John Thomas on Responding to Big Tech: Move Slowly and Fix Things

In his 2017 book, Move Fast and Break Things, film producer, scholar and writer, Jonathan Taplin offers a scathing critique of the technology industry, especially Google, Facebook, and Amazon, and how the libertarian philosophical underpinnings of these tech titans threatens culture and erodes democracy. 

The title of the book is a tongue-in-cheek rendition of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s words that functioned as the motto and ethos in the early days of the social media powerhouse.  The full quote, cited by Taplin at the beginning of the book is “Move fast and break things.  If you aren’t breaking stuff you aren’t moving fast enough.”

To be sure there is a certain allure to these words. They are brash, edgy, and speak to the super-cool, bad boy persona startup founders live and die by.  There was and is much currency in an ethos that seeks to disrupt old ways of thinking—especially in Silicon Valley.

Of course that currency is starting to wane. “Move fast and break things” was a much cooler mantra before Facebook broke democracy and turned public discourse into a hostile war zone.  But those aren’t the only things the “move fast and break things” mentality broke. Taplin notes that the music, publishing, and journalism industries have been ravaged beyond recognition by the forces of social media, search, and the lie Silicon Valley’s brass told themselves for years—“information wants to be free.” The economy has been gigified, relationships virtualized, and institutions such as government, news media, and even the church have been robbed of the trust people used to have in them.

Move fast and break things indeed.

It wasn’t so in the early days of the internet. The vision its first pioneers held dear was of a decentralized network built to augment human life and creativity. But over the last thirty years, the likes of Peter Theil, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg have hijacked that vision and turned the internet into a place with only three main nodes, Google, Facebook, and Amazon all of which run on the data produced by their users. These men are heavily influenced by Ayn Rand—the libertarian patron saint of hyper-individualism and winner-take-all darwinian capitalism. This libertarian ideology erodes relationships and hollows out the middle, it knows nothing of sacrifice or seeking the good of others and the glory of God.  Concepts of love, giving, and sacrifice are completely foreign to it.

And it is this libertarianism that is baked into the platforms themselves. Amazon, Google, and Facebook have repeatedly prioritized profits over people and now are seeking the power once reserved for nations.  Facebook wants to issue its own currency, Libra, and Google is designing a “smart city” with more cameras and censors than even George Orwell could have imagined.  Furthermore, social media use has been linked to feelings of anxiety and depression—fear of missing out (FOMO) is a new disease felt most acutely by the digital natives who grew up with Facebook and Twitter. And finally the loneliness and opioid epidemics, the proliferation of “fake news,” and the aforementioned withering trust in institutions and each other, are all, to some degree, the fruit of the “move fast and break things” model employed not just by Facebook, but by many of the the biggest companies in Silicon Valley and Seattle.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Thomas