In a free sample of his new book posted Tuesday, Scott Galloway builds ’em up to knock ’em down.
From the opening chapter of The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google
OVER THE LAST TWENTY YEARS, four technology giants have inspired more joy, connections, prosperity, and discovery than any entity in history. Along the way, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have created hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs. The Four are responsible for an array of products and services that are en- twined into the daily lives of billions of people. They’ve put a super-computer in your pocket, are bringing the internet into developing countries, and are mapping the Earth’s land mass and oceans. The Four have generated unprecedented wealth ($2.3 trillion) that, via stock ownership, has helped millions of families across the planet build economic security. In sum, they make the world a better place.
The above is true, and this narrative is espoused, repeatedly, across thousands of media outlets and gatherings of the innovation class (universities, conferences, congressional hearings, boardrooms). However, consider another view.
- Imagine: a retailer that refuses to pay sales tax, treats its employees poorly, destroys hundreds of thousands of jobs, and yet is celebrated as a paragon of business innovation.
- A computer company that withholds information about a domestic act of terrorism from federal investigators, with the support of a fan following that views the firm similar to a religion.
- A social media firm that analyzes thousands of images of your children, activates your phone as a listening device, and sells this information to Fortune 500 companies.
- An ad platform that commands, in some markets, a 90 percent share of the most lucrative sector in media, yet avoids anticompetitive regulation through aggressive litigation and lobbyists.
This narrative is also heard around the world, but in hushed tones. We know these companies aren’t benevolent beings, yet we invite them into the most intimate areas of our lives. We willingly divulge personal updates, knowing they’ll be used for profit. Our media elevate the executives running these companies to hero status—geniuses to be trusted and emulated. Our governments grant them special treatment regarding antitrust regulation, taxes, even labor laws. And investors bid their stocks up, providing near-infinite capital and firepower to attract the most talented people on the planet or crush adversaries.
So, are these entities the Four Horsemen of god, love, sex, and consumption? Or are they the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse?
My take: This is known in rhetoric as the fallacy of exhaustive hypotheses—or no middle ground. But this is Scott Gallaway, so all is forgiven. Besides, he used my blurb.
UPDATE: A little further along…
Apple: The Apple logo, which graces the most coveted laptops and mobile devices, is the global badge of wealth, education, and Western values. At its core, Apple fills two instinctual needs: to feel closer to God and be more attractive to the opposite sex. It mimics religion with its own belief system, objects of veneration, cult following, and Christ figure. It counts among its congregation the most important people in the world: the Innovation Class. By achieving a paradoxical goal in business—a low-cost product that sells for a premium price—Apple has become the most profitable company in history. The equivalent is an auto firm with the margins of Ferrari and the production volumes of Toyota. In Q4 of 2016, Apple registered twice the net profits Amazon has produced, in total, since its founding twenty-three years ago. Apple’s cash on hand is nearly the GDP of Denmark.