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Tech giants have as much money and influence as nations (tortoisemedia.com)
169 points by hunglee2 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 168 comments





So do several religions. As well as mafioso or cartels.

I think of these groups as "states-in-waiting." Should their regional government grow too corrupt or too weak, they fill the void.

[1] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-net-worth-of-the-Catholic-...

[2] https://fox13now.com/2018/05/30/mormonleaks-lds-church-contr...

[3] https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2660520/joaquin-el-chapo-guzma...


To transition into something resembling a government would not be very on brand for Apple. If anything they seem likely to blast off into space and colonize Mars with all the cash they've mined and stockpiled here.

And serve as the local authority there for at least awhile.

It might follow something like this pattern, sans prior residents: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_India_Company


A place inhospitable to life? Yeah, this sounds a great plan to waste all their resources...

Well hang on, making human life multi-planetary is extremely valuable, if not essential for our future survival. And we can use technology to make Mars hospitable.

Yes, but Apple is very unlikely to achieve that, as not only it doesn't only take money, but all the money on the earth wouldn't be able to achieve that with current tech (or even next-decades tech...) We should instead concentrate on mitigating the ongoing collapse of our civilization, so that the next one might get a shot at that ! (And Apple is not likely to help here, on the opposite, they are too invested in kicking the can, which makes things worse.)

How would that benefit their bottom line?

By having a planet where only Apple products are available and the inhabitants are a part of their cargo cult, maybe? hah

Taxation, typically.

Mars colonization would fit well, just like their recent products shiny and beautiful and utterly useless

Given the amount of money, employees and resources these companies have, you can see that they are becoming and behaving like independent pseudo-nation states.

Each of these companies (FAAMNG) apparently are more worth or near worth the GDP of Luxembourg and other developed countries and their businesses are built like an entire economy.

There are also do’s and don’ts with some of them i.e rules that one citizen should follow. Don’t touch/hack google3 or you will be arrested. Thinking about virtualising macOS/iOS? You will be swiftly dealt with the Supreme Court of Apple Inc, You disagree with Mr. Zuckerberg on his platform? You will be expeditiously banned and charged with high treason with your real name, address, phone no. set to public for the whole world to shame you and list goes on.

Facebook has a population of 3B people and still calls it a community. If it were a country, that’s like the population of China and India put together. They have a town square, news, emergency services and more. The problem is it’s founding member Emperor Zuckerberg still doesn’t understand privacy and trust with its users despite the scandals of the 2010s. If it were a nation state, then it would be like an authoritarian one.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the People’s Republic of Silicon Valley.


I understand the GAFAM, but is Netflix even in the same ballpark? (It's also extremely dependent on Hollywood, isn't it?) And Microsoft isn't in the Silicon Valley...

It's a play on faang. Which excludes Microsoft because cool people like Paul graham think (wrongly of course, as usual) I that Microsoft is dead

Which excludes Microsoft because it was a stock-market term for hot tech stocks, at a time were Microsoft already was "established and boring".

Paul Graham ? Isn't "FAANG" specifically about Silicon Valley's labor market and local politics, but hardly relevant outside California ?

Problem is that states usually have constitutional safeguards that keep a safe balance of power between citizen and state.

Not so with these companies. Step out of line and they can unperson you like that, and you can't vote on their leadership. And increasingly entire livelihoods and social existences are tied into them.

This is why you're seeing states start to get so aggressive with them. The EU fining billions out of them on an ongoing basis. Dragging them before Congress. Etc.

They're not only starting to rival them in power, they're starting to flex power over them -- playing a kingmaker role as they form the platforms on which elections are being won and lost.

If the tech giants win, we lose. They've already shown willingness to coordinate with each other. The non-poaching agreements and the Alex Jones case.

Our defences from power have always been the existence of multiple states (e.g. refugees) and democracy. They would be beholden to neither. Able to destroy social lives and livelihoods at the click of a button, with no defence and no safeguards.

"Computer says no", to your life.


The difference between a sovereign nation-state and a corporation is that a nation-state has a legal monopoly on sanctioned violence within their jurisdiction. Those constitutional safeguards are necessary because otherwise they could search, seize, detain, arrest, imprison, torture and kill with impunity.

A tech company can deplatform you with impunity, but they’re not inflicting any real violence in the process. Corporations are still agents of real people, and those people are still subject to the laws of nations.


Taking away somebody's right to make a living with their chosen profession or otherwise participate in commerce is economic violence.

Say you have built up a following of people over many years and you are making thousands of dollars a month from YouTube, and they they decide to shut you down overnight, I bet it's going to feel like violence when it comes time to pay bills and you no longer have any of that income you have become accustomed to.


Shift your perspective. YouTube is a video distribution service provider and one of many ways to publish a video. You can choose to publish on YouTube, but you don’t have the right to compel YouTube to do business with you anymore than a coffee shop has a right to compel their current coffee roaster to do business with them.

If YouTube cancels their contract with you, they’ve taken away your ability to make a living on YouTube. What they haven’t taken away is your ability to make a living. You can even make a living in video production, if you can find the means to do so.

YouTube certainly enabled many more people to viably live as video producers, but that doesn’t entitle people to make a living in that profession anymore than it entitles them to make a living roasting coffee or serving in a public office or performing heart surgery.


Maybe we should make you persona non grata at the three largest supermarket chains in your area, plus Walmart and Amazon. You can get your meals at Burger King and 7-11.

I see your angle, but that would still leave me with countless other places to purchase groceries, any one of which could choose not to do business with me.

Indeed, the market for food is more fragmented than that for a large video audience. That's why it's a screwjob by Google. And it's a good reason to break Google into pieces.

What consequences are appropriate for someone acting badly enough to get specifically, independently targeted by that many major local businesses and two massive transnational corporations?

>Taking away somebody's right to make a living with their chosen profession or otherwise participate in commerce is economic violence.

The thing is, no company is taking away a creator's right to their living. They may take away the opportunity to make a living on that company's platform, but there's a distinct difference.

YouTube (or Twitch, etc) are providing a service to content creators, that service being hosting and broadcasting their content. Service agreements come with clauses about termination of service. A content creator should never put all their eggs into a single basket lest that service cease to support them for whatever reason.


> YouTube (or Twitch, etc) are providing a service to content creators, that service being hosting and broadcasting their content. Service agreements come with clauses about termination of service. A content creator should never put all their eggs into a single basket lest that service cease to support them for whatever reason.

This is normally true, but in the "winner takes all" world, not having access to Youtube (or Twitch, etc) is effectively like being cut off from all customers. I experienced this in the past when running an ad supported website. Adsense paid by far the best (> 10x everyone else), so being shut off by them was like being shut off altogether.

And the problem is that for marketplaces it typically is "winner takes all".


Should this, should that. I have heard this so many times. If you are a app developer and became successful on the Google playstore, but not on iTunes store then who are you to say that you should never put all your eggs into a single basket. This would never be a deliberate choice. Fact is, that many business lost everything due dragonic decisions made by big tech companies. Unacceptable. That's why those companies need to be split up. Regions like Europe need to restrict massive US invasion and come up with their own alternatives.

