The Power of Technology Firms over Our Lives

The Persistence of the Digital Divide

The advent of the internet revolution raised hopes that there would be an egalitarian society where free sharing of information and knowledge would eliminate the uncertainties and the power of gatekeepers of knowledge by making it free and easy to search and find.

Further, there were hopes that the internet would remove the barriers between the buyers and the sellers in terms of doing away with the middlemen or brokers who benefit from asymmetries of information and knowledge arbitrage.

However, this was not to be as the internet and the subsequent Smartphone revolution led to more barriers as well as concentration of power over the online and mobile domains in the hands of a few companies.

What are the FANGs and how they wield Power over our Lives?

These companies include Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, and Apple which are sometimes known as FANGs with the acronym indicating the five firms that make up the list. Alternately, some equity analysts also refer to them as the Big Four wherein Netflix is considered not as powerful or dominating as the other four.

Whatever is the classification and the categorization, the fact remains that these companies are so well entrenched and so powerful that they can be called oligopolies for the sheer dominance that they have over our online and mobile lives.

Having said that, it is also the case that the FANGs have brought in the much needed innovation in the online space through their unrelenting focus on being ahead of the technology and innovation curve.

Can you imagine a World without Google, Siri, and Alexa?

For instance, Google dominates the search engine and personal information and mailing market so much that the present generation does not know a world without it. While earlier generations used to refer to encyclopedias and visit libraries to gather information and seek knowledge, those born after the Millennium know only to “Google it” as the cliché goes.

Further, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri which are Artificial Intelligence powered virtual personal assistants have ushered in a new era of how humans and machines would interact in the future.

Indeed, in the same manner in which the youth of today and the teenagers have known Google, it would be a safe bet to say that those coming of age in the next decade would as likely to use Virtual Reality or AI and Big Data powered Digital Analytical devices.

Thus, from these examples, we get an idea about how much the FANGs and their products have become an integral part of our lives.

Pioneering Innovations

What’s more, it is not only our browsing and knowledge acquiring aspects that these firms have power over. Indeed, Amazon has pioneered the art of online selling and grown to such an extent that it handles the majority of eCommerce as well as mCommerce transactions on the online and mobile spaces.

In the same manner in which Apple dominates the Smartphone gadgets and software market, Facebook has awesome power over how we socialize in the virtual and by extension, in the real world.

Similarly, Netflix occupies the pole position as far as online entertainment is concerned and hence, taken together; there is no facet of our lives that does not have the footprints of these firms. Apart from this, these firms have grown so big, that there are concerns over they having so much power over our personal data, shopping preferences, socialization patterns, gadget use, and entertainment habits that regulators worldwide are actively looking into whether such power is harmful or beneficial to us. Whatever be the concerns, it is undeniable that the awesome power of the Big Four and the FANGs would persist and some analysts are already talking about which of these firms would be the first to hit the Trillion Dollar valuation mark.

Redefining what it means to be Human in the Digital Age

No discussion on the Big Tech firms would be complete without referring to the social media firm, Facebook. It has not only revolutionized the way in which humans interact with each other, but has also redefined what being social in the 21st century means. Facebook dominates our lives to the extent that the nearly Billion plus users of its services, cannot imagine a day that goes without logging into it.

Indeed, Facebook has also transformed what relationships in the virtual as well as physical worlds mean by altering the networks and the web of connections in a smooth and seamless manner.

In this context, it is worth noting the impact that the Professional Networking site, LinkedIn, has had on how business networking is conducted. In the same manner in which Facebook has transformed personal relationships, LinkedIn has redefined how professionals and businesses interact with each other.

Apart from this, Instagram and the host of other personal update sharing apps and sites have created a world where our physical selves are secondary to our digital lives. Indeed, taken together, the impact of all these firms has been to ensure that we are less human and more digital.

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, while there are concerns over this kind of power that Big Tech firms have on our lives, it is undeniable that they have made our lives easier and more convenient.

However, the physical world is yet to catch up with the technological innovations so much so that the analogy offered by the famous author, Thomas Friedman, about the software being ready while the hardware is lagging seems apt.

To conclude, technology has invaded our lives and it being value neutral, it is up to us to make it work in beneficial ways and not use for harmful ends.


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The article is Written By “Prachi Juneja” and Reviewed By Management Study Guide Content Team. MSG Content Team comprises experienced Faculty Member, Professionals and Subject Matter Experts. To Know more, click on About Us. The use of this material is free for learning and education purpose. Please reference authorship of content used, including link(s) to ManagementStudyGuide.com and the content page url.


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