More on Big Tech companies

There are 7 main areas of concerns about the dominance of Big Tech firms:

i. USA dominance
Of the 8 top tech companies (Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Ali Baba, Tencent & Samsung), USA dominates with 5.

ii) Most dominate their market, ie monopolies (despite encouraging some malign behaviour, they have a competitive advantage around
"...innovation and economies of scale and scope, including the network externalities that lock in customers. Yet only in a monopoly can deliver such supernormal profits..."
Martin Wolf, 2017

iii) Need for public competition policies to handle monopolistic positions and to encourage new entrants

iv) Macroeconomic impacts, ie these tech giants earn super-normal profits that creates resource allocation challenges, etc

v) How should these businesses be taxed? eg monopoly rent, corporate taxation, etc

NB Territorial taxes are not very effective in taxing global technology companies since the location of their production is hard to define

vi) Their impact on the traditional media (the media is a vital element in a free, democratic society; they dominate the digital advertising revenue; challenge of handling mis-information, eg fake news, etc)

vii) 'machine, platform and crowd' (impact on labour markets, especially if AI continues to advance)

Furthermore,
"...more than any previous coterie of corporations, the tech monopolies aspire to a mould humanity into their desired image of it. They think they have the opportunity to complete the long merger between man and machine - to redirect the trajectory of human evolution..."

Franklin Foer, 2017a

Regularly the leaders of these firms make bold pronouncements about human nature. Some examples

- Larry Page (Google) thinks the human body amounts to a basic piece of code that isn't too complicated

- Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) initially to liberate humanity from phoniness and to end the dishonesty of secrets
"...The big tech companies think we are fundamentally social human beings, born to collective existence. They invest their faith in network, the wisdom of crowds, collaboration. they harbour a deep desire for the atomist world to be made whole..."
Franklin Foera, 2017

For example
"...Facebook stands for bringing us closer together and building a global community..."
Mark Zuckerberg as quoted by Franklin Foer, 2017a

However, what is happening is a decrease in the principles of
- individualism, ie free will
- privacy
- intellectual property rights
- value of authorship, etc
"...they hope to automate the choices, both large and small, we make as we float through the day. It's their algorithms that suggest the news we read, the goods we buy, the cars we travel, and the friends we invite into our circles..."
Franklin Foer, 2017a

They will claim that these things make life easier but it also means they have more control over our lives.

In history we have had previous situations like this. For example, convenience, processed food resulted in a significant reduction of time-consuming tasks like shopping for ingredients, preparing a recipe, cooking utensils, etc. Processed food was an engineering marvel that provided convenience, efficiency and abundance. However, it laid the foundations of the obesity crisis, ie made us fat
"...Their delectable taste required massive quantities of sodium and sizeable stockpiles of sugar, which happened to reset our palates and made it harder to sate hunger. It took vast quantities of meat and corn to fabricate these dishes, and a spike in demand remade American agriculture at a terrible environmental cost. A whole new system of industrial farming emerged, with penny-conscious conglomerates cramming chickens in faeces-covered pens and stuffing them full of antibiotics. By the time we came to understand the consequences of our revised pattern of consumption, the damage had been done to our waistlines, longevity, souls and planet..."
Franklin Foer, 2017a

The tech giants are following a similar pattern and trying to revolutionise our production and consumption of knowledge. They are very powerful gatekeepers, ie
"...Google helps us through the Internet, by providing a sense of hierarchy to information; Facebook uses its algorithms and its intricate understanding of our social circles to filter the news we encounter; Amazon bestrides book publishing with its overwhelming hold on that market. Such dominance endows these companies with the ability to remake markets they control......the tech companies have a bottomless collection of data, acquired as it travels across the web, storing every shard about our habits in the hope that they may prove useful......in the realm of knowledge, monopoly and conformism are inseparable perils. The danger is that these firms will inadvertently use their dominance to squash diversity of opinion and taste. Concentration is followed by homogenisation..."
Franklin Foer, 2017a

We need to be wary of the 'filter bubble' concept, ie a tech firm
"...mines our data to keep giving us the news information we crave, creating a feedback loop that pushes us deeper and deeper into our own corners..."
Franklin Foer, 2017a

Another concept is 'two hive' minds, ie
"...each residing in an information ecosystem that yields head-nodding agreement and analyses dissenting views..."
Franklin Foer, 2017a

These 2 concepts result in the diminishing ability to tell fact from fiction with an unshakeable bias towards your preferred point of view.
"...Executives of Silicon valley regard gatekeeping as the stodgy enemy of innovation - they see themselves as more neutral, scientific and responsive to the market than the elites they replace - a perspective that obscures their own power and responsibility. So instead of shaping public opinion, they exploit the public's worst tendencies, its tribalism and paranoia..."
Franklin Foer, 2017a

The Internet was initially expected to increase innovation (innovation is only one click away) and democracy (a place where people could voice their opinions, etc). Yet it and other technologies like AI, digitalisation, automation, etc is dominated by authoritarian governments and a few large tech firms which are stifling innovation and democracy.

 

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