Even if YouTube (or the Play Store) was its own entity, they can still prevent you from publishing on their platforms on a whim. You solve nothing by breaking them up.

Don’t hold your breath on Europe coming up with dominant consumer tech anytime soon.


Indeed, they need to be either shut down, or banned in Europe. You can't let companies have more power than nation-states !

When I was at Google, a few people there posted on internal forums to celebrate how successfully the deplatforming was in causing financial troubles for the targets.

If a service provider has a dominant position, it is essentially taking away a right to make a living. Want someone to switch your car for a Yugo?

> economic violence

This construction is linguistic violence!


Please stop attacking me with your exclamatory violence.

>A tech company can deplatform you with impunity, but they’re not inflicting any real violence in the process. Corporations are still agents of real people, and those people are still subject to the laws of nations.

The influence of Twitter on say, the Arab Spring, says differently. Or the many other cases of social media platforms and algorithms being used to incite mobs, riots, and revolutions.

Hatred is a prime input/output for algorithms optimized for engagement. We all know what impulsive mass hatred can lead to.


What we are discussing here is not whether a platform which enables people to communicate can be used to incite and coordinate violence, of course it can!

We’re discussing whether deplatforming a person from a private social media platform or video distribution platform is a form of violence.


We're discussing the violent capabilities of governments versus tech giants.

Just want to point out that this is true today in the USA and most developed nations, but there was definitely a time when corporations had armies and navies (e.g. Dutch East India Company times). Corporations, not government, were also the main driver of the Atlantic slave trade.

Of course this was true at the time because of a power vacuum, physical security is a requirement to doing business–at the end of the day someone has to hold the gun.


Mostly agree! But! An important part of a monopoly is the ability to grant licenses on that monopoly, or letters of marque and reprisal, or charters or pass laws governing acceptable uses of violence by private citizens, and so on. Theoretically if Congress allowed it, private corporations could raise standing armies and navies, I just don’t think we or anyone in Congress would stand and suffer that blight on society.

In a way though, that’s what private security contractors are though, although their authority to engage in violence is legally limited.

Also it is important to note that such corporations as the Dutch East India Company operates their militaries outside and beyond the core jurisdiction, were and of their nations of origin. There was no contradiction of terms in subjugating and governing Indians and Javanese so long as they weren’t subjugating free Dutchmen.


> they’re not inflicting any real violence in the process

Are you suggesting violence can be only physical in nature? Even if you aren't, your choice of the word violence is intentional because you want to avoid words like "harm" which more fully capture the socioeconomic implications of being fired without due cause from a position which your livelihood depends on.

In an ideal world, nation states would provide UBI for their citizens. A company is not going to provide UBI for someone who does not add to their bottom line. And that's why the American government, for example, could be considered a business instead of a real government. A government by nature serves its people, a company by nature is served by its people.


Violence is inherently physical. It is the forceful physical violation of one’s person or property. Trying to expand the definition of “violence” beyond this scope dilutes its meaning beyond recognition and usefulness.

However, I will agree it is harmful when a supplier terminates its services, particularly so if you were dependent on that supplier. People make their own choices about who to do business with and how to go about their business, but let’s not pretend that YouTube is anything it isn’t. The lesson to take away here isn’t that YouTube should be regulated like some kind of utility and to take away their ability to terminate relations with producers, but that you shouldn’t be so thoroughly dependent on one supplier for your business that it is financially ruinous to lose their services.

I’m not saying there’s no case to be made for YouTube to improve their policies and processes to provide more due process than they do now, but that’s a debate that should be happening between YouTube and the people that use YouTube to distribute their work. They’re not employees, they’re clients, effectively small businesses and a number of the smarter ones already know the danger of depending on YouTube as their sole source of income and have worked to diversify.


You're honing in on a specific definition of violence, ignoring its historic colloquial usages.

People make their own choices about who to do business with and how to go about their business

More attempts to pin the narrative as a business transaction while ignoring the larger implications of phenomena such as deplatformization in public forums operated by unscrupulous corporations who control access to their audiences of millions.

The lesson to take away here isn’t that YouTube should be regulated like some kind of utility and to take away their ability to terminate relations with producers, but that you shouldn’t be so thoroughly dependent on one supplier for your business that it is financially ruinous to lose their services.

Try applying that same logic to someone who is stuck in an abusive relationship, deprived of the resources needed to secure their financial and emotional independence. We shouldn't regulate domestic abuse, because people should not be so thoroughly dependent on one person for their welfare. It's their choice.

Information is the currency of modern society. In a two-decade span we've allowed extreme centralization and gatekeeping of digital information, placing control of its flow into the hands of a dozen or two corporations.

Twenty years ago, decentralization was alive and well and if a community of 50-100 people had a hardass for an admin, that was fine, because there were often plenty of other communities of similar caliber elsewhere for popular topics.

Now we have things like reddit. "Decentralized", but communities are constantly plagued by misguided, ill-informed decisions handed down from the guy upstairs. Entire communities of thousands of people are destroyed overnight. But where else will they go? No one registers for forums anymore, reddit is in the top 20 most popular websites in the world with 300 million users. That's an entire country.

YouTube shares a similar tale. Whether you would like to admit it or not, what these large companies in positions of power are doing today is the equivalent of mass censorship, restriction of speech, and ideological persecution. And these platforms often support user-created censorship as well.


I’m sorry you had that experience on Facebook. I wish I could tell you that kind of thing is surprising or unexpected, but unfortunately it isn’t either of those things these days. I hope you’re doing alright and that you’re able to put it behind you.

As for violence, I standby what is the more useful and regular definition. There may be useful non-physical extensions in colloquial usage, but the word itself has connotations of a physical forcefulness that nothing else really has.

* More attempts to pin the narrative as a business transaction while ignoring the larger implications of phenomena such as deplatformization in public forums operated by unscrupulous corporations who control access to their audiences of millions.*

I don’t have to pin the narrative as such, that is exactly what this is: a transactional relationship between unscrupulous corporations and small businesses. Both have equal right to make decisions as to who they do business with.

* Information is the currency of modern society. In a two-decade span we've allowed extreme centralization and gatekeeping of digital information, placing control of its flow into the hands of a dozen or two corporations.*

Information has always been an asset in any society. What’s changed is that we can aggregate it at a larger scale than ever before, extract more value than ever before and have many more applications for it than ever before. Let’s say there are a dozen or two companies that have largely centralized it. That in itself is a bit of an oxymoron if there’s as many as a dozen, or two dozen participating in the trade. However, there are far far more companies trading in the information market than that!

To bring this back to social media: no one has yet to make a compelling case to me that this market is in fact centralized. You may be able to make this case in a country by country basis. You may be able to make the case that of the various subtypes of social media companies, there’s maybe one that matters in each category. Social media as a global market has never been centralized, and is decreasingly so every passing year. Facebook having a few billion users hardly matters when many of them are also active users of Reddit, Twitter, WeChat, LINE, Slack, LinkedIn, and so on and so forth. You can setup a community today and host it yourself using basic web tools or something like Mastodon.

