The terms I use in this article will be obsolete one day. Some of the companies I mention will no longer exist and some of the situations will be a remote memory. That is also the main point that discussed at the end. Starting at the beginning, it seems like today’s tech companies are on a quest to rule the world. We seem to be helping them do it. The new mega-billionaires seem to be changing society.
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton, says Big Tech Has Become Way Too Powerful. He wrote a great article that channels some of the frustrations of our times. The article is clear, the issues are well laid out. Mr. Reich tries to raise the thinking to a higher level. He seems to suggest that the issue isn’t political parties (Democrats and Republicans) or the free market. Instead, the issue is that powerful people with massive amounts of money have too much power.
The article is almost convincing, but the analysis is wrong. Let me explain.
History Indicates Inevitable Domination
If you study or, at least, observe history, you will notice a major pattern. Highly structured, western style societies from the antiquity to today all have one thing in common. There was always a monied interest of some kind. Always an elite group of considerable economic influence. There is a fundamental truth in that observation.
The fundamental truth is this. Human beings, have encoded in their DNA, the social patterns that lead to the kinds of massive consolidations of power we have always lived under. Individuals may be outliers, but groups of people generally tend to self organize without an explicit plan towards a hierarchical structure that is based on influence.
It begins with leverage. People are addicted to leverage and those with a greater thirst for domination and in the ways that domination is expressed or subject(s) of concern who also have greater adept ability of mind, paired with the right situations and resources will extend that leverage to achieve their goals. Families work this way, siblings sometimes see dynamics of this sort, domestic partners, communities, and in nearly every organized gathering of people you can imagine. You see it play out. Sometimes naturally, and other times through explicit guile and cunning.
Major winners tend to be those most inclined towards this pattern while losers naturally or explicitly reject or avoid this pattern. History shows a recurring cycle of good intentions transformed into repressive conditions of elites dominating broader segments of society. Communities that fought for freedom in which their descendants produced new forms of control aligned with the agenda of the earlier oppressors of their ancestors. Human society cannot escape this pattern.
Social Engineering through Technology
The structure of a technology and how it is presented and function will influence the way you think unless you are actively aware of it. Those that create technology instinctively understand this even if, at some earlier time, they were equally unaware of this. Silicon Valley leaders are changing the world. They do rule the world in some sense though not a total way. Most of the control is control over thought.
The old way of control was control by overt coercion. Physical threat or financial insolvency. That still exists but those who control that are not as powerful as those who control thought. The way it works is, the biggest tech companies foster an environment that undermines the old order and replaces it with the keys to psychological profiles. You are not controlled directly and overtly, but through the subtle mechanism of the information construct itself. If I explained it in detail, this post would explode into a novel. The author, Robert W. McChesney explains this in greater detail and academic rigor.
The Old Order and the New
You got a planet with billions of people. If you are interested in controlling those people, how do you do it? When you skip past the many layers, basically, if you are firmly interested in maintaining your position and holdings, you use the best tools available to you. That includes inviting in and carefully aligning with those with better tools until they simply become the new face of …
The Real Life Game of Thrones
Politicians talks about these things in a much more careful way than I have here. There is some new enemy they talk about that is kind of the same as the old enemy they talked about last year and the year before that going all the way back to Winston Churchill and further back still. In actuality, these enemies are convenient sacrifices to the masses to satisfy a collective thirst for justice but doesn’t actually solve anything. The fact that there are often new enemies such as companies that poison food, hurt economies, or trick customers holds its own meaning. No one really learns to avoid doing bad things which means that deterrence doesn’t really work since the chance to make or save millions or billions of dollars is too tempting.
Since the solutions do not really solve the problems, then we have to reach a conclusion. People’s susceptibility to perpetuating the conditions that bind them to a losing hand in life results in a permanent perpetuation of those same situations. Leverage is the entire name of the game and is the real life Game of Thrones. Machiavelli never really summarized leverage. He was too distracted by the details of political intrigue to really zero in on this. His work was more on the tactics of leverage than leverage itself.
A better source for an overview is probably Sun Tzu whose entire work is about winning through immensely veiled leverage. Many misread Sun Tzu as warfare strategy but his message was about using political methods to sustain power over property and people that would otherwise be damaged through overt force. That is why the new tech political masters seem to have so much sway as their approach is received in a more palatable way to a broader cross-section of aligned and contrasting interests. Whoever comes after them will be even more sophisticated representatives of long-held dominion.
The Meaning for Everyday Life
Ultimately, you become a master of the universe by mastering leverage and you fall on your sword or remain in a low station by giving it up or avoiding it. There is no legislative law that can regulate that. This is why things are as they appear and why Robert Reich and others who expound on the problems of the world in a similar way as he misses the root of the problem. They cannot solve it. Perhaps no one can. What you can do is to try to do no harm and work to walk away from those who actively seek to do otherwise.