drive around searching for riders. Even my 70 year old great aunt was using it so frequently and naturally, it seemed as if she’d been using it for years. DiDi Dache, promoted itself initially with massive rebates and incentives for both riders and drivers, some have reported that they were able to take rides for just 2 yuan, approximately 33 cents. This is possible due to the company’s revenue model, where revenue comes not from taxi fares themselves, but instead from “location-based advertising,” which uses geo-tagging to target riders with advertisements related to their location. A unique feature of the app is that people seeking taxis …

Everything a Libertarian needs, all in one place online!

Joe Kent Internet Policy

I think facebook just doesn’t like libertarians.  Every time I post something about liberty, it just dies.  I might get one like, and then it just withers away, never to be seen again.  Meanwhile, my friend posts something like, “I’m hungry,” and it gets hundreds of likes. So I started a blog, thinking it would generate more traffic for my writings.  Wrong!  I’ve had my own blog now for years, and only a few people have ever visited it.  Usually they stumble out of the site, just as quickly as they stumbled in.  I feel like I’m a good writer, but how can I be sure if no one ever reads it? That’s where Liberty.me comes in handy.   It’s kind of like facebook, but for libertarians.  Imagine an entire community of libertarians all in one place, liking, posting, chatting . . . working together towards a freer society.  Like an online version of “Galt’s Gulch” from Atlas Shrugged. When I first signed up for Liberty.me, I was instantly greeted with a chat window with about 60 other people. “Hi everyone.  Um, where am I?  This is my first time here . . . I’m Joe.” “Welcome to your new home, Joe!” “Hi JOE!” “Hey everyone, it’s Joe!” “Where are you from?” I have to say – as a lonely libertarian, it was the most welcoming experience I’d ever gotten just from visiting a website! The site is jam packed with articles, liberty guides, free books, classes, videos, blogs, and discussion groups; all in an extremely beautiful web page. The colors, the fonts, and placement – everything has been thought about with beauty and style in mind. The blog creation tool is pretty spectacular. If you’ve ever tried to create a blog before, you know that it can be pretty …

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Your Privacy in the Internet Age. Past, Present

admin Conferences, Internet Policy

[button url=”http://isil.org/conferences/lausanne-2013/” style=”blue” size=”small”]See more videos from the Lausanne Conference[/button] [highlight type=”grey”]This is a transcription of Terry Easton’s talk at the ISIL 2013 World Conference.[/highlight] [highlight type=”grey”]Transcription edited by Kenli S.[/highlight] Let’s start the first slide to put us in the theme. [James Bond theme music plays] This is to kind of put us in the spirit of the moment. [Music continues] Go to the next slide. Ok, I think we only had the royalty payment for about twelve seconds, so we may have violated that. Incidentally, for those of you, this is the book that’s out for sale. There’s still a few left, I’d be happy to autograph it because we had such a huge print overrun we’d like to get rid of them all. It’s actually pretty good, I must say. I wrote half of it and a constitutional attorney wrote the other half. We’ve been talking about Libertarianism and obviously the way of thinking about life, and the internet really has the potential of being this marvelous libertarian, individual-oriented facility although it was invented by the US Defense Department, by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, back in the 1970s to be able to survive nuclear attacks by having every packet run everywhere else and nobody could control it. We’ve come a long way since then because of course everything I’m talking about is public domain information. We have a scenario where literally; Big Brother knows who, where, what, how and now why we are searching the internet. I’m not going to spend too much time talking about Big Brother and all of the information that’s appearing in the papers today. There’s another article today, if you read The Guardian, The New York Times, The Independent and it seems to be out of control, but in …

Austrian Economics and Social Media in China

kenli Asia, Civil Liberties, Economic Policy, Internet Policy

In many places around the world we hear about the use of social media and mobile apps to help people communicate with each other in opposition to the state or against mainstream standards. From Egypt to Venezuela, social media has played an instrumental role in the organisation of protests. Fearing the same, the Chinese government has long sought to block the use of social media sites, thus Facebook and Twitter have a very minor presence in the country. Nonetheless, here in Shanghai I’ve learned about some of the innovative ways that local mobile apps are being used to spread ideas of liberty. While it is risky to talk about politics or to openly criticize the government in China, the field of economics provides somewhat safe ground to discuss ideas of liberty. Even then, one still must be mindful of one’s wording, because the terms ‘free-market’ or ‘capitalism’ are still blacklisted, whereas the phrase ‘market economy’ is perfectly acceptable. This past month a group of professors of Austrian Economics (a number of whom spoke at our 2012 Shanghai Austrian Economic Summit) got together and decided to create an online course entirely based on Hayek’s works. What’s exceptional about their approach is that the whole course is hosted on Weixin (known as WeChat for English users), which is like a Chinese version of Whatsapp. The lectures are given live, enabling students to tune in and respond in real time, while those who can’t make it at the time can still catch up later. The professor gives his lecture by leaving voice messages for the group. Each clip is limited by the app to being just a minute long, though they can be played consecutively. All the while, students can type in their questions, to which the professor can reply instantly. This style …

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How Hackers Will Help Build a Libertarian 21st Century

kenli Conferences, Decentralism, Internet Policy

[button url=”http://isil.org/conferences/lausanne-2013/” style=”blue” size=”small”]See more videos from the Lausanne Conference[/button] [highlight type=”grey”]This is a transcription of the Marco Ricca’s talk at the ISIL 2013 World Conference.[/highlight] [highlight type=”grey”]Transcribed and edited by Kenli S.[/highlight] What is a hacker? So before I start, let me define what I mean by “hacker”. A hacker, in the sense that I mean it, is not someone who steals your credit card number or your Facebook password on the internet. I mean hacker in the original sense. The hacker subculture has existed—or has been using that word—for at least 30 or 40 years, and gathers people who identify with a common set of values and traits. Hackers are curious, creative, imaginative, and are absolutely free-minded. They do not take anything anyone says for the truth before they have been able to verify it. The first assumption that is out there is that computers are safe. So hackers initially tried to challenge that assertion. Hackers love to take apart and modify the behavior of things. So, you may do something that has “hack” value, even if it is not necessarily linked to computers. If, for example, you have ever used a coffee machine to make tea, strictly speaking you are a hacker. Welcome to my world. Personal introduction A few words about myself, Christian Michel introduced me very well. I got interested in computers very young and in 1998 I figured out how these skills I had accumulated could be monetized. I happened to grow up in Switzerland, and Swiss banks are very keen customers of such skills because as you know, and as is even more the case right now, they are trying to protect secrets from a large bunch of people. At the time they were just introducing the internet in their offices, and they …