Is deplatforming a form of mass censorship? Absolutely it is! Can you make a moral case against it? Absolutely! Can you also make a moral case for it? Again, absolutely! Does it hurt the people it targets socially and/or economically? In many cases, yes.

It’s not the government making those decisions though, which is an important distinction to make. Government censorship comes with the long arm of the law attached, which ends with the guy in the navy blue uniform with the gun. Corporate censorship is inconvenient, but it’s not prison.

I think social media is going to continue to exist, continue to have a business case, and continue to increase the total number of communities. In a couple decades, choosing a platform might be like choosing a pub: you evaluate who the maintainer is, what the community is oriented around and what are their values. Can you post pictures? What kind? Can you also post little clips timed to music? Will the messages expire?

We already see this to some degree today with group chats on different platforms. The platforms have their own rules as to what can be posted, as well as their own technical limitations, but they’re a semi-private space to cordon off a subset of the larger platform and give the members a place to exchange messages and data.


>As for violence, I standby what is the more useful and regular definition.

Often, certain commonplace words become terms of art within the disciplines which study them[1][2]. For example, "kind" or "type" or "resistance" take on special meanings within mathematics and computer science. While these terms are clearly derived from their commonplace definitions, they either work alongside the original meaning (such as in "resistance") or they replace it ("kind").

Scholarship dating to about 1980 describes two forms of violence, objective and subjective. Subjective violence is very easy to spot, it involves physical contact. Objective violence, also related to systemic violence, is not: it's the backdrop against which we measure subjective violence[0]. This is not restricted to the description of society as violent. Go onto Google Scholar and search "systemic violence" - the term is used to describe security searches of children at schools, abusive familial relationships, drug markets, and a plethora of other things.

[0] "As Žižek would argue, we consistently overlook the objective or "symbolic" violenc eembodied in language and its forms, i.e. democratic state's monopoly on legitimate violence. He asserts that "subjective and objective violence cannot be perceived from the same standpoint: subjective violence is experienced as such against the background of the non-violent zero-level, asa perturbation of the “normal” peaceful state of things; however, objective violence is precisely theviolence sustaining this “normal” state of things. Objective violence is invisible since it sustains thevery zero-level standard against which we perceive something as [visible] violence – in order to perceive it, one has to perform a kind of parallax shift"."

[1] "One of the great controversies in defining violence pertains to its scope. Vorobej opts from the outset for a wider concept of violence and not for restricting it to cases of direct physical harm. With these cases and the more commonsensical notion of interpersonal violence the analysis begins. The first definition is borrowed from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), to which he adds apparently more sophisticated variations, for example from James Childress, Robert Holmes, or the WHO, before finally returning to the OED as the most useful paradigmatic definition for this type of approach to violence: "Violence is the exercise of physical force as to inflict injury on or damage to persons or properties" (6). After having worked through a series of ambiguities of the definition and questions that arise from it, Vorobej finally rightly problematizes this approach for its one-sidedness. Interpersonal violence "emphasizes what individuals do to others, at the cost of ignoring what happens to people" (52)."

[2] https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/violence/v-1


I’ll bite and acknowledge there might be a dimension to violence that I am overlooking, however, every example of objective violence you gave except “drug markets” appears to align perfectly at face value with the definition of violence I gave earlier: a forceful violation of one’s person or property. Probably “drug markets” would too, I’m just not altogether sure what element of a drug market you mean since there wasn’t a verb attached.

I’ll look for the full paper from your link, it looks interesting, but that will have to wait until the morning. Same with your Google Scholar search, you’ve hooked me.

In the mean time, let me ask you if the difference between subjective and objective violence looks like this: Subjective violence would be the act of a pimp slapping a prostitute within his service, and objective violence would be the entire social apparatus around pimping which enables him to find women who are willing (in this example I’m assuming willing to prevent this from branching into a discussion on slavery and the various gradations of prostitution) to work under him as prostitutes in what is I assume would be considered ultimately a form of violence that works against them and women in general?

Or alternatively, a prison might be a violent place to be in, and thus is subjectively violent, but the existence and operation of the prison is objectively violent?


> It is the forceful physical violation of one’s person or property.

But not all property is physical. And increasingly, our property is just data located in somebody's servers: your Dropbox contents, your Steam games, the money in your online bank account.


I would argue it is physical insofar as it has to exist on something tangible, whether that’s an aggregated bank ledger or a server somewhere or as backups on disks that you own, but your point is taken so I’ll address the concerns you raised.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, but unfortunately from my perspective, in the case of Steam games and software, that is largely covered: you paid for licenses to play games rather than licenses, but some of it is DRM-free so you can take backups.

That money in the bank account is yours, unless seized through a legal process, which can happen and you can challenge it if it does.

Everything else, Dropbox, Google Photos, iCloud, emails, whatever, you should have your own backups. You should have them not just for legal reasons or because your service providers might terminate their services to you, but because they might actually lose your data.

You have some rights to that data, but none of the businesses involved in hosting it are compelled to do business with you specifically, and aren’t required to keep it anymore than the law compels them to.


> That money in the bank account is yours, unless seized through a legal process.

And this is because through the centuries we have enacted enough laws to deter private banking companies from messing with our money. If left to their own devices, we would have DRM-ed money, random service terminations, unexplained money loses, etc. We just need to extend these rights and safeties to other spheres of our digital property through the use of law and its enforcement.


Yes, but a bank can still terminate its business with you. It just has to return your money to you.

Now if you’re suggesting we have a law that companies which hold our data have to return our data when they terminate their business relationship with us, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree.


The legal obligations of a bank towards its clients generally extend way beyond your example, depending on the country, but yes, returning the client belongings upon termination of the relationship should be a basic right mandated by law. I think it is profoundly absurd that we are renouncing hard-fought consumer rights just because business is now being conducted electronically. If the letter of the law no longer matches the spirit, we should update the letter, not lose the spirit.

I think we agree more than we disagree. Thank you for your time.

Most of these things aren't really property. And even for banks, you partially forfeit your property rights when deciding to keep your money there...

Say there are sanctions imposed on a country by the U.S. that make it near impossible to import the necessary mediacations for cancer patients, as a result of which, some of them die.

I'd say calling that 'economic violence' is pretty accurate.


A trade sanction is intended as a form of physical violence backed up by physical force. You could call it economic violence, I would just call it violence.

I see this as analogous to saying

> Numbers are inherently binary. You could call 93 "a decimal number", but I would just call it "a number". There's no point in having the term "decimal" since the tech stack is all just "(binary) numbers" beneath layers of indirection.

Surely you see the usefulness in assigning each layer of indirection a unique qualifier?


Am glad to hear that, I'd actually agree with you, but many wouldn't because of that thin layer of 'we didn't technically use the military to accomplish this', but rather the global financial system, even if the outcome is basically the same

They might not, but for a sanction to be applied properly, you need to apply violence somewhere within the enforcement process.

