On: Mind Matters
In a column yesterday at Spiked, urban studies specialist Joel Kotkin, author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (2020), provided depressing evidence that the power of Big Tech is beginning to genuinely resemble the power medieval lords had over their serfs. It’s not just an office joke any more.
Google, he recounts, was part of an anti-authoritarian high tech culture when it went public in 2004. Its search engine technology, and others, were seen as empowering the little guy.
In 2018, for unclear reasons, Google dropped the famous “Don’t be evil” slogan. Since then, in Kotkin’s view, it is “increasingly becoming a force not for good, but for, well, evil.” He musters an impressive case for a slow but sure industry shift in that direction:
Back when I started reporting on Silicon Valley in the mid-1970s, many start-up companies were run by people who had revolutionary ideas about how to make society better. At the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, anti-capitalist demonstrators even held a minute’s silence when they heard that Steve Jobs had died. They hailed him as a liberator and maverick.
Joel Kotkin, “Google: whatever happened to ‘Don’t be evil’?” at Sp!ked (July 20, 2022)
Times change. Google now controls 90% of the world’s search engine market and 75% of e-mail (1.5 billion monthly users).
Two outcomes he highlights are: Google is less innovative and more defensive of its dominance (a typical fate for Bigness of all kinds) and that its search engine and behavior have become ever more politicized. In creepy and possibly dangerous ways.
Kotkin notes Google’s efforts to hobble its competitor DuckDuckGo.
Read the rest of this piece at Mind Matters.
Homepage photo: Ben Nuttal via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.