TfL's decision to try and rein in Uber reminded me of a thing I wrote for Wired a couple of years ago. I was one of a bunch of writers asked to contribute to something about 'what we can learn from Uber'. I wanted to write a straight-forward 'don't be an evil arse' piece but was persuaded to moderate it somewhat by an editorial team who were after something more Yay Future! and friends who found (and still find) Uber incredibly cheap and convenient.
(That phenomenon is best exemplified by a quote from a respondent to Doteveryone's research: “I’ve been punched in the face by an Uber driver but I still use it because it’s the easiest.”)
Nevertheless I still managed to summon up a few convictions and pointed out that, irrespective of the actual ethical position, giant avaricious corporations eventually need people to like them. And that part of being liked means having some sense of connection to something beyond 'the market'. There's an Overton Window for regulation too, if you're not close to it even regulators who are inclined to flex in favour of innovation will be forced to act. Getting in the window means being seen to engage with civic society.
In the piece I talk about my time working with Microsoft when they were sued by the DOJ. After the suit they hired a battery of lobbyists who had two pieces of advice. 1. You should pay your lobbyists lots of money. 2. DC hates you because you're unusual, you're not like other businesses they've come across, you appear to have different behaviours and motivations, so they don't know how to deal with you.
The advertising brief we eventually got as a result of these machinations was fascinating; make Microsoft feel exactly the same as every other corporation in America. We produced an ad that made computing part of the American dream; astronauts and babies using software. It ran all day every day for a year, but only in DC.
Every now and then I try and find it on YouTube, but there's nothing. I wonder if that's sinister.
(There are currently 333 of you. The number 333 is used to represent Choronzon, a demon used in the mystical system created by Aleister Crowley. "An experimental multimedia project named Choronzon has existed since the late eighties, beginning as two separate and unknown cassette-culture projects, one from the west coast of the United States and the other from the eastern USA. When the internet made each project aware of the other, they fused these into one project." wikipedia)