June 28, 2004
Letter to Bill Gates, Soon to be a Weblogger
I heard that Bill Gates may be blogging. In the Seattle Times, which broke the story, Barry Mitzman is identified as "a former public-television host who helps Gates write materials such as position papers." He was told the news. "That's cool," he said. "If Bill were to do a blog, that would be very interesting. I'd read it." But would I? Will you? Advice to Gates follows...
June 28, 2004
Dear Mr. Gates:
Welcome to weblog writing. Since you are the person who least needs my advice, I am perhaps the best person to give you advice on the matter of what your weblog should be about, and how to do it reasonably well.
Instead of, “I need a blog myself,” start at: I need a self to blog with. You are less likely to go awry that way. Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine says: know my blog, know me. This condenses into five words his experience of meeting people who said: man, you’re exactly like your weblog. Jarvis thinks there is something common to successful weblogs in that experience, and I agree.
Dave Winer, who’s been doing this a while, calls it, “the voice of a person.” (A group weblog: the sound of six people.) Joi Ito says: my blog is like my house. People hang out there because they like the atmosphere. Of course, the author has to be comfortable in the house first.
It’s the person that comes through. That’s what these authors are saying. Self filtered through world. (Or be funny. If you can do funny, I will read you.) But just because a blog is inherently personal doesn’t mean it should have tidbits about the private life of Bill Gates. The Seattle Times story was a little discouraging on this point: “He’s expected to share personal details such as tidbits from recent vacations, according to tech pundit Mary Jo Foley’s Microsoft Watch newsletter.”
Now that would be awful—- a celebrity weblog. I say don’t share any of your personal life, not a word. Do share some of your public life, by which I mean your outlook on the larger world, especially problems where you have already taken some initiative, and invested time.
Most people are today assuming that you will blog about Microsoft products, the software industry, and the road ahead for technology companies— the sort of things that are in your speeches. But the “tech biz” is not the right frame or focus. Strike industry talk right away from the comparison list for blogging.
Indeed, there was a certain cluelessness in the Seattle Times account when it came to describing what the weblog “trend” is all about. “Yes,” said your home town newspaper, “the world’s richest man may start his own blog, one of those online diaries that have been the rage among techies for the past three or four years.”
The rage among techies… That might have been apt three years ago. The only rage worth talking about today, in a news story about blogging, is the worldwide rage for personal authorship generally, for self-insertion into the public world, residence in the new media space emerging online, via the incredibly simple device of citizen with weblog, plus digital camera (and so on.) Techies? That’s not the audience. Customers? You have many other forums for them.
I have a different idea: Do a newsy blog. Something like: Bill Gates reads the headlines. Gates on politics and world affairs. Gates on the spread of freedom and markets, war and peace, public education, AIDS prevention, the limits of technology, the misery of Africa, and the difficulty of solving messy global problems. Gates on why the politicians are sometimes a joke. The big picture Gates. The occasionally angry Gates. Even the ranting Gates. The man who had to expand his knowledge in order to extend the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to its practical, global and problem-solving agenda.
Bill Gates the global man—as might appear at the World Economic Forum in Davos—is a little closer, but not there. The weblog, we know, is not a lectern, or a seat on the rostrum. But I’m told you are quite an e-mailer. For me, it is one of the more entertaining legends about you, because I identify, as I think most people would, with the naive receiver: young geek getting his first email from Boss of the World. Gulp.
So in rifling through the possible selves for speaking in, when you start your blog, “Bill Gates, precision e-mail bomber” seems right to me, but switch the premise. It’s an email to the reading public, the intelligent lay audience, the global market for news and commentary. If occasionally, people are startled to find themselves and their problems addressed, then your strikes are hitting their mark. If you have unpredictable opinions then share them. Doc Searls says: Blogging “may be partisan in many cases, but it is also inconclusive.” That means you get to change your mind.
The late night email bomber of Gates lore goes public about events and problems in the world that you know and care about. Bill Gates, real person, rich person, de-illusioned person, satirical person, reads the headlines, edits the Web (Rebecca Blood calls it the “filter style of weblogging”) and sometimes speaks out. Presenting from a certain angle not the man behind the aging boy genius CEO Microsoft Founder persona, but an author’s deliberate and public persona, behind which stands a man with a biography, and in which we can hear the voice of a person.
