Big ideas and curated insights:
Consider three recent examples of the unintended consequences of scale:
All of these situations are predictable and preventable.
Know your business history: this podcast episode from The Daily gives a nice run down of the transition from managerialism to shareholder primacy to where we are now, a moment when both the biggest investors and most influential CEOs are saying that employees, customers, and society should matter at least as much as shareholders.
Ben Thompson has a great counterpoint today about an experiment on data tracking ran by the New York Times. (If you haven’t already read the Times piece, it’s fascinating: a dystopian dive into all the ways our activity is tracked online. It’s also a lot of fear mongering.)
Good overview in TechCrunch yesterday of the many, many ways in which algorithms and other forms of artificial intelligence are already affecting our ability to existing in public. An A.I.-driven future isn’t coming—it’s already here.
Two stories stood out to me recently:
Apparently parents are completely OK with summer camps surveilling their children because they get to look in on them. (I thought sending kids away to camp was so they could unplug?)
If you think surveillance capitalism is something happening behind the scenes—the sinister work of corporate executives creepily monitoring our lives—think again. We’re gladly opening the blinds.
This Wired expose about a few tumultuous years at Google is really something. Mostly known for their ability to handle disagreements internally (with a few well-known exceptions), Google’s culture seems to really have taken a turn, with employees actively speaking out about what the company values—including how the company is enabling an out of control U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Something to keep your eye on: this week, tech community leaders with a stake in digital equity launched Build Tech We Trust, a collective effort to hold themselves accountable to fighting hate.
Here’s hoping this will gain some traction within the industry. Many of the signers have already been outspoken critics of its direction over the last few years, including Anil Dash and Ellen Pao.
Elizabeth Warren made headlines last week by outlining several proposals to break up Big Tech, including tighter regulation of acquisitions and mergers, and prohibiting companies from offering a marketplace for commerce and competing in that marketplace—or often choking off competition. (Watch Hasan Minhaj’s excellent outline of how Amazon does this, if you haven’t already.)
The policy proposals seems to have been met with excitement by consumers (including me) who think Big Tech is getting too powerful, and hasn’t done enough to self-regulate. But some of the specifics have been met with criticism.
Happy International Women’s Day! Just a quick reminder: we’re not doing enough globally to close the gap between men and women.
Last week I attended a one-day conference called “Leading For Good” at Loyola’s Baumhart Center for Social Enterprise and Responsibility, aimed at bringing together social and civic minded corporate executives from around the Chicago area. The connections and conversations were good, but in all honesty, I left frustrated that the conversation still mostly centered around whether or not a business should be doing good, rather than how it should go about doing it.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. We have no common definition of business “purpose”, and no shared ethical framework for how to evaluate whether or not the decisions made by a business can be considered “good.”