Changing Shape & Big Tech

In 2019 I wrote a manifesto on what we need to do to fix ‘Big Tech’ because I was concerned with how powerful the top six tech firms were becoming. At the time Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Alphabet and Tesla had a collective Market Capitalisation of US $3.9 trillion dollars. It is now US $8.9 trillion (28/5/21).

Since then we’ve had a global pandemic stretching 18 months. Peoples lives, health and economic circumstances have been torn apart. Businesses the world over have pulled down the shingle, people have lost their jobs and yet these same six companies forge ahead. While the world went backwards, their size more than doubled. We need to talk.

It’s hard to conceptualise how big a number is – especially a trillion. So let me provide a couple of comparisons to show how big $8.9 trillion dollars is:

  • Bigger than all but two countries GDP (USA & China)
  • 40.5% of the USA’s GDP
  • 6.5 times the size of the GPD of Australia (where I live)

Visually – 1 million dollar stacked in $100 bills, would be 3 feet high. While a trillion dollars would stack 1015km high or 2.5 times higher than the international space station.

In Time – If a person spent 1 million dollars per day, since the birth of christ, they’d still be under the trillion mark, coming in at a cool $737 billion dollars spent.

At some point we need the wisdom to know when something has fundamentally changed. Often things change long before we realise it. The lag between reality and social sentiment can be dangerously long. But once we do realise something has undergone a metamorphosis – it’s vital we treat it differently. In my view, some of the the large scale technology firms (on this list I’d place Alphabet, Facebook and Apple, maybe Amazon in USA) – are now so important to our daily lives they’ve become utilities – critical Infrastructure. Elon is even building a private global satellite network. They’ve changed. They are no longer the quirky little tech darlings we once loved.

We simply cannot participate in the modern economy without their services. While I think we can all agree the digital revolution has been a net good for society, and we all love the products, try to live a week without your smart phone, search or tools of social connection – it would be extremely difficult. In the past when firms have become indispensable we’ve tightly regulated, nationalised, or broken them up into smaller parts. We need that to happen again to avoid our world morphing into a techno-feudal state where corporations literally, usurp nations.

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