Maybe tech won’t save us after all

close up of google sign on one of the google buildings. exterior view of a google headquarters building in silicon valley.Of late, tech giants have been getting an unaccustomed amount of media scrutiny. In a timely coincidence, Franklin Foer, former editor of The Atlantic has written a book entitled, “World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech.” From reviews and interviews with the author, it’s thesis seems provocative to say the least. Per John Herrman’s review in the The New York Times, Foer posits that:

We, the consuming public, have failed to properly understand the new tech superpowers, leaving little hope for stodgy and reluctant American regulators. The scope of [tech superpowers’] influence is obscured by the sheer number of things they do and sell, or problems they purport to be solving, and by our outdated sense of what constitutes a monopoly. To that end, Foer promotes the concept of the ‘knowledge monopoly,’. . . ‘My hope is that we revive “monopoly” as a core piece of political rhetoric that broadly denotes dominant firms with pernicious powers,’ he says, rather than as a ‘technical’ term referring to one company cornering a market.”

In an interview with Vox magazine, Foer said of the tech giants:

“Despite their millions, they kind of postured as protectors of the people. And you can see that in their faux-egalitarianism with the hoodie and the open office and all their other fairly ridiculous tropes. But really, what they were doing was they were destroying one set of gatekeepers in order to replace them with themselves.”

He also made an interesting point about how the tech behemoths have gotten away with avoiding public scrutiny until very recently.

“Google made a shrewd calculation, which was that they align themselves politically with the left, because they understood that the most criticism of the company could come from the left. They didn’t have to worry about the right-wing slapping them with regulation. And it worked! Right? Google has escaped the ire of the Federal Trade Commission. While the Europeans have raised all sorts of really important issues with Google, and they’ve applied scrutiny to its policies, we’ve essentially let them skate right on past. And sad to say, I think this was a failing of Obama’s. Now the Democratic Party, after Obama, has begun to turn in a very different sort of direction.”

Even if you don’t agree, it’s interesting to glimpse the twilight of tech utopianism that had guided us for so long.

–Leonce Gaiter, Vice President, Content & Strategy