Should you have ghostwriters? No. Helpers, yes. To go with your new blog, I recommend a new blogger. One body, not a fleet. Hire some kid—or maybe not a kid, a writer you trust—with a feel for the weblog form and its larger, public sphere.
This lucky person’s only job is doing the Gates blog with you, but never for you. Blogger interviews you for five minutes and weaves what you say into quick, biting commentary. Blogger fetches killer links for your three-sentence riff on the Wall Street Journal story you read. Blogger writes in his or her own voice, closely attuned to yours, when you’re too busy elsewhere.
Blogger handles e-mail and comment threads at the blog, turning them into posts. Blogger edits your blog roll, moving items on and off recommended lists and such. Blogger does special section: Gates and His Critics. Every year, recruit new talent to the job, as with Supreme Court clerkships. Fire them if you can’t hear yourself in every detail of your blog.
Two more things, Mr. Gates. In your company there are over 800 blogs by employees. (Partial list.) I know that in your calculations about weblogs and the Net you have factored in business blogging. But that factor begins with freedom of speech for employees who blog.
You speak often as Microsoft as a leader. One of the simplest ways of making this so would be a Bill of Rights for Microsoft bloggers, or at least a determination to widen protection for their freedom of speech. This involves, of course, your own perceived openness to debate and minority opinion— and even controversy from time to time.
It might be good to ask yourself: How political can people be who work for Microsoft and become weblog authors? How personal can they get? How real? You can set an industry standard for openness and dissent allowed in weblog writing, and you can begin at your own blog.
“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one,” wrote A.J. Liebling in 1960. Well, increasingly every citizen owns one. This puts pressure on all guarantees. My advice is get out front, and if you have to fight with company lawyers it’s worth it to make a little history.
Finally, a history lesson glancing backward. Rich, famous and powerful people have always had three options in dealing with a micro-inquisitive press. The first is to have it threatened, muzzled, jailed— a method still at large around the world. The second is to simply hide from the press, lock it out. (Think Sonny smashing a photographer’s camera in The Godfather, wedding scene.) The third, more modern and truly American way is, of course, public relations, which is not just a practice but a mentality, the business of selling applied to self and all possible forms of publicity.
An original weblog by Bill Gates—rich, famous, powerful, controversial person—could be a fourth way a business titan deals with the press: as author and critic, reading the headlines, putting certain ideas at risk, inserting himself into public conversation as a citizen of the planet, a reader of the news, (a sharp, funny person) editing the Web like all good weblogs do, and finding a honest voice in which to speak. Cure your blog of public relations, every hint and drop, or don’t do it at all.
Best of luck with it, Mr. Gates.
AfterMath: Notes, reactions & links
Okay, what do you think? What should Bill Gates do with his new weblog? Hit the comment button and venture a view.
Seattle Times, Bill Gates could join the ranks of bloggers.
Email exchange with Lawrence Lessig:
Bill Gates may start a blog. My letter asks for a bill of rights for Mircosoft bloggers. What do you think he should blog about, Lessig?
Lessig: That would be very cool. Though no, I don’t think he knows how to speak authentically anymore.
So at a certain point authentic speech becomes impossible for some public figures and their weblog can only be PR or manipulation?
Lessig: Or he should prove me wrong.
Microsoft employee and blogger Robert Scoble says in comments:
I can’t tell you what Microsoft’s financial results will be next quarter. I have to represent the corporation in a professional manner — and “being professional” is in the eye of the beholder.
In fact, if Gates were to blog I think this would be the major problem: can Gates be himself? I don’t think so. For a whole raft of reasons.
I still don’t know if Bill is gonna blog, though. It’ll be interesting to see if he does.
“My idea: The Vision Thing Blog.” Over at Scobelizer, Christopher Coulter writes:
I don’t agree with Jay’s advice. Gates as Glenn Reynolds-styled save-the-world political cause-of-the-moment blogger? Ummmmm no thanks. And getting stuck in the daily techie news, comment quip trench is boring and redundant, eternal conversations without going anywhere. And I don’t want a Bill Gates Tour 2004 type of Blog, he’s not a rock band.
I think the Gates blog that needs to be out there, is the “vision thing” blog. Big picture, grand ideas of where things should go, The Road Ahead style; his Essays are a good clue, go in that direction. But then blogs NEED to be personal too, needs to share insights, things not filtered through the prose-killing PR machines.
