“Don’t Be Evil” tars Apple with Google’s brush

From the jacket copy for Rana Foroohar’s new book about big tech:

apple evil tar brush“Don’t be evil” was enshrined as Google’s original corporate mantra back in its early days, when the company’s cheerful logo still conveyed the utopian vision for a future in which technology would inevitably make the world better, safer, and more prosperous.

Unfortunately, it’s been quite a while since Google, or the majority of the Big Tech companies, lived up to this founding philosophy. Today, the utopia they sought to create is looking more dystopian than ever: from digital surveillance and the loss of privacy to the spreading of misinformation and hate speech to predatory algorithms targeting the weak and vulnerable to products that have been engineered to manipulate our desires.

How did we get here? How did these once-scrappy and idealistic enterprises become rapacious monopolies with the power to corrupt our elections, co-opt all our data, and control the largest single chunk of corporate wealth—while evading all semblance of regulation and taxes?  In Don’t Be Evil, Financial Times global business columnist Rana Foroohar tells the story of how Big Tech lost its soul—and ate our lunch.

Through her skilled reporting and unparalleled access—won through nearly thirty years covering business and technology—she shows the true extent to which behemoths like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon are monetizing both our data and our attention, without us seeing a penny of those exorbitant profits.

Finally, Foroohar lays out a plan for how we can resist, by creating a framework that fosters innovation while also protecting us from the dark side of digital technology.

My take: I’ll be interested to see how Foroohar makes her “dark side” case against Apple. Perhaps the evil is inherent in those iPhones, iPads and MacBooks “engineered to manipulate our desires.”

5 Comments

  1. David Emery said:

    Treating Apple as exceptional in the FAANG stocks is Politically Incorrect, it seems. Why should the facts mess up a perfectly good thesis?

    It’s not just tech writing, I see this in most books on ‘timely topics,’ including economics, politics, etc. More evidence for the ‘end of journalism’ – it’s all about pandering to your audience (including the Pulitzer committee…)

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    November 11, 2019
  2. Fred Stein said:

    Ugh, so much to unpack.

    Captialism and the digital transformation skew economics heavily to the benefit of the talented and those with money. This creates pathological wealth disparity. We went through this crisis with the industrial revolution. Finally, Roosevelt, and some brilliant advisors, came up with regulation and taxation methods to address it (far from perfectly).

    But today, technology moves too fast for our political process. And let’s not discuss the political mess we have here and globally. I don’t have an answer. Screeds don’t help. Hobbling our successful tech companies gives the same potentially toxic economic power to economies overseas.

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    November 11, 2019
  3. Steven Noyes said:

    Foroohar’s exposes her true agenda with the ideologue’s statement of:
    “ she shows the true extent to which behemoths like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon are monetizing both our data and our attention, without us seeing a penny of those exorbitant profits.”

    Two things:
    1) The consumer of a product has never had the right to the profit of the consumer product.

    2) The statement is a flat out lie. From sales taxes (Amazon, Apple and Google) to billions in corporate income taxes (Apple) this statement shows this book is not even worth the paper it was printed on.

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    November 11, 2019
    • David Emery said:

      This may be a bit too far into the political realm, but…

      The Conventional Wisdom is “Income disparity is inherently evil.” But I don’t hold that belief. What I think is much more significant are (a) the growing problems with individuals growing out of lower income (i.e. not the ‘income disparity’ but the growing ‘opportunity disparity’) and (b) it’s not as much how the top 1%, .1%, .001% get treated, but how the lower 90%, 99% get treated. That’s an argument for focusing on opportunity for the lower income, not income disparity itself.

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      November 11, 2019
  4. Robert LoCascio said:

    I remember a few years a ago (pre 2016 election, Cambridge Analytica, privacy uproar, Congressional hearings, etc) when Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google were the darlings of Wall Street the acronym FANG was used to shower praise on the upward march of their stock prices – if it was a positive news day about these companies the term FANG was used. However, now I see FAANG (adding Apple) more and more but the use of the term is almost always contained in a negative story or interview. Somehow Microsoft escaped – I guess FAANMG is too hard to pronounce…

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    November 11, 2019

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