We can all agree that monopolies are only good for the company that has achieved dominance.
We can all agree that Google, Facebook and Amazon hold virtual monopolies on search, social media and online shopping, respectively, and combined are the main provider of news to a majority of Americans.
Each of these brands is so large, so wealthy, so influential and so dominant that it is virtually uncontrollable. As such, these brands act as global entities that hover almost above all laws — shifting money around to avoid taxes, buying up competing entities to stifle innovation, taking advantage of the people that work for them, tricking consumers into giving up their privacy, dismissing parental (or congressional) supervision with an attitude, and paying fines imposed by regulatory bodies like the European Union with a shrug of the shoulders.
There are three things that makes these monopolies so dangerous: They are unavoidable, they are greedy and they want to own your mind.
The founders of these companies did not start with an evil plan to control the world; they started out trying to make the world better and simply took advantage of the capitalistic system.
An English journalist recently did a real-life, five-month test to see if it is possible to avoid these tech giants, even adding Apple and Microsoft to the list. What she found is that it is achievable, but incredibly awkward. And while it is possible to avoid three out of the five giants, it is nearly impossible to avoid all five if you want to life a modern, connected life.
These behemoths are dangerous because they are almost unavoidable, and they continue to infiltrate more and more spaces and will do anything possible to get another sliver of our privacy and our pockets. They no longer act with good intentions; they have become greedy and power-hungry for a simple reason: They can, and they feel they must. They will continue to relentlessly offer us reasons to use their services, like free email, just so they can become a more dominant part of our lives. The biggest assets for these companies are the number of users they have for each of their offerings and all the information they gather about us: where we live, how and when we move, what we buy, what we write, what we say, what we watch, etc. So, what would make these users even more valuable?
The answer is control of the mind: These brands are hoping to influence what we think, how we vote and our next move, purchase or action. In other words, they no longer want to rely on recording the facts after they happened. They want to anticipate and influence these actions in real time, which would make their data a lot more valuable.
If you think this is too far-fetched, think again. What is stopping these companies from using artificial intelligence to increase their profitability, increase their market share thanks to our addiction to their services, and increase their influence over all of us?
You can think of it in another way: Citizens in communist China or the “free” United States might soon be very similarly controlled just by two different systems: one state sponsored and one self-administrated. The result will be similar. George Orwell’s “1984” was right: “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end.”
Marc Frey – media entrepreneur