So Big Picture and the Human, but how human CAN a person who can buy the world a Coke 14 times over ever really be? He’s superhuman. And privacy issues at play here too. But maybe something like letting his kids play with Tablets and insights from that; items like that. Personal, and human, but abstract that still fits into the big picture. (This is Coulter’s site, link wasn’t working for me.)
Julie Leung, What I hope Bill Gates Will Blog.
I’m eager to hear his take on the headlines of the day. Yet when I think about what I want to read on Bill G.’s blog, some different questions come to my mind…
- What do you do to enjoy a summer day: do you walk barefoot in the grass with your daughter?
- When you see a homeless person, what do you think?…
- Where have you seen something beautiful this week?
In “What Makes a Weblog a Weblog,” Dave Winer says about the authors: “they are writing about their own experience. And if there’s editing it hasn’t interfered with the style of the writing. The personalities of the writers come through. That is the essential element of weblog writing, and almost all the other elements can be missing, and the rules can be violated… as long as the voice of a person comes through, it’s a weblog.”
Jeff Jarvis adds: “Who needs to be humanized more than Bill Gates? Who needs a means of talking directly to the people without enough filters to clean up the Hudson more than Bill Gates? What modern business mind would be more fascinating to step into more than Bill Gates? Plus, we fellow bloggers can suddenly find ourselves in the same club with Bill Gates. And we can all hope to get a little Gates link love (a Microlanche?).”
Jarvis suggests the nearest parallel to a Bill Gates weblog would be Mark Cuban’s. He is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and made his money in the technology biz. See his bio.
World Editors Weblog: “…all this assumes that Gates has some sort of higher motivation beyond Microsoft and Gates Foundation PR for (possibly) starting a blog, and that the world at large, or at least a significant group of people, care about his political opinions. Is that so?”
Scott Rosenberg of Salon, Blogs, bosses and bucks: “The blogs you’re going to see from within most traditional companies will be either uninformative snoozes or desperate attempts at butt-covering and -kissing. Not because people don’t have great stories to tell — but because telling the truth has too high a cost.”
Ross Mayfield on the need for a Standard Weblog Employee Policy, with links to some that exist and other arguments for it. See also his post, Corporate Blogging and the Boss.
Posted by Jay Rosen at June 28, 2004 2:37 PM
I did not think I had a dog in this particular race, so was going to abstain, but you have stirred my interests (again.)
I know Bill (somewhat,) have had meetings, and have developed strategies with him in the tech business (my qualifications for making these remarks.)
The friction, and the middleman, is about removing the 'space' between the producer and the consumer. Or, in socialist terms, between the worker and the worker.
It was quite a socialist thought in business twenty years ago when he introduced this in a speech at COMDEX (a computer show.)
At that time, almost all computers, and his company’s software, were sold through dealers and resellers. It seemed a direct attack on those at the show.
However, his thoughts were not directed specifically at them, but in a more general way, that the producers of goods should, through improved distribution, find ways to directly deal with the consumers of goods (and services.)
A pretty revolutionary thought, at least at the time. Dell took it to heart. So did a lot of internet commerce sites.
Dealers and distributors hated the thought. Most of them are gone now. Prices have lowered and distribution is more efficient as a direct result of his thoughts, and actions. One might criticize the loss of personalized services as a result, but I suspect that this is an unintentional consequence.
Bill is a smart guy. I think you would like him. However, I suspect he will not expose himself directly to a forum such as a blog.
I do not doubt that he is present in blogs, but do believe that he would protect his privacy.
As a systems architect, I've been a long time watcher of Gates. Early on, Microsoft struggled with many technology problems that had already been solved in big computers. There was a strong arrogance in the company - they just didn't care to find out what big computer people had done, because they had no respect for us. The world paid big time for that arrogance. Gates did not. In an economic sense, Microsoft had and has a whole lot of externalities that they should be paying but the world pays instead.
Eventually, they started hiring outside their own little world, and started to get a better vision, but the internet still hit them by surprise, indicating that the culture was too inbred.
Now they have a genuine laboratory, just like IBM or Bell Labs. They are working on serious problems. I hope they succeed in improving speech recognition - one of their priorities. But so far, I have yet to see Microsoft produce a technology that was new (except for Visual Basic) and they are generally inferior in their products (exception: Office).
The last time I was playing the "get venture capital" game, the big question was still "will Microsoft eat you for breakfast?" They have been quite nasty in their practices, letting someone develop an ancillary technology (disk compression, for example) and then releasing an OS version with the same ideas in it, wiping out the little company over time as the initially lousy microsoft implementation gets better and better.
