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In 2011 Marc Andreessen declared “Software is Eating the World”. It is now evident that the software doing the eating is owned by a smaller and smaller set of companies. These Big Tech companies (Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft) are backed by serious infrastructure, profits, data, custom silicone, ecosystems, and are increasingly vertical. You argue Big Tech is just like any other powerful sector with a lot of big players. My point is that this is different because Big Tech isn’t limited by vertical, it is limited only by the problems software can solve, which is an ever increasing amount of problems. The Google reorg to Alphabet is interesting because it is an admission of Big Tech’s future, which is to do everything. Software is so flexible and so powerful, that it is giving the large companies who specialize in it an unprecedented amount of wealth and power. We call them “tech companies”, soon that will be like saying “color tv”, because all companies will be tech companies.
Think about it, a large tech company has the power to make a large portion of the human population believe the world is at nuclear war. Facebook and Google could simply promote fake news stories. Apple could spoof text messages to their devices and ensure they can only access websites promoting their fake news stories. With how much internet traffic run through Amazon and Microsoft, they could easily spread news of a nuclear war that doesn’t exist. Am I afraid this is going to happen? No. Am I worried this is even possible? Yes. What’s scarier though is the fact that two tech companies, Facebook and Google, own algorithms that shift the thinking of billions of people. I don’t care who owns the keys to that kind of power, that kind of power should not exist.
This sounds crazy, but just 10 years ago you would have thought it crazy for the company behind the iPod to be building a car, an online book retailer to earn an Oscar, a search engine to be solving aging, and your your mom to be on Facebook. It used to be every tech company could grab their own piece of the pie, now it’s about who is going to own the pie shop. Ok Google take search, Apple take laptops people actually like using, Microsoft own the enterprise. Now Big Tech is competing fiercely with each other on multiple fronts, squashing or purchasing smaller players, and making component makers like Qualcomm, Intel, and Nvidia obsolete. But now, these Big Tech companies are breaking out of their bubble. As I alluded to above, there is no such thing as a “tech problem”, there are only problems. Big Tech has chosen to eat media as an appetizer, transportation looks to be next, and I predict banking will come after that.
Big Tech has three possible outcomes. The first, is they get broken up with antitrust legislation. The second, a paradigm shift e.g. blockchain, that levels the playing field. The third, Big Tech keeps getting bigger and bigger until Big Tech is only one company, which we worship as our God and would never dare wish ill on it.
• How to lose a monopoly: Microsoft, IBM and anti-trust.
• “The winners always look invulnerable until they don’t.”
• “Statements like ‘Google has a lock on AI’ make about as much sense as ‘Oracle has a lock on databases’. Sure, you probably don’t want to take them on at their core business, but that doesn’t mean no-one else uses databases.”
• Does AI make strong tech companies stronger?
• “Surely Google’s dominance will soon pass, just like Microsoft’s did, right? I’m not so sure.”