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Unconscious slavery

Published on October 12, 2017

Albeit I may appear somewhat behind the times, I applaud Theresa May’s stand against slavery. It shouldn’t exist anywhere, least of all in the developed world where there is more than enough wealth to pay minimum wages and living wages.

So it is with only a bit of tongue in cheek that I draw your attention to my attempted enslavement by Facebook. Living on the Welsh borders as I do I have been visiting slightly less fashionable places – a stately home where I purchased some rare flowers – and Baskerville Hall a hotel just outside Hay on Wye. Baskerville Hall clams to be the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel and remains frozen in time more or less since then. But the staff are friendly and helpful and the food is tasty and plentiful.

All of which I could tell Facebook, which contacted me more or less on arrival and told me that they didn’t have any information about it and wondered if I could give them some.

For free.

Now this isn’t slavery because I have a choice. But it’s work below the minimum wage. Even if I charged minimum wage for five minutes work I would be due 60p.

But maybe that’s not fair, considering that I get to use Facebook for free? But is the deal a fair one? As of the time of writing, the value of Facebook’s shares, the difference between its costs and revenues over time, is $475bn based on profits of nearly $4bn from 2bn active monthly users. So if it paid each of us $2 a year for our undercover investigative work, it would be loss making. And if it charged us $2 a year to be members it would double its profits.

Tricky issues these charges for services given and received aren’t they? I wonder what it was like in the Stone Age before money was invented and goods and services were bartered? Odd isn’t it that our technology has brought us full circle in this respect? It was the idea that the marginal cost of providing some software over the internet is so small, and the cost of collecting these sums would eat up some if not all of it, which started the trend of businesses giving things away. But now consumers are giving services away for free too. It is our choice but is it a conscious choice and should it continue? Perhaps you’d like to consider the following?

  • The marginal cost, the cost of making one more of something, is not the only thing that makes up its cost.
  • The cost of making and receiving micro payments has also reduced, and will surely fall further.
  • Is Facebook actually free? Is it worth my investment of time, screens, broadband?

How about we get ourselves back out of the Stone Ages and actually price these things up?

PS You haven’t been charged for this blog. Or any of them.