Even Windows NT and family was done poorly. They used an approach that didn't scale past 4 processors, at a time when we were doing systems with 16 processors. We were doing 4 processors in 1970! They still can't scale well, while Linux can. To the technical community, Microsoft is pathetically bad at many things.
The security holes that keep popping up are another issue. I was a hacker in 1969, and we used exploits that Microsoft is still subject to: buffer overruns. There is simply no excuse for Microsoft to have those vulnerabilities. None. I think only their vast power keeps them from being taken to the cleaners by tort lawyers (and yes, the EULA should be breakable - it is often entered into under deuress).
Another idea that Microsoft had is responsible for many security violations, because Microsoft has never evinced an interest in security until about a year ago. This was the idea of software componentization using COM, DCOM or whatever it is called. This let's your web browser run Excell, for example. It was a nice idea except for two things:
1) It was overly complex compared to the Unix way of doing it, and
2) It opened up an uncountable number of security holes.
At one point, Microsoft had a very neat vision. It was pushed by Brad Silverberg, a major Microsoft techie and VP. The idea was to make Internet Explorer into a good platform for hosting applications, and to run it on all sorts of platforms. Internal politics killed it - it threatened the Windows monopoly which was just not allowed.
BTW... I had a friend who worked with Gates at Bonneville Power when Gates was in High School. Gates is a techie when he wants to be. How good, I don't know.
Another friend works atuSoft as a manager a few levels up, and assures me that security will be greatly improved. I'm not holding my breath.
Supposedly Gates is now the technology strategist for Microsoft. That is a very interesting area, and a blog on that subject, with comments, could be interesting and the feedback could be useful - if he has finally learned to value feedback.
In spite of my criticisms, I own Microsoft stock.
I agree that OS/2 was later in the history. And yes, Basic was from Waterloo, and Microsoft Basic was developed for MITS, which was from Albuquerque and was the first popular hobbyist computer.
I thought the original Microsoft team was Gates and Allen, not Gates and Ballmer.
At one point, Microsoft had a DEC-10 as their development machine (it was also used at Bonneville). We shared the same salesman. MSDOS had a lot of DEC commands, originally lifted from the PDP-11 for CPM, and then lifted from there by whoever sold MSDOS to Gates. Allen changed the forward-slash to a back-slash, driving nuts any programmer who had used any other system - they all used forward slash as far as I know.
It was the sale of MSDOS to IBM that made Microsoft the winner. It is my contention that operating systems are natural monopolies. The IBM OS, starting with OS/360 was THE operating system for 20 years. It is still, almost 40 years later, for a tremendous number of business shops, although in big computers Unix is now a major system, and IBM themselves are major sellers of Linux (which drives Sun's Scott McNealy bananas, even as IBM is the biggest user of Sun's Java). On microcomputers, there is no question that Microsoft has enjoyed a monopoly until recently, and used monopolistic techniques to extend that monopoly to office software. The challenger to Microsoft on PC's is Linux, which excels in the server arena, while Windows NT (Windows 2003) is poor in that area. Linux is making a drive for the desktop, and is a good solution for single-use desktops such as call centers.
Capitalist that I am, I favor splitting Microsoft into three companies, with appropriate firewalls and ownership structure. One would be operating systems, and would be regulated somewhat like a natural monopoly. Another would be office systems, and would be free to compete, with some restrictions to allow competition to develop - primarily by giving pre-announcements (in detail) of file structures and file structure changes. The third would be everything else. This apparently will not happen, and Microsoft's period of monopoly is finally waning.
It was amusing (and disgusting) to watch Microsoft try to prove that Internet Explorer was a fundamental part of the Operating System. Microsoft defines "operating system" very differently than computer science. To them, an operating system is whatever they package together and call an operating system. This allows them to get away with a lot of trickery.
This leads to the following thought... Since I can't seem to resist doing this here (where the subject isn't Microsoft the Monster, but rather Gates and blogging), one would expect this kind of thing to happen on any Gates blog. After all, one only has to look at Slashdot to see the amount of hatred of Microsoft in parts of the software community. Discussions of Microsoft are like religious discussions - almost like Usenet's talk.origins. This could pose a serious problem to a Gates blog if he allowed comments, and if he didn't allow comments, he'd miss useful feedback.
An interesting problem.
At times this system has become the ideological justification for certain attitudes and behavior in the social and political spheres leading to the neglect of the weaker members of society. Indeed, the poor are becoming ever more numerous, victims of specific policies and structures which are often unjust.