Take the sanctions against Iran for example. Huawei violated these sanctions and this directly led to Meng Wanzhou’s arrest in Canada and her bring charged in the United States. It would appear the extradition hearings are still going on with the trial set to start this month and it might go as long as October.


This is an overly simplistic view of power. The man in the blue uniform with the gun is at the end of a very long chain of people.

What happens, historically, when one group wields superior technology to another group? Who has the power?

Do you think we have the power, with our 1 in 300 millionth votes every 4 years for 1 of 2 people?

Sure, let's pretend there'll never be any "senator, I'm afraid if you take that stance on that bill, our algorithm won't be able to help you..." behaviour.

Absolute power corrup... I mean "muh private company -- nothing to see here".


There’s elections in every State every 1-2 years for a variety of positions from city assemblies to county board of supervisors to the lower and upper house of each State that has both, executive offices, different special district bodies, Judges in some cases for better or worse, and again, depending on the State, various city, county and/or State ballot propositions before we even get to the 1 Representative, 2 Senators and 1 President you can cast votes for as well.

That’s just the ballots you cast. There are countless ways to politically involve yourself in any issue you care to make the time for. We’re not powerless citizens, but our power is diluted, intentionally so, because that’s what democracy does. You wield as much power as you are willing and able to accumulate up until the point where the power you wield competes with people with interests counter to yours.

Yes, it was a simplistic outline of the power of the state vs. the power of a corporation, but it is an accurate one. Corporations are agents of the people they serve, a means of aggregating means and power to more effectively wield it in the interests of the people they are serving. The power they can wield is immense, but it is still ultimately subordinate to the power of a state.


Problem is that states usually have constitutional safeguards that keep a safe balance of power between citizen and state.

Not so with these companies. Step out of line and they can unperson you like that, and you can't vote on their leadership. And increasingly entire livelihoods and social existences are tied into them.

The notional constitutional safeguards of states become eroded over time (n.b., interstate commerce, mass data collection) and the overreach of states is more potentially damaging to its citizens than getting locked out of a platform on which you built a business.

Political power can be spent over and over. Dollars can only be spent once.


The notional constitutional safeguards of states become eroded over time (n.b., interstate commerce, mass data collection) and the overreach of states is more potentially damaging to its citizens than getting locked out of a platform on which you built a business.

States are not meant to be corrupt in this way, and have several avenues for reform by will of the people. Companies benefit from a dictatorial stance, and therefore the only effective recourse against unjust treatment is partial or total destruction.

>Political power can be spent over and over. Dollars can only be spent once. Credit is a thing.


Corporations give private citizens power they should not have over their neighbors in a democracy.

HR can filter at mass, keeping people from work they enjoy. Advertising has social agency warping effects. And at scale we spend our time prioritizing paid speech. Policing valid speech at scale is how authoritarian states work.

“This is how you view the problem, how you design the solution, and how you speak to people. Or you don’t get to have shelter & eat.”

Sir, yes sir.

“Profits (or some other ideological target) must go up this quarter!”

Sir, yes sir.

Not allowed to truly question what happens if AI that can schedule hair appointments isn’t developed. Computing/engineering effort we know is destined for the bin as hardware changes. Seems economical.

That’s hardly a behavioral model for a free society.

Nah sorry. We have friendly oligarchs, and looking at Google’s shifting culture and the Amazon warehouse situation that’s been going on for years... very superficially friendly.

Political power is emotional. It fades generationally as people retire, or we could term limit officials.

A big enough pile of dollars means you can generate more faster than you can spend what you need to in order to stay on top.

Ownership is the root of political theory in America. And a smaller and smaller group really own anything.

And the powers that be know that: they’ve read it in academia’s papers and philosophers notes. If the public took ownership of the manner of production (IMO themselves not factories) and stayed home for a week, politics would be shifting real fast.

We keep looking at history to learn about us. Is it any shock we keep developing top down authoritarian structures when we’re casually fetishizing their previous existence? What was becomes hard to look beyond when continually referencing the material. Wonder what humanity could look like if future people read about past people living differently.


This argument severely underestimates the alternatives available to the current corporate tech hegemony. Put yourself in the position of Internet persona non grata and let’s look at your alternatives.

Twitter doesn’t like you(or whoever “Big Tech“TM goes after next)? Yet you can still say whatever they want on their own website.

YouTube doesn’t like you? You can self-host your videos.

Facebook doesn’t like you? No access to FB products then. Nobody will look for the persona non grata there anyway.

Google doesn’t like you? You can log your own traffic and use an alternative email provider, or self-host.

Unranked in SRP? Advertise in the real world or via word of mouth.

Microsoft doesn’t like you? Run Linux.

Azure/AWS doesn’t like you? Use an alternative IaaS or buy your own hardware.

Hardware vendors don’t like you? Secondhand market.

Apple doesn’t like you? Flip phone!

Linus Torvalds himself doesn’t like you!?!? OpenBSD!

The weak point that I can see in living in a world in which the Internet itself doesn’t want you is your connection itself. While there will always be free speech-focused ISPs willing to connect anyone (within the law) the backbones might decide to drop traffic headed for their website. Not much you can do about that I guess.

The internet was around before Larry Page and Sergei Brin, and Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. These companies provide convenient tools which make it easy to do a few things but they are highly unnecessary for life itself, even online life. We have let them get too big. But we have not let them get too necessary.


> Linus Torvalds himself doesn’t like you!?!? OpenBSD!

Actually, it doesn't matter if he likes you or not; you can still run Linux just as well. Unlike the other examples he has no power to stop you from doing this.


Forgive me for my naive thinking. But as long as country have a military power, isn’t that the ultimate deciding factor? Like, sure you can bully nations all you want, but as soon as they implement policies like “obey our rules or get out of our land or receive the end of the gunpowder” companies will just obey

In theory yes, but it takes a government with "balls" to take this kind of stance. Big companies owners and leaders are from the same schools, eat at the same table, are friends with the politician ruling class. One government might take action against a foreign company because it is foreign, yet allows the same behavior from a domestic company. Ultimately the people need to cut some heads to remember them what is the commoner interest. (ps: the last sentence is mostly a joke, based on France history)

> One government might take action against a foreign company because it is foreign, yet allows the same behavior from a domestic company

Yup, I think we have seen that with Monsanto. US courts mostly got the kid gloves out when dealing with their antics. Cue Monsanto gets acquired by Bayer, next thing you know it's convictions left and right.


The likely decade of court losses was clearly inbound, it's why Monsanto was sold off. There was going to be no upside to the stock in that atmosphere, so a nicely priced sale was the optimal out. The court losses you're referring to were well set before the sale. The roundup trial for example was filed a year prior to the sale. The lawyers for Monsanto and Bayer very likely knew how bad it was, they had a better view than anybody else.

Bayer knew exactly what it was buying: they're going to trade a mere year or two of Monsanto profit (maximum), across a decade, to pay for the overall legal hit. In exchange they get to buy a fortress of intellectual property and one of the globe's dominant AG chem / AG biotech businesses (on a planet that will add ~3 billion more people to feed in the coming decades).


