On several occasions, I’ve blogged about technological advances in robotics and how androids could disrupt our society. What I hadn’t considered was the way large tech companies could become a threat in themselves. I’m talking about monopolies. Not the traditional kind, like “Ma Bell” — when the government broke the telephone manufacturer into smaller pieces. (Click) Those smaller pieces produced new, innovative technologies that increased the nation’s employment rate. (Google/Amazon: How About a Bit More Room for Competition?,” by Paula Dwyer, Bloomberg Businessweek, July 24, 2017, pg. 9.)
Unlike Ma Bell, companies like Facebook and Google fall below the government’s regulatory radar because they don’t have products, nor do they charge for their services. What profits they derive come from selling subscriber information to advertisers. The more information they collect, the more likely they are to attract more advertisers, growing so large, smaller companies can’t compete. Worse, these large entities buy the smaller ones, rather than innovate themselves. Companies that resist suffer consequences. Witness how Snapchat struggles to survive after it rejected Facebook as a suitor.
According to writer Paula Dwyer, acquisitions may increase the larger company’s bottom line, but often, the consequence of a merger is that it stifles new ideas. What results is,“ a dearth of job creation, and the fall in research and development spending.” (Ibid, pg. 9.)
To keep the playing field even, technology companies need to be regulated just like other industries. Beyond keeping competition alive, our political opinions, our conversations with others and our buying preferences ought not be the property of any one company.
Someone might ask, “Why punish successes like Google and Facebook?” The answer is simple. Ask a farmer. She knows growing a single crop will lead to sterile ground.