I think the problem here is the conception of the poor as a "policy problem" or victims rather than as rational political/human subjects.
As such, the privatization of welfare and education government functions like those advocated by the Gates Foundation further removes the poor and those social functions from the political/public sphere where they (we) would have input into how those policies are carried out.
Further, this is combined with the virtualization of the public sphere while the real one decays, and the virtual public sphere privileges, at the moment, the technically adept, and the well-off.
In addition, the War on Terror has reinforced a distinction between those who have full citizenship and those who are subject to the law and simultaneously excluded from it. The excluded also not only terrorists, unlawful combatants, but those also on the receiving end of "humanitarian" help - i.e., those not rational political subjects, like the afghans, the Iraqis, the encamped Palestinians, the American poor.
This further reinforces the calls from people like Jarvis that the "extremes" of leftist resistance and rightist fundamentalism be excluded from the public sphere and join the ranks of homo sacer. In this sense, the "center" position has all the structural characteristics of the rightist position.
How Bill Gates blogging fits into this is a very tricky question.
A few comments here...
Anybody in the country that wants net access has it. Every library has computers and high speed internet. I used to take advantage of this when tornado chasing in rural America (now I have mobile access to data). So even the homeless, if they can drag themselves out of their drug stupors, or get clean in their schizophrenia for a bit, can access the net at high speed. I believee it was a Gore initiative to wire the libraries.
Hence the digital divide is what one would expect: there are many people, even entire subcultures, who have no interest in the internet.
As to the homeless in America, one must understand that rarely is a person homeless who does not want to be. Homelessness is a result of substance abuse (but even substance abusers can normally find a place to stay in shelters) and mental illness. The latter is a result of an odd correlation of interests between the left and the right. The left believed that involuntary commitment in mental hospitals was greatly overdone; the development of new antipsychotics led the left and the psychiatry profession to believe that the severely mentally ill could be managed by neighborhood clinics. The right was happy to empty the asylums - they were expensive. But a couple of things broke the vision: a failure to fund outpatient clinics; and, the refusal of many psychotics to take the antipsychotics or avail themselves of the clinics.
Moving on... as one who has benefited greatly from employee stock options, I have a reason to be in favor of them. In the companies I was involved in, there was no fraud or hidden dilution - the final event was always the sale of the company, with the dilution priced into the deal. So it is clearly possible for options to be beneficial, and in fact many companies have used them that way. The problem with the options is really the same problem as other corporate governance abuses - boards of directors failed in their fiduciary dutires, or mutual fund owners failed, and the result was excessive executive compensation, whether in salary, options, bonuses, or whatever. This isn't the fault of the options, but the fault of an overly incestuous capital market and the failure of modern business schools to emphasize ethics and morality.
Expensing an option is clearly incorrect. No immediate reduction in share value occurs as a result of the issuance of the option. A potential future dilution is made possible by the event, although it is not guaranteed. Hence the cost of issuing an option is not zero, but something that cannot be well deterrmined unless there is a market trading the same instrument.
To me, the way to price the option is very simple: report the issuance of the option and the conditions of it, and let the market price it into the stock however it sees fit.
As far as privatizing programs for the poor, it is almost certainly better than having the government do it, if the right organizations do the job. Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, St. Vincent's de Paul are all effective. I am sure there are many other suitable private charities. They run lower overheads than the government (at least the religious based ones do).
However, the safety net cannot have holes in it. However the program is done, government has a role to insure that holes are plugged.
And none of this has anything to do with journalism or Bill Gates' blog.
When I started the comments in this thread I didn't know that this was where I would end up:
OK. Bill Gates as the proponent of "Friction-free capitalism" and "eliminating the middleman".
One definition of fascism floating aroud out there is that it is a desire for "capitalism without capitalism" - capitalism without the friction, and without the excess of social change, cultural permissiveness, and the constant redefining of the socio-economic horizon.
As far as the middleman, in the previous century, an entire people was subject to the ethnic stereotype of being characterised as middlemen, and the Fascist powers undertook the project of eliminating the middleman, as a means of ridding their societies of internal division.
Agamben proposes that "space which opens up when the state of exception becomes the rule" in the 20th century was the concentration camp where the "middlemen" were eliminated. Bill Gates characterizes the internet as the locus of friction-free capitalism where the middleman must respond or suffer, or be eliminated.