What's worse: big company owners and big financiers are from the same schools, etc. It's not unheard of for a nation that's threatened an overreaching company with sanctions or nationalization to find itself facing a coup, or shut out of an advantageous (read: actually workable) stake in the world monetary establishment. In fact, that's basically the modern history of the southern hemisphere.

You don't get to play unless the global oligarchs can skim off what they want, even if it breaks your economy (all the better! Who doesn't love an entire population in thrall to your whims?). The American government is currently part of that oligarchy, but see what happens if Bernie Sanders is elected.


Well, American oligarchs can spend a lot of money and effort to prevent someone like Bernie Sanders from getting elected president

>Forgive me for my naive thinking. But as long as country have a military power, isn’t that the ultimate deciding factor?

It's not naive, it's the way life works even though we don't like to admit it. They got the bigger guns. They're in charge. Full stop.

A Constitution and laws just tells us the conditions under which they will use their guns. Even then, they can and will use them on other occasions if they feel the situation warrants.

The idea that companies or citizens are more powerful than governments is fanciful in the extreme. When companies get militaries that can go toe to toe with the militaries of the various governments of the world, then I'll buy it.


The OP mentioned companies play a kingmaker role by owning the platforms on which elections are won and lost. The implication is that they can directly and disproportionately influence the government, such that the government is their tool and not the people’s tool, as in a bonafide democracy.

The question isn’t whether the government or corporations have more power, it’s whether corporations or the people control the government and in which proportions.


> The idea that companies or citizens are more powerful than governments is fanciful in the extreme.

I’m certain King George would have agreed with you in 1775.

The people in the USA specifically are better armed and outnumber the US military many times over. This was by design.

You could make an argument about nukes or tanks or drones - but you know what has to stand on street corners to enforce curfews, stop assembly, or protect supply chains? Soldiers.

The US government as an entity is weaker than the people it sees over - for now. Many people are intent to change that.


Here - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22025893 - there is an illustration of different points of view in the same - but modified - texts. Perhaps it partially explains difference in opinions on seemingly the same facts.

I think people are underestimating how much of an asymmetric advantage a tech giant like google has over opponents — so far it is in good hands, but I would argue that, if the company were taken over by a bad actor, they would have almost infinite data to blackmail any opponent that isn’t a saint with the most personal details of their life or monitor their activities.

>military power, isn’t that the ultimate deciding factor?

No, physical force is only one form of power. Knowledge/information and wealth are other forms of power that can be a far more practical (and scalable) means for achieving different ends.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powershift_(book)


The problem is big companies impose so much power over governments, which often depend on them for that military power and technological superiority that those companies can influence the countries to do what they want. Think about how many of our wars were based on oil. Think about how our government has threatened to put tariffs on France for trying to properly tax tech companies.

Countries have dropped rules on tech companies, and tech companies have retaliated to the point that those countries relented and begged the companies to come back.

No, tech companies aren't going to start driving tanks across enemy companies' lawns, but they don't have to. They're so powerful they can use countries' militaries as their pawns.


> Problem is that states usually have constitutional safeguards that keep a safe balance of power between citizen and state.

Seems to me constitutions being widespread is actually quite recent. Also, in many places 'constitutional safeguards' alone don't hold and often haven't held much value.

The only actual safeguard is power.

In companies' case - the law (as long as it is actually enforced by the state) - customers' choice on wether or not to buy the company's product - employees' ability to organize, strike or quit and find another job - shareholders votes and ability to invest / divest

For states? - If they have fair and meaningful elections, votes. - Otherwise, well... One way or another, it usually doesn't end well.


> states usually have constitutional safeguards that keep a safe balance of power between citizen and state I don't see much of that in China... which has too many people for that "usually" to work. Ironically, China's biggest companies are likely the ones on the tightest leach !

Corporate governance mimics military juntas or dictatorships. I just throw my proxy ballots in the trash. They are worthless.

Alex Jones is a bad example. I don't have any sympathy for what happened to him given the number of people whose heads he has filled with bullshit over the years. There aren't simple tools to clean up that kind of population scale mental pollution.

In these early iterations of social networks, the power to deplatform people is required. Not everyone deserves to broadcast whatever is flitting through their minds, to the largest available susceptable population.

Regulations and big tech itself will evolve as they and their kids and families aren't immune to the dangers. Most people in big tech have a much better sense of what's possible thanks to the Trump election, Brexit etc and the solution are not obvious so it's just taking time to figure out.


People like that are precisely the best example. They're not going to start by banning a kid for calling someone the f word. They're going to pick nutters like him, because they can say to the free speech advocates "oh so you support him?".

Look up Martin Niemöller's famous saying, "first they came for...". Those who forget (or don't care about) history are destined to repeat it.

If big tech are willing and able to act politically in concert, we have a serious risk of dystopia.


Another way to think about this topic is that China's CEO is Xi Jingpin.

There are a few distinctions between calling China a company and calling Apple a nation:

- A nation uphelds the law whereas a company uses proxies (lobbying) to make laws

- A nation has diplomatic rights, a company has to abide by export controls

- A nation has a treasury, has control over interest rates and can prosecute violators, it ensures a level playing field. A company has equity and can fire employees, but has to maximize profits (shareholder interest) and eliminate/beat competition.

- A nation has hard physical military and ability to go to war, a company has office security and HR

- A nation can prosecute criminals, a company can layoff people.

I don't think this analogy provides any interesting insight into Apple besides drawing loose connection between secrecy and censorship.


Companies make internal rules that employees have to follow or be punished/fired. They have to comply with the laws where laws have to comply with the constitution and basic human rights.

Diplomatic rights only go so far after you declare war. Most companies are in a constant state of economic war with their competitors.

The nations of Europe gave away the control over their currency.

Most nations can hardly win a war, especially a war against one of the superpowers.

A company can also reassign people to the "retirement building".

You could argue that most nations aren't truly nations. Which I would agree to.


> Another way to think about this topic is that China's CEO is Xi Jingpin.

He's more like the chairman. He sets the direction that he wants china to go in, others execute his plan.

> There are a few distinctions between calling China a company and calling Apple a nation:

Nobody is calling china a company and apple a nation. People are talking about money and influence. Apple certainly doesn't have the money and influence of China or the US. But it has more influence than most smaller or even midsized nations.

- A nation has a treasury, has control over interest rates and can prosecute violators,

Banking cartels/central banks like the Fed control interest rates. The treasury mints money and collects taxes.

> - A nation has hard physical military and ability to go to war, a company has office security and HR

So has companies. Companies have even fought wars against each other.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnatic_Wars

> - A nation can prosecute criminals, a company can layoff people.

Governments prosecute criminals. Companies have been able to try, punish and enslave people.


For another example, the British Raj originated when the British East India Company conquered India. There's nothing historically unusual about a private company operating its own military force.

I think the company-country analogy is stronger than you claim.

