Saturday, August 1, 2020

I Tried to Live Without the Tech Giants. It Was Impossible.

Most people don’t go to such an extent to avoid the big tech companies, even for an experiment it is a bit super thorough. But makes a solid point.

Critics of the big tech companies are often told, “If you don’t like the company, don’t use its products.” My takeaway from the experiment was that it’s not possible to do that. It’s not just the products and services branded with the big tech giant’s name. It’s that these companies control a thicket of more obscure products and services that are hard to untangle from tools we rely on for everything we do, from work to getting from point A to point B.”

Perhaps the question we really should be asking ourselves is whether or not these companies are a necessary evil.

Would such services exist, or be anywhere near as good without the help of such companies? Miss Hill points out the dominance of Google Maps and the interaction with things like Uber, and I think that’s kind of key. We had GPS navigation long before we had Google Maps and smart phones, but which would you rather use? Part of what made Google Maps what it is today is the insane investment: sending people and hardware off into the wild blue yonder to build a better dataset than simply importing maps and satellite photos could. Who the hell has that much money? Well, Google did. Some clown in their parents garage might be able to kick start the next Apple or Amazon, but they’re not going to be able to afford to run Google Streetview without monopolistic funding.

As things worked out, I’d say Amazon turned out to be a pretty great idea. But twenty six years ago: we’d probably forgive you for thinking Bezos was crazy instead of anticipating he would become several times richer than God, building one of the world’s most well known enterprises along the way.

See, we build our success upon the success of others—and our success is often in enabling others to succeed. The question is can we do that without the ginormous bankrolls and the infrastructure that entails.

I’d like to think we have yet to see the last great American tech company. But without a governmental strongarm, I don’t think we will ever see these empires displaced. Not until landmark paradigm shifts cause them to exit a market, or for profitability sake they choose to exit or destroy one. You’re not going to beat Google Maps unless they’re incompetent and you’re hyper lucky and clever at just the right time: or they choose to shutter the entire operation. That’s just how it works at scale.

Yes, I’m pretty sure that we should refer to them as monopolies. But are they ones we need, or are they ones we can ill afford? As someone who long resisted Google and Facebook, I find that a very intriguing question.

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