I remember when the first iteration of the Internet became semi available for me. I lived in Warsaw, Poland at the time, the time being around 1995 and in the middle of that post-communist town an internet café opened that looked, felt, smelled kind of like it was straight out of Lawnmower Man meets too many good chemical drugs of the earl 90s. As nutty as it may sound today, us youths used to meet there on weekend nights to get fucked up, sit on suspended benches and log onto AOL chat rooms to freely communicate with random strangers to eventually get banned for “inappropriate” behaviour. That kind of was the internet back then and it was hilarious, essentially pointless and after a few months no one really gave a shit about it. Apart from a few clued up teachers I had who quickly realized the utopian potential behind the internet – free, democratic and omnipresent access to information without end.
Believe it or not, back before Web 2.0 and especially way before Social Media the net was nothing but a giant source of previously vetted data – you couldn’t just upload a bunch of random shit, throw money at an opinion and spread it for whatever random shady purpose like winning national elections, because virility, money and opinions were irrelevant – the basic premise was that all the information amassed by mankind was all of a sudden accessible at your fingertips.
Fucking mind-blowing and no wonder we all slowly but surely believed the revolutionary idea behind the idea. We all know how the powers that were and the powers that were about to happen also realized that and wham bam fuck your revolution, you had what we now call Web 2.0 – aka a User Generated Content based Internet. I won’t get into the idiocy of that, but when Wikipedia is more popular than the Oxford Dictionary of English, well you get my point, I hope anyway.
Fast forward another 15 years to the present tense and the original idea is nothing but an empty lie, occasionally used by the big Tech companies to sell you more unnecessary bullshit and further eradicate your privacy in the name of convenience. Quite frankly, it’s been one of the biggest sucker punches of my life and it is still unfolding.
As I see it, Big Tech – and that includes more than the Big 4 ( Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple ) sells the idea that they are here to revolutionize society through access of information, ease of access and their almighty algorithms. That is their USP aka Unique Selling Point. Big Tech sells you a feeling whereas you are paying with your privacy ( and so much more ) to be another value unit that they sell to advertisers – the con is mind blowing.
Whilst it is possible that some of the people involved in steering these all-too-powerful corporate dictatorships have an ounce of revolutionary spirit inside of them the biggest issue that I feel hasn’t been spoken about is not necessarily the all-to-well known critique of them.
No company can be revolutionary whilst still being tied to the 20th Century Capitalistic Value System, and all of them are.
Despite what their marketing agencies and strategies keep shoving down your throat, the only purpose of any tech company is to make money, at any and all costs possible. The fact remains, and this is ever so important with Marx’s 200th anniversary around the corner, we still conduct business with a value system that does not take into account Values that have become more important to the whole of society than they were 200 years ago. Every equation in business today still is based on capital, investment, production, cost, profit – in very simple terms.
This does not take into account the relationship between creator, user and provider, the welfare of society and nature, the sustainability of your business model and the sustainability of the geographic area of your business.
Essentially, capitalism as it is and has been practised since day one is a cancer that will kill us all. Not because itself is evil or the people involved in this dependency chain are evil, but, simply-put, the value system and subsequent equation to derive at profit are wrong. The equation does not take into account you or me and our needs, wishes, demands let alone the question of resource sustainability.
Coming back to the original point, Big Tech, no matter what they say, is tied to the original concept of capitalism. It is not here to change the world, to make it a better, democratic, freer world; its only purpose is to generate profit at maximum efficiency. If you need me to spell it out to you, they aren’t selling a brighter future, they are tearing down the constructs of a possible better world faster and more brutally than any of us can possibly imagine, and I haven’t even gotten to Amazon yet. Their USP of comfort, practicability and efficiency are marketing words to disguise the ugly truth that Big Tech is destroying every safety net we have worked for in the past 200 years quicker than we can get Alexa to send a drone strike to wipe out Silicon Valley. I can’t offer any genuine solutions to this yet but it’s been a re-occurring thought of late that I wanted to share for discussion.