> A nation uphelds the law whereas a company uses proxies (lobbying) to make laws

Once companies can influence the government, any special abilities of the government (export controls, legal system, etc.) can, at least to some extent, be harnessed by high-net-worth individuals/companies [1].

[1] https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/c...


This made me laugh ...

> “Many employees don’t like Apple Park [the company’s new headquarters] because it has very few private offices.

... nice one Jony ... design a brave and “beautiful” open plan workspace for a paranoiacally secretive organisation.

Says it all really.


> ... nice one Jony ... design a brave and “beautiful” open plan workspace for a paranoiacally secretive organisation.

I feel like it's worth pointing out that Steve Jobs was still running Apple when this building was designed. I don't work for Norman Foster so I have no way to know how much changed internally after he died, but I doubt the balance shifted too wildly given the logistical constraints of massive construction projects.

As an aside - and I don't mean this in reference to office layouts - were I in charge of a global consumer products company that competes in multiple cutthroat markets, I'd want to foster a corporate culture of extreme openness and collaboration inside the walls but absolute silence outside. That's not exactly what Apple is today, obviously, but it's within the realm of possibility that it's their goal.


Steve Jobs described the whole point to the design: he wanted people to frequently bump into each other, rather than being hidden away in private offices. He noted it was one of his favorite aspects of the Pixar office. It's strange that anybody would blame Jony Ive for a design that Jobs chose. Jobs took what he thought worked about Pixar's office to spur creativity & innovation, and used it in building the new Apple campus design.

> According to Jobs’ recent biography, the [Pixar] headquarters was to be a place that “promoted encounters and unplanned collaborations.”

> Pixar’s campus design originally separated different employee disciplines into different buildings – one for computer scientists, another for animators, and a third building for everybody else. But because Jobs was fanatic about these unplanned collaborations, he envisioned a campus where these encounters could take place, and his design included a great atrium space that acts as a central hub for the campus.

> Brad Bird, director of The Incredible and Ratatouille, said of the space, “The atrium initially might seem like a waste of space…But Steve realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen.”

> And did it work? “Steve’s theory worked from day one,” said John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer “…I’ve never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”

https://officesnapshots.com/2012/07/16/pixar-headquarters-an...


> Steve Jobs described the whole point to the design: he wanted people to frequently bump into each other, rather than being hidden away in private offices. He noted it was one of his favorite aspects of the Pixar office. It's strange that anybody would blame Jony Ive for a design that Jobs chose. Jobs took what he thought worked about Pixar's office to spur creativity & innovation, and used it in building the new Apple campus design.

Perhaps it spurs creativity and innovation, but only few programming activities are highly creative and innovative. Rather to me, programming is about writing bug-free code. In this sense, I tend to compare programming activities with Air Traffic Control.


I'll tell you as someone in a large IT organization creating a new paradigm for us re: public cloud vs. private: Collaboration and communication are huge. Absolutely critical that people are talking more often than not. It's decision making and design at that point, not just DevSecOps.

This is a good point, but as I understand it, it's the designers who run the show at Apple.

Programmers working on products like the iPhone or on networked services can end up applying creativity more often than you think. Sometimes there are difficult problems that can only be solved with applied creativity, and you also get much better results if your thinking is informed by the people who will be using your product (or taking it across the finish line once your code is 'done').

In my past jobs working on tools and infrastructure, the best results usually come from sitting next to the people who use the tools or at least watching them use them. The traditional model used by the teams I've helped typically was partitioned off and people tossed things over the wall, but I always got significantly improved results by actually collaborating with the users.

You can compare programming with Air Traffic Control but in that case you need to realize that ATCs are in constant communication with their customers (i.e. pilots) in order to deliver the best results for passengers. If ATCs behaved like programmers in monolithic organizations they'd simply issue flight plans without talking to pilots at all and they'd be ill-equipped to respond to emergencies and sudden changes in flight situations.


> Sometimes there are difficult problems that can only be solved with applied creativity

For these really hard problems, long hours of completely undisturbed concentrated working are the key to success.

Strong collaboration ("bumping into each others") is rather helpful if the "problem" is not that the problem is hard, but it is unclear what problem is even to solve, e.g. you don't know what the customer wants.

Addendum: My comparison with ATC is rather meant the way that it is of central importance to avoid mistakes (bugs in software, plane crashing in ATC) and the work environment should be centrally concern itself around this theme.


> I'd want to foster a corporate culture of extreme openness and collaboration inside the walls

Open space offices are entirely othogonal to this idea.



Even (information) openness and collaboration themselves are orthogonal. You can certainly have one without the other. Then the physical openness is another dimension. And so on and so forth.

So we'd need more information to know whether or not Apple is best optimized in all these, and more, dimensions. Way more information than we'd ever get from one person or team. (Definitely way more than Apple would ever give out.)


How so? I'd argue that while open-plan offices can profoundly affect people's productivity and morale, they have relatively little impact on collaboration or communication - I view these more as functions of the team's culture.

As long as your group makes a conscious effort to bounce ideas around and ask each other for advice, what's the difference between sitting at a table wearing headphones or in an office with the door shut? Or, for that matter, everyone being remote?

I can kind of see how you could make a case that open-plan offices change the dynamic of communication, i.e. they make people less willing to "bother" their coworkers, but collaboration can (and probably should, most of the time) happen asynchronously over slack or email or post-it note anyway.


That’s what “orthogonal” means, in this context … :-)

Whoops, thanks for that. I must've read it as 'antithetical.'

> I'd want a corporate culture of extreme openness and collaboration inside the walls but absolute silence outside

Aspiration driven design it is so ...

EDIT ... with no consideration for the practicalities of what it takes to achieve those aspirations.


It's sad really that Johnny Ive's legacy at Apple ends up with that and the stupidly thin keyboards that fail at their most basic task.

SJ was hard and had a lot of stupid ideas, but he also made sure to hire people that knew when to fight him on that. And I think keyboardgate would have been addressed earlier if he had been around.


And then leave a few years after that office building is opened. Solid exit.

And then leave.

This article was an interesting read, but I think it got the basics incorrect. Financial elites and corporations increasingly control governments in clever and effective ways: Few corporations control almost all news media, fragment population using news media to make (to use the USA as an example) Democrat’s fear and distrust republicans and vice versa, turn over public assets to corporations at bargain basement prices, etc.

A bit off topic but: even though I am not a particularly strong Go and Chess player, I really appreciate reading through good games. Looking at the way elites have slowly taken over power since the end of the civil war (again using the USA as an example), with a slow and well played game, I must say “well played Sirs and Madames, well played.”


This is interesting. Can you suggest any books or articles about the power climb?

Too many. As a liberal I still find conservatives Kevin D. Williams (The Smallest Minority, Independant Thinking in the Era of the Mob) and James Rikards (Currency Wars, Aftermath, etc.) to be interesting and useful. Then there is Thomas Piketty (Capital in the 21st Century), Douglas Rushkoff (Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus).

Anyway, these few were enjoyably, but a warning: I have loaned books by the first two conservative authors to liberal friends and they didn’t like them, too far outside the bubble they like to live in. I like reading authors that have differing world views from myself.

