“The Four” paints BIG picture of FANGS’ dangers

The good news about this book is that its author, Scott Galloway, is a clever professor who happens to be rather angry or indignant with the digital giants, as well as being a really good writer.

The text sometimes shouts like the graphics, which are presented with sharp clarity. He has not tinkered with the last “one-tenth of a percentage point” or with fancy statistics that tire you mind like most of the other folk from academia…

… and all of these aspects of the author’s character makes the book important and enjoyable to read.

He sets out a good and relevant analysis of the 4 big players, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, and puts them in a time perspective, and in perspective to the other major companies in the global markets. He also looks at some of the other tech companies for added flavour.

Not only does he look at the past and today’s situation, but he looks also into the possible future if these giants are not regulated and taxed like any other company. 

His conclusions are the same as have been reported elsewhere, but he brings much more detail and colour to the discussion about what we the consumers and the our regulators should be doing.

In this area, the Australians have made useful headway in a preliminary 2018 report for an inquiry into the important questions about how these tech giants are operating. We will see its final report this summer, but the opening words of the report say everything that “The Four” so well describes:

“The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is holding an inquiry into the impact of online search engines, social media and digital platforms on competition in the media and advertising services markets… Digital platforms offer innovative and popular services to consumers that have, in many cases, revolutionised the way consumers communicate with each other, access news and information and interact with business. Many of the services offered by digital platforms provide significant benefits to both consumers and business…

… While the ACCC recognises their significant benefits to consumers and businesses, there are important questions to be asked about the role the global digital platforms play in the supply of news and journalism in Australia, what responsibility they should hold as gateways to information and business, and the extent to which they should be accountable for their influence.”

The tech giants operate in the same manner everywhere around the globe, the Australians are just more determined than most countries to get some regulation in place before their media sector is driven into the poor house. The same points are made by Scott Galloway states in this book’s typically direct language;

“What’s clear is that we need business leaders who envision, and enact, a future with more jobs—not billionaires who want the government to fund, with taxes they avoid, social programs for people to sit on their couches and watch Netflix all day. Jeff, show some real fucking vision.”

This sort of tough language puts our politicians and lobby groups on notice that they must act.

There are many interesting sides angles to this book, but he stresses another important theme illustrated by the following quote:

“Theft has been the strategy of business leaders and nations for centuries. Leveraging other people’s ideas to inspire new inventions and stronger iterations is at the foundation of many successful firms. Apple wasn’t the first to create a smartphone. Google wasn’t the first to build a search engine. They just figured out a way to do it better—a lot better. Perhaps the most obvious “theft” in recent tech is Facebook’s continuous adoption of Snapchat’s features.”

If there is any criticism of the book, then that has to be reserved for the final chapters. Scott Galloway has indulged in some private revenge against one of the protagonists in writing this book.

His personal crusade has none-the-less given the book a pinch that few others have done before, and that makes it a really good read.

Galloway, Scott. The Four. Transworld. Kindle Edition.

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