( Fifteen-minute read)
These days we are allowing Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook do whatever the hell they want. The US sees them as winner-takes-all markets as the law of the capitalist jungle; the EU sees them as an intrinsic threat to consumers.
Because four companies dominate our daily lives unlike any other in human history: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. They have aggregated more economic value and influence than nearly any other commercial entity in history.
Because the concentration of wealth leads to concentration of power. Their massive size and unchecked power have and are throttling competitive markets and are keeping the economy from doing its job—namely, to promote a vibrant democracy.
Because all of them have managed to preserve their monopoly-like powers without heavy regulation.
Because they have effectively ripped the heart out of the journalism, publishing, music, and entertainment industries but, even worse, they are demolishing the ranks of both corporate middle-management and entry-level service jobs and crushed commercial real estate and retail shopping malls, all for the enrichment of a very few.
Because they’re tracking your movements — or, even better, getting you to track yourselves for them, whether it’s “checking in” on Facebook or leaving your cell phone switched on while you travel (and who doesn’t?).
Because as we have seen the harvesting of the personal data use for political purposes.
Because the amount of money they generate, and the volume of content they accumulate, most of it provided voluntarily by you, for free, is stupefying.
Because with the coming of 5G technology they will have too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy.
Because using black-box algorithms to surface content to users they will have control over the way we use the Internet.
Because they are exploiting their monopoly power to stifle competition; they are spreading fake news; their fantastically rich owners portray themselves as right-on yet go to a great deal of trouble to minimise their corporate tax bills; they are ripping the heart out of communities through the closure of brick-and-mortar retailers.
Because social media is an increasingly key part of how we communicate. Yet legally, nothing stops Facebook from simply banning users from its platform, for any reason it wishes.
Because we’re heading for an Orwellian nightmare the shape of which is just now becoming apparent with climate change is being turned into a product.
Because this isn’t just abstract concern about what could possibly happen in the future – market power of this magnitude isn’t unprecedented.
Because with a sprawling array of loosely related businesses under one roof they are becoming worldwide conglomerates.
Because no one or any company is now going to penetrate online shopping or the search market.
Google, Amazon, and Facebook are colossal companies. Together they make up almost 10% of the S&P 500. Together, they have a market capitalization of the GDP of France.
These are the 3rd-, 4th-, and 6th-largest companies on earth. Combined, they are worth over $2 trillion. And they’ve grown 470%, 175%, and 95% over the past five years.
Because they will take our choices away.
Because they’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else.
Because country and companies that dominate technology will gain more power with time and 5G technology, gene editing, nanotechnology, creating what only can be called a profitable circle of global oligopolies.
Because they will soon be introducing their own cyber currencies.
Because our existing computers can’t even scratch the surface of what quantum computers will be able to do via the cloud quantum computers will. Those who own this technology will make supremacy an arbitrary goal.
Such computing power will change the way we do business and the security we have in place to safeguard data, how we fight disease and invent new materials, and solve health and climate problems.
Just like humans, artificial intelligence machines powered by the insights from quantum commercialising technology computers that will learn from experience and self-correct.
They’ll be able to use quantum simulations to design entirely new molecules for use in medicine making it possible for chemists to determine viable drug options quicker. Instead of troubleshooting issues bit by bit as we do now with classical computers, they will allow for a person’s genes to be sequenced and analyzed much more rapidly tackling the entire problem at once.
How do they do it?
By creating what we now perceive to be free platforms run by algorithms.
( To Big Tech, you’re not the customer, you’re the product they’re selling to others:)
Google offers a vast bounty of free services in order to maximize its data collection and optimize its advertising capabilities. Similarly, Amazon is credibly accused of hurting suppliers, hurting competitors, and even hurting its own employees — but nobody can deny that it’s a cheap and convenient way to shop for a staggering array of things.
Amazon is keeping tabs on you, monitoring your purchases, pushing other products on you and, in the form of the hideous Alexa, listening in on you while you sleep. Throw in the electronic snooping of Facebook, Google and your iPhone.
We know the problems; they’re easy to diagnose, however shaping the solutions is going to be more difficult.
So what if anything can be achieved to restrain their coming power?
The difficulty lies in defining what the real harmful effect is of these companies and establishing a causal link between their creation, their products, behaviour, and trends such as populism, depression, and manipulation. The contribution to society of these companies’ products is not as black and white as some would like them to be.
We’re heading down an entirely new field of physics, and by its very nature, there will be discoveries, innovations and solutions we have never dreamed of yet.
However we’re living in a capitalists world we should be empowering people to choose where to sell their information, personal data so it would no longer be monopolised by the tech giants.
Competition authorities need to move beyond a reliance on prices towards an analysis of the impact of takeovers and mergers on societal welfare.
As we grapple with how best to protect ourselves against the risks of new, disruptive technologies, policymakers need to understand the roles that ethics and law can and should play.
If human rights are at risk, and existing law is found wanting, we may need new, legally enforceable rights and mechanisms to grapple with emerging technologies. Citizens should not need to rely on the “ethical conscience” of tech companies to know their fundamental rights are protected. Ethics are laudable—but sometimes they are not enough.
At their core, Google’s mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” and while Facebook’s goal was to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” are both truly admirable and few people would disagree with them but ethical promises made by tech companies are not good enough.
Instead of adding value to our societies, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Microsoft, Apple have sucked the data out of us.
They or at least their free platforms which have become essential to daily life should be regulated as public utilities.
Failing to do so risks a backlash which will be bad for everyone.
Because there is one indisputable fact.
In front of every great fortune lies a great crime, Immense wealth translates automatically into environmental impacts regardless of the intentions of those who possess it.
All human comments appreciated. All like clicks and abuse chucked in the bin.
Google does the same by using algorithms to decide what comes up on an internet search. They hardly pay any taxes and their business practices and technology will help crush industries and companies left and right.
“platform utility.” A platform utility would be barred from owning any of the participants on the platform.