EDIT: The Devil’s Chessboard is also a good read, but parts of it were disturbing to me.


Thanks — I'll give these a try! Each year, I try to read a handful of books that expand my world views, so these sound great. :)

"Apple’s market valuation is roughly equal to the national net worth of Denmark (...). In all but name, this is a superpower"

Denmark is a really nice country. Also, it is not a superpower.


It's also not true. Apples valuation is around $365 billion, Denmarks _GDP_ is around $370 billion per year.

I'd argue a sovereign country's assets are essentially invaluable, but in Denmark's case there's the interesting historical fact that the US government offered to buy Greenland several times (and always being rebuffed by the Danes), so at least there's an estimate for the value of that island alone: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proposals_for_the_United_State...

> If the United States wants it for the strategic value of its property, both on land and offshore, and to project military power, the answer is that a value of $500 billion is not overly rich

EDIT: I got the numbers wrong. Apple Inc. is currently valued at over $1 trillion (I used Apple's total assets from their Wikipedia page) and they mention Denmark's net worth which is indeed in that ballpark. I'd still argue that you can't compare the valuation of a company to the net worth of a sovereign country.


Let's go by the price of land in Denmark. 25,000 Euros per hectare in 2009. That's for agricultural land.

Greenland does not support agriculture, but it does have natural resources, and can have a good strategic value. So let's say it's 10,000 Euros per hectare, a good discount.

It would cost 2.6 trillion Euros, or 2.9 trillion US Dollars.

Everything has a price, I wonder if that would be acceptable for Denmark and under what conditions.


> Everything has a price

This idea needs to die. It is simply not true.

It's so stupid to say that, and clearly only people obsessed with money actually believe it. We're killing the planet in the quest for ever more money, and tons of people have absolutely no interest in more money. They want more time and more health.


Sadly, it is true. And "price" doesn't only mean money. Maybe a country wants a longer shoreline in exchange for a piece of mountain land or something.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called the idea of selling Greenland “absurd,” in public, which in the world of diplomacy is a sharp rebuke for President Trump mentioning the idea.

The Danes went on to say, in a further humiliation on the world stage, that we are past the point in history of buying and selling lands and people, sending Trump off with a red card.

Everything does not have a price, and even exploring the idea that the people of another nation’s protectorate can be traded like hockey cards will only lead to more embarrassment.

p.s. If America wants Greenland, the easiest way would be to simply ask the people of Greenland, who have their own flag and government.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/08/23/donald-tr...

It’s a matter of speculation how they would feel about the prospect of being treated as America has treated Puerto Rico, but that would be their decision to make for themselves.

In his century, Greenland is not a colony.


> Greenland does not support agriculture

Give it a few more decades.


Denmark's net worth is only 3 years worth of its GDP?!?

Doesn't Apple need the secrecy to survive? Imagine Nokia getting hold of the specs of the original iPhone early before its release, how would the world be today?

Nokia's woes were on software side, not hardware. Building a competitive software stack proved too slow an undertaking for a hardware company. It was Android in the end that ate Nokia's pie, not Apple.

My feeling is that had Apple not released the iPhone, Android would have probably joined the long list of products that Google killed.

It is competition from the iPhone (and the possible control of search traffic on mobile devices that Apple would have) that forced Google to focus on Android after acquiring it and this lead to the demise of Nokia and the mobile division of Microsoft.

I don't know if Nokia knew the marketing budget going towards launching the iPhone along with other resources planned for its launch would that have changed their view on how serious of a competitor the iPhone is going to be.


Apple showed them the way. Before iPhone Android was a nokia knockoff.

Also they only took Apple seriously way too late.

Agree. See my comment above. Having access to info about marketing budget etc. could have possibly changed that.

Which was very foolish of them, considering the success of the iPod !

I think another HW (Semiconductor) company is facing the same problem; its competitor is surging ahead full steam and the future may put the smartphone as one of the inflection points where it all began, connecting the dot backwards of course.

They swapped to Android too late but honestly I would have seen them turning it around some. Bringing in Stephen Elop to then have Microsoft strangle em some more to push the winphones was what fucked em up more imo.

By the time Microsoft bought Nokia, they were already in deep trouble, having lost major parts of the smartphone market.

And they already had Elop as their CEO for a long time and under his guidance started their alignment with Microsoft and had to lay off countless people. Someone who wasn't a trojan horse would have likely acted differently.

It wouldn't have made any difference.

Nokia R&D had a touchscreen-only phone prototype in early noughties. It got killed, and while I have not seen the actual memo, I've heard people quoting from it: "Nokia will never make a touchscreen-only phone."

Apple launched iPhone a few months later.


Also, after talking to people who were employees at the time, it seems Nokia could have put an order of magnitude more resources behind MeeGo, but decided not to. When they realized their mistake, it was too late and jumping to Windows Phone looked like the only reasonable move.

It's probably about customers as much as competitors. If you are launching a new device next month that is twice as fast as the current one for the same price then customers will hold back their purchases. See the Osborne effect for an extreme example[1].

They tend to be a bit more open when this isn't a concern, for example Apple TV or the new Mac Pro.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_effect


Quite a lot of Apple's success is in the supply chain. They're very keen on the secrecy but I'm unconvinced that they actually need it; it's as much about avoiding the "Osborne effect" as dealing with competition.

Not really - industrial espionage is really rare. Google is much more open and their technology doesn't get stolen. Sure, product designs leak before their release, but that doesn't really matter much.

That you know of. Just because it does not make the news does not mean it does not happen.

Usually it is in neither parties interest to reveal such an event. I know of at least one such instance and the extreme lengths a Chinese competitor went to steal (not google).


It is essentially the same at all corporations, always has been.

Lenin was a great admirer of Ford Motor Company. His Soviet committees were copied directly from Ford.

You could think of the SSRs as divisions, and satellite countries as wholly-owned subsidiaries.


Conversely, Ford was its own colonial power, much like the United Fruit Company or Shell: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fordl%C3%A2ndia

Fordlândia had its own version of Prohibition, and its own little revolt about the cafeteria.


I've overheard forms of this many times from C/VP-level execs facing internal debate: "We're not running a democracy here".

It is interesting that we only see it in government. Most companies are dictatorships. Some might have a board of directors that is responsible for voting in it's own members, kind of like a tribal elders system.

It's interesting to see these different forms of decision making producing different advantages and disadvantages.


The difference is that the natural state of the corporation is to go extinct. Governments have so much inertia that it often takes a literal revolution to replace them.

Bad externalities are the downside to dictatorships. The externalities of a corporation are much more limited, and there is more pressure to reduce them (from governments, other corporations, and their customers).

Continuing the dictatorship metaphor, this pushes corporations to be more “benevolent”.


Except for those that become "Too big to fail". Banks don't seem to dissolve naturally all that often.

> Most companies are dictatorships.

