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The Big Tech Backlash; with Lucie Green, by Paul Armstrong
We sat down with Greene to ask some big questions that arose from the talk and after reading the book.
Fora: Are the new “frontiers” these companies are pushing us to, making the sacrifices worth it?
Things like education, coming up with miracle vaccines and making medical breakthroughs are super exciting, positive and valid. And with dwindling government resources it’s great that money is being ploughed into moon shot possibilities. It’s just that as all research, philanthropy, and innovation become driven by this one sector or group of leaders, so this becomes the only focus – and they get all the credit for transforming our world while many of their companies embrace elaborate tax avoidance schemes.
LG: Governments, except for the European Union, continue failing to crack down on this group. It’s a testament to their strength and dominance that Google was able to avoid the Senate hearings and that Zuckerberg has not appeared in the UK for questioning in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Despite recent widespread criticism of Facebook, these companies continue to survive and thrive (and dominate) because they are incredibly consumer-centric and driven.
LG: Many are also talking about alternative forms of government. Musk has described a constant voting system on Mars where every issue is voted on immediately by the populace. The ultimate consumer/citizen blockchain. But that upturns the idea of having leaders that we have faith in to make decisions with full knowledge of the complexities of a scenario, and the impact of changes. It is also highly short-term and reactionary in approach.
It’s an illusion to think we can totally control forever, even if – as Amazon does – it starts to transcend the power of the state. Governments, while flawed, and slow are at least elected and accountable to the public.
Fora: Transparency is a huge issue right now for these companies – most are failing in some way or another. What can startups and businesses learn from them and where they seem to be heading?
LG: Businesses need to learn that consumers are starting to (if not already) understand the more significant meaning of the ad-based model – that their data is the thing of value and something they’ve now been taught to give away for free services. They have become at once the consumer and the product. As more and more things are connected to the internet and become data points, companies need to develop robust privacy practices and also protection of consumer data from hacking to retain trust.
We’ve also seen the collective loss of innocence about Terms and Conditions filled with complicated legal jargon. Innovative companies will find a way to streamline this, make it more accessible and give consumers more power.
We can’t avoid technology and the internet – it is life now. But I think we need to engage with these companies in a much more considered clear-eyed way. I also think governments need to too.
‘Silicon States’ is out now and available on Amazon. For news on the next Fora Futures event, follow us on social.