Are the real powers of the 21st century nations, or corporations?

In “the case against Content ID,” I alluded to the rise of CorpoNations – boundaryless entities that span nations, hire global armies with next generation weapons of mass destruction (I’m actually developing a scripted concept around this theme, if anyone is interested in working on it with me, you know where to find me).

Today I read this in-depth breakdown of Facebook which is nothing new to anyone who understands the appeal of the Web and the effect of too much power and slippery slope called greed. In any case, I couldn’t help but think of the following parallels:

Amazon = China

A sprawling and rapidly growing beast with tentacles in everything we consume, a money-printing machine that is by no means perfect but too dominant and entrenched in our day-to-day to truly change. Impossible to envision a future where it’s role is smaller. This juggernaut will face as much internal strife as external ones. Covid will be to China/America what World War I & II was to UK/USA – it gave up the lead to the new Empire and never managed to reclaim that lost lustre.

Alphabet / Google = USA

Seemingly borne out of the most ideal of principles, ultimately a vehicle for consumerism which will veer into new areas but fundamentally stay true to its origins and never truly understand the full ramifications and externalities of its decisions. That said, this empire is not going anywhere, is built like a rock and its best days will always be ahead… regardless what spectre rear its ugly head. When an organization’s original motto is Do No Evil, it makes you wonder, why must that be stated so clearly? What kind of evil was thee planning?

Facebook = Russia

Vast empire run by mercurial leader who’ll never leave. Motherland facing growth challenges but managed to extend its influence in new domains (i.e. WhatsApp/Ukraine) due to watchdogs being asleep at the wheel. As walled garden, this entity speaks its own language and will walk to beat of its own drum. Admittedly, given my perch, I’m more of an expert on Google and specifically YouTube, but Facebook’s policies make no sense:

FB allows a rights holder to take down your video even if your video “may contact 0 seconds” of their IP. Okey dokey.

Microsoft = Germany

Gone through many iterations with a particularly checkered period where it had to be checked and contained. Today thanks to an unlikely leader, it strives to become a beacon of morality and integrity, while throughout maintaining its technological swagger.

Apple = Japan

What we consider best-in-class for the products it’s known for. A huge empire with financial engine that knew no parallel at peak of its power. Like others, has gone through multiple periods of prosperity and challenges, all involving leaders who pushed themselves far and flew too close to sun. Like other belligerents, this led to a series of surprising alliances, with some of those partnerships ending acrimoniously.

Netflix = France 

A certain flair for both class and comfort, quality and reliability. Like walking into a fine bistro, you need not know what’s on the menu but are comforted either way, knowing you can immerse yourself in its rich and vast offerings and leave relaxed, informed and entertained. Like a nice bubbly you chill, the real deal has seen its share of imitators, but with few equals.

Disney = UK

An old empire that never goes away: when down, it can always be counted on to make an epic comeback and unequivocal statement. In a landscape of many ambitious princes who eye the throne, this gem boasts the true Crown Jewels and as such can never be ruled out.

Who did I miss? India as country, Tesla and Alibaba as firms? Who else?

In 2019, The big tech giants actually reduced their aggregate lobbying expenses in Washington but are actively shaping policy. Here’s the breakdown: 

  • Google: $11.8 million.
  • Facebook: $16.7 million.
  • Amazon: $16.1 million.
  • Apple: $7.4 million.

Interestingly, as these firms lobby within a given region – be it USA or EU – they are building far bigger footprints laterally, across the globe.

To be crystal clear, I think these businesses do a lot of good, but the real issues are the lack of alignment between stakeholders at these organizations and the mismatch between their lofty ambitions (thoughts and words) and what they actually do via their actions, deeds, words. I actually respect Netflix’s Reed Hastings for saying he’s in the business of entertaining, and not “bringing truth to power.” I wish Google just said “we want all the ad money” while Facebook admitted once and for all that it’s all a big extortion plot (“we know what websites you visit, which execs you are checking out, and so on).

Be honest people, it’s not very hard, and we won’t be let down when we find out the truth.