That's an interesting conclusion. I guess one big difference is that in most places you have a choice in whether or not to work for a company, but you don't have this choice when being born in a dictatorship, unless you consider migrating elsewhere a reasonable choice. It seems there are also less good choices when considering where to work (i.e. they're all becoming dictatorships?).

It's also as bad when you consider paying or using a free service provided by a dictatorship company. Do we really have a choice anymore? You may not choose email provider X, but all your friends use X so in the end it doesn't matter, e.g. in terms of data privacy. You may not choose social network Y, but all your friends have so you're forced to participate in the dictatorship, e.g. if you want to have a normal life.


Just finished a wonderful(ly long) biography on Julius Caesar (Caesar: Politician and Statesman). Caesar was innovative in thinking of Rome as not just a city state but the beginnings of what would become an empire. Not an inherently new phenomena but one that has lasting influence to this day.

In the same way our world is now flat. While there is much we do not understand we do know this: business (Due to the proliferation of the internet) knows no borders. And the goal of modern businesses that rely on scale is to do just that.

So, look for businesses to become much more powerful than countries and to one day become greater than even the greatest of nations.


Governments have a monopoly on violence, the ultimate source of influence. Tech giants don't. End of story.

I think the title here is missing some kind of punctuation.

Agree. Overzealous HN title editing at the best of times.

As an Apple Shareholder I would be furious if the part about Shows were only for 10 years and not for life are real.

Apple News+, Apple Arcade are forgiving as they are only a few hundred million bet. Apple TV+ is a multi billions bet, with no short terms or long term goal or benefits.


As opposed to the Catholic Church? Oil companies? A number of retailers?

Beating up tech companies specifically is getting irksome. There are many things wrong with our industry specifically, but beating them up over something true of many industries is <expletive of your choosing>.


They are being brought up more and more because they are starting to become as much if not more powerful than your examples?

but they aren't - there are few examples where laws are explicitly repealed to aid the tech industry, there a few cases where tech companies have be absolved of responsibility (or given drastically reduced fines) for their environment or societal damage.

Only because they haven't been around for long ?

Does Apple have its own army? Can it?

I think it’s supposed to be a joke, but it’s still a bit contrived. The governance models of countries and companies are very different. Just about every company would end up being like some sort of socialist regime. No democracy, central planning. Perhaps you could argue they’re more like oligarchies or plutocracies (governed by capital).

And yet we think it's absolutely normal for companies to be run like oppressive regimes.

It is perfectly normal, perfectly acceptable, and the only way to ever make the concept of a company work. Because companies play a completely different role in society to government.

For starters, because of freedom of association. You are free to not work for any company you like. If you feel like an employer is oppressing you, you can simply leave (unless they’re violating labor protection laws, then you can recover damages, and leave). If you feel like your government is oppressing you, you don’t have the freedom to simply stop associating with them.

Then you have the fact that the role of companies in your life is completely different to that of government. The purpose of your relationship with your employer is to exchange your labor for money. That’s it. How you live your life outside of that is completely up to you. If you can’t come to an agreement on terms of employment acceptable to both parties, then you simply don’t have to associate with them.

You also have the fact that if you have skills that employers want, then they have to compete for your labor. An oppressive employer isn’t going to have much luck acquiring such labor.

I know it sounds like a great hot-take, but the two entities play completely different roles in society, and such a comment doesn’t stand up to the most basic scrutiny.


> For starters, because of freedom of association. You are free to not work for any company you like. If you feel like an employer is oppressing you, you can simply leave

Nice in theory, but what about companies that are so large that they effectively control the labor market? What about companies with non-compete agreements? What about collusive non-poaching agreements between companies that lower the market value of labor? What about companies that disregard employee safety because they know the labor pool is large?

These are not theoretical objections, they are happening now. Employer/employee agreements are not "free" when they break rules like these.


> but what about companies that are so large that they effectively control the labor market

There is no such company in the world, and if there was, it would almost certainly be an illegal monopoly.

All but one of the rest of your theories are illegal everywhere, and the last one is illegal in many places (or at lease unenforceable).

If you have a problem with companies breaking the law, then you have a problem with law enforcement. Not corporate governance in general.


You're wrong. Look up noncompetes in the US.

The American rule of costs means it doesn't matter if it's not enforceable (which actually it often is). They still have a cause of action to destroy you by the mere act of dragging you through court (and the associated legal costs). And most lowly employees aren't aware of, or willing to test, the enforceability when they get threatened by their ex employer.

The balance of power is rapidly swinging against all but the corporate elite. The Randroids will have us back to serfdom before this decade's end.


Non-competes was the only part of his post that had any merit. But read my comment again, I’m not wrong.

> All but one of the rest of your theories are illegal everywhere, and the last one is illegal in many places (or at lease unenforceable).


> All but one of the rest of your theories are illegal everywhere

The definition of "monopoly" varies widely even within the USA, and enforcement of antitrust issues generally depends on who has political power.

If a company has market control and is monopolistic, but no one with power actually prosecutes them for their behavior, then is what they did actually "illegal"? Whether something is legal depends on both the written law, as well as how it is enforced.


>> but what about companies that are so large that they effectively control the labor market

> There is no such company in the world, and if there was, it would almost certainly be an illegal monopoly.

Funny wording, it's like saying "nothing bad as happening, but if there was, it would be illegal." My original point is that yes, there is bad stuff happening, there are many monopolies, but no one is doing much about it.


Just how meritocratic is the selection of corporate leadership anyway?

Should your employees take over any company you found?

It's certainly conceivable to give employees a bigger stake in the company. Germany has representation of works in company boards by law and I think it works well. It's all a matter of balance.

Should one person make life changing decisions for millions?

Why do I even need to ask this?


The answer to that question is obviously yes, but I don’t think that’s why you thought the question didn’t need to be asked.

For starters there are both elected and non-elected offices in government where one person will be given the power to make life changing decisions for millions. This is a perfectly ordinary feature of organised society.

Regarding companies, if you don’t want people who own companies (or their agents) to be able to decide how the companies are run, then you need to prohibit either private property, or employment all together.

An employment agreement is simply one party offering labour, and another offering payment for it, and a company is simply people pooling their resources together to achieve more than they could alone (companies server other purposes to, but this is the relevant purpose for this discussion).

An employer is always going to be able to make decisions that are life changing for their employees, by deciding they no longer require their labor for instance, by ceasing operations, or relocating, or withdrawing a product/service from the market.

If you don’t want employers to have the ability to make decisions that impact the lives of their employees, then you either need to abolish private property (the ability to offer payment for labor now becomes impossible), or outlaw employment agreements. Whether an employer has one employee or one million is really besides the point.


Very few companies have millions of employees. Plenty of nations do.

The argument is that they're as powerful, not that they're the same.

"Just about every company would end up being like some sort of socialist regime."

Very true. It's all there. 5 year plans, top-down control, a lot of internal propaganda, suppression of inconvenient opinions.


What is the big difference between nations and corporations?

This is only a problem if you think the state is the most important idea and institution that should exist.

state as republic is absolutely the most important idea and institution that should exist in a world where there are no longer isolated communities.



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