I am not sure whether there’s anything more that can be added to the Uber discussion.
So I’m not going to. The conversation has already shifted away from trashy executive behaviour and individual maturity into a bigger, much more interesting space.
This leads out of the antitrust ruling against Google to the tune of €2.4 billion for antitrust activity typified in their search results against ecommerce sites and search platforms. This very much goes beyond money, and beyond eCommerce. Sure, those are large pots of money and power, but there’s something deeper at play here.
Basically, has BIG TECH become an unalienable right?
This is a concept that completely overshadows the Uber-disrupting-taxi concept. It goes all the way to the heart of society, and certainly one that hits right to my passions as I’m a little obsessed with how conversations start to converge.
Over at Wired, they asked if Facebook is too big to delete as a user. Can I, as a public individual, NOT be on Facebook, despite the echo chambers, dissonance, and the inbuilt cognitive preference for authority. It’s big, it’s unavoidable, and increasingly being argued as an individual/civil ‘right’.
Is Google, similarly, basically a public service at this stage. If so, what does the government do? And let’s be clear, in this concept of public service – how does a government define an organisation as openly diversified and impactful as Google.
The past few years have seen the big technology platforms work their way around sovereignty with impunity – headquarters in Ireland, diverse organisations of staff and recruitment, free will of how the internet and digital access has evolved.
Now, as the antitrust allegations pile up, the immigration visas get crunched down, and the trust gets eroded…what happens next? It’s clear that there’s a big battle for sovereignty brewing, not only in terms of money, but in terms of intellectual sovereignty – the Google antitrust suit is an example of an attempt to regulate the sovereignty of innovation and experimentation. Similarly, moves to define AI initially within the industry and also broader thinking around regulation, are actually burgeoning conversations/battles around the sovereignty and ability to control the future of innovation.
I believe we’re redefining the old Have vs Have-Not dichotomy into Believe vs Believe-Not.
The belief structure is becoming increasingly evident, and we’re seeing the trends starting – the current US Government has recently proposed the formation of a Space Corps within the Air Force, shifting the balance of power and innovation from NASA into an organisation closer to the ideology (and controllable?) espoused. In France, President Macron drew a very clear line with his video response to Trump’s exit from the Climate Change agreement. At a blunt level, Brexit was a failure/victory along the lines of belief, argued along emotionally ideological lines of fairness, inclusion, acceptance and sovereignty.
Immigration visa changes can be defined in the same ways by both sides – failures or victories in gaining and losing innovation, thought leadership and sovereign power over ideas. Often times in the discussions around immigrant involvement in innovation, the phrase ‘brain-drain’ gets used, or the idea that senior leaders from other countries don’t have this country’s best interests at heart when running a major corporation. It’s an interesting conceit that by joining a company an employee suddenly becomes a quasi-patriot of it’s home country. Was that ever a legitimate argument? Is it a legitimate argument now? Many governments are keen to make it one.
The horse certainly hasn’t bolted. By trying to enforce some controls around Google’s services, the similar motions are in play to plant a flag in the spread of innovation and regulate the sovereignty of ideas. And how do they plant the flag? By using the legal infrastructure to place definition on something that has grown far faster outside expectations and possible jurisidiction.
Will BIG TECH be defined as a public service?
So what’s the key defining point of control – would it be by defining something like Google search as a public service? Social media? Some sort of licensing on innovation?
Governments are keen, obviously, but how do they define/regulate/tax and ‘own’ something as broad as AI without also embracing all the risk of ownership (let the corporates keep that!)? I’m pretty sure that the government doesn’t know.
But it will be interesting to find out.
And uh…Uber… how about that Uber?