Secret libraries

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By EUGENIO BUCCI*

Global monopolistic conglomerates live up to their reputation as trillionaires and extremely powerful. They barbarize everywhere, as if they were floating above the reach of the law

The economic power of mastodontic technological companies that have revolutionized our time, the so-called big tech. Last week, we had further proof of its pecuniary magnitude: the news circulated that the Nvidia – holds more than 70% of the global market for chips for Artificial Intelligence – reached the top of the podium, the most valuable position in the world, with a price tag of 3,33 trillion dollars.

Microsoft, owner of Windows, was bumped to second place – it is worth “only” 3,2 trillion dollars. In third place is Apple, valued at 3,21 trillion. The three together add up to an intergalactic figure, which is more or less five times the GDP of a country the size of Brazil.

The political power of these giants of capitalism is also known. It is an imperial force that comes from above, like that of divinities. Elon Musk, owner of Space X, Tesla and

In the others big tech, the symptoms of arrogance are the same. In May last year, the Brazilian section of Google published on its home page a link for a text that campaigned against the approval of Bill 2630, the Fake News PL. It was a shock. Many people, in disbelief, asked themselves: how could a foreign search site, which has always sworn to be non-partisan, respectful and impartial, try to hide public opinion in a sovereign country in this way?

Well, how can you? Very simple: you can't. Or it couldn't. So much so that, almost a year later, at the end of January 2024, the Federal Police sent the report with its conclusions on the case to Minister Alexandre de Moraes, of the Federal Supreme Court. According to the report, Google committed an “abuse of economic power”. Accurate diagnosis.

Accurate and heartbreaking. Global monopolistic conglomerates live up to their reputation as trillionaires and extremely powerful. They barbarize everywhere, as if they were floating above the law – above the reach of the law. When they are in China, it is true, they act subservient, but in the rest of the planet, they kick in the door without bothering with good manners. They treat attempts at regulation as incidental nuisances that come from below. They look at public authorities in the same way that a daddy's boy playboy looks at a traffic cop who tries to fine him for speeding.

And that's not all. In fact, that's not even the main thing. The immense wealth and the dizzying propaganda machine are not the central characteristics of these colossi of the digital age. What puts them above all other organizations, public or private, is the technical knowledge they accumulate behind closed doors, within four titanium walls. This – more than unlimited money and the capacity for ideological manipulation – lies the greatest threat they pose to the democratic world. Those bunkers impregnable houses a proprietary, private and armored knowledge that is theirs alone and no one else's.

The term “know” here does not mean “wisdom”. There is no sapience within these bunkers, far from it. There is no culture. Meta – the parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp and Facebook – and its competitors, who profit from spreading artificial ignorance, obscurantism and addictive attractions, are not temples of knowledge or enlightenment. They are the opposite of that.

What they concentrate in their silicon boxes is not the elevation of the spirit, but the dehumanized, cold technique, to a degree of cybernetic mathematization that we can barely imagine. They store complex formulas and equations that pave the way for the expansion of Artificial Intelligence, the most amazing tool ever forged by human ingenuity and increasingly directed against human talent.

The new secret libraries, installed in the most intimate veins of big tech, are no longer like those that went through the Middle Ages, hosted in monasteries, convents and abbeys. O scriptorium Monacal was never open to readers from outside the Church. Inside, the codices and manuscripts preserved the philosophical and theological memory of antiquity in absolute secrecy. The ideas of the past rested on labyrinthine shelves, isolated from the secular world and treated as dangerous substances, which could not come into contact with the present so as not to disturb the status quo.

What today's secret libraries have in common with their medieval precursors is only the regime of secrecy. Furthermore, they are different. What they hide is not the thought of the ancients, but the software and algorithms that program what will come – without society’s knowledge. No public authority has the means to examine your files. Democratic institutions do not know what they research, test and accomplish. Regulatory agencies are unable to inspect them. The secret libraries of the Middle Ages kept the past from us. Those of the 21st century have kidnapped our future.

* Eugene Bucci He is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of Uncertainty, an essay: how we think about the idea that disorients us (and orients the digital world) (authentic). [https://amzn.to/3SytDKl]

Originally published in the newspaper The State of S. Paul.

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