So, is the growth of the new public sphere on the internet a further case of "space which opens up when the state of exception becomes the rule"? Not merely meaning that those without access are excluded from the space, but the space also provides a "lawless" zone where anything goes, and is characterized not merely by the "construction of the self" but also by the destruction of others (e.g., Moore, Falwell) who represent a divisive threat to the desire for an organic totality of a new "sphere". A threat to the perfect circle of the social?
For all its potential for the expansion of democratic practice, is there also the very real danger that what is opening up is really a vast new space with unmatched potential for the practice of social exclusion? A globalized "camp"?
A space where the "agonism" necessary to democratic practice dissolves into useless "antagonism" where the opponent can only be defined as the evil enemy to whom anything can be done?
And is the truth of the internet not that it eliminates the middleman, but it expands the category - we are all middlemen? i.e., the speculative flow of global capital no longer requires our presence? It has become abstracted from the production and sale of goods and is now mostly about shifting money around? And we are no longer needed?
The term middleman can be construed numerous ways.
In capitalism, there are producers, consumers, and the markets that facilitate the transfers of goods and services from one to another. Additionally, there are markets that facilitate the allocation of capital from one enterprise to another. Finally, there are institutions that facilitate the collection, collation, and flow of information. Each of these are necessary parts of a working capitalist system.
In such systems, there is a progression of the types and complexities of goods and services, there are successes and failures of enterprises, and there are fallacies and workable thesis that come and go.
Even in a working system, there are dislocations of people, failures of industry, capital lost, and branches of discredited thought.
Add to the dynamics of such a working system the concept of ‘friction.’ There are numerous reasons to not have a completely efficient capitalist system. All the needs of society and its environs are not naturally protected by such a system. Capitalism may enable, and incite, efficient production; and may allow and motivate large populations to engage themselves in society; but does not naturally protect those who cannot engage, nor prevent over- or inefficient- use of natural resources. All of these are good reasons to add ‘friction’ of one sort or another to the system. The friction may be in the form of taxes. It may be legislation and regulation. It may be litigation and activism. It may be changes in labor force or changes in information gathering and reporting. Any or all of these may, by some sort of magical process be deemed by society at large to be ‘necessary’ frictions to manage the monster that a free-running capitalist engine can become.
Unnecessary frictions, usually deemed unnecessary after the fact, through rear-view mirrors, might be antiquated technologies, inefficient processes, slow or incorrect information flow, and inefficiencies in the market(s.) These frictions impede the capitalist engine without purpose and hamper both the engine, and the ability to tax the engine in ways deemed useful to society.
Market inefficiencies can include too many parties in a transaction; parties that add no ‘value’ to the consumer of the good or service, but add to the apparent cost. This is the sense of the ‘middleman’ that Mr. Gates was referring to in his ‘frictionless’ addresses in the late 80s.
I do believe that the internet and other changes to the global communication structures have some play. They will in some ways improve the efficiencies of markets: goods and services markets; capital markets; and information markets. There may, as well, be unintended negative affects. Is this what you are attempting to explore in your earlier post?
I am still chewing on some of the juicier parts of your earlier post.
Capital not inhering to the production of material goods.
I am not sure that this is a bad thing; however, I question the premise. Much of today's intellectual property - information product - information - knowledge - much of this is in fact capital-intensive to create. You bring up genomes, but I could also cite software, movies, and big science research as examples where capital allocation may be necessary. But, as most employment, and most innovation comes from small businesses and individuals that do not attract capital, the emergence of products that do not require capital is not an alarming, but a pleasing trend.
The result is a downward economic shift in the workforce as the "middlemen" or middle-class are eliminated.
I do not equate middlemen with workforce, nor with the middle-class.
Middlemen in the context described earlier may in fact be employees of some company, therefore a worker, and they may be getting an income commensurate with the middle-class. However, the elimination of middlemen (those who do not add value in the perception of the consumer) cannot be equated with the elimination of either the middle-class, nor the workforce.
If they, or other workers, lose employment because the functions they are performing are no longer useful, then other work must be found. It is a difficult reality that the benefits of society are earned by those participating in it. For those who cannot engage in it, the taxes on the engine can be used in transference programs to support them until they can - if society at large has created such transferences programs.
The unfortunate reality is that economic laws have not been repealed. There is a limit on what the engine can produce, and how much it can be taxed. There are few limits on what society would like to do. Wishing otherwise is futile.