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Is Big Tech’s “dream run” over? If recent developments are anything to go by, it looks like Big Tech is getting its comeuppance, and deservedly so. Sample this! Mark Zuckerberg of Meta (the parent company of Facebook) has “almost” given up on WhatsApp as there is not much “juice” left in it from a revenue and profitability perspective. For that matter, even Facebook seems to be floundering as recent news reports reveal that it is adding users at a slower clip (especially in India, home to its largest user base) as Indian women, in particular, have been put off by “too much nudity, and too few women” on the social media platform.
Consider Twitter and its travails with Elon Musk. One day, the deal is on, and the next day, it is off. While there are differing accounts of the “rift” between Twitter and Musk, the “legal option” being exercised indicates a more serious situation with the latter and the seriousness of the former. Of course, Facebook and Twitter have been around for a while, so these “problems” are inevitable due to “legacy” issues. However, the speed at which the Unicorns (startups with Billion Dollar valuations) are unravelling and the “bubble” bursting reminds me of the Dotcom mania of the 2000s, which also ended in tears for many.
Indeed, remembering those days is useful when one surveys Big Tech’s state as the Crypto crash points to a “deep” malaise with these Digital currencies. Maybe, the “correction” is long overdue, just like it was at the dawn of the Millennium when anyone and everyone with some tech skills (yours truly included) jumped on the bandwagon. More so, when tech visionaries like Bill Gates boasted about Businesss@Speed of Thought and promised a Utopia where tech would solve all our problems.
While Gates’ and his fellow tech Billionaires added more Billions and business, in general, flourished due to the very real benefits of technology and automation, I am not too sure about the impact it had on “thought” as our excessive dependence on the virtual has had many undesirable consequences, perhaps unintended. However, sceptics and conspiracy theorists surmise it was the “plan” all along. For instance, the “in thing” nowadays is to flaunt “Digital Detox” as the fashionable thing to do, which is a telling commentary.
Big Tech is Too Big To Fail, and our lives revolve around technology so much that it would continue to flourish, despite the present hiccups. Though capitalism undid much of the potential of technology, the emerging Web 3.0 holds some hope with its decentralized and distributed models of ownership and creation. Perhaps, Zuck senses this and has smartly moved on to Meta, away from Facebook, and the hope returns and remains for the Next Big Thing in the noosphere.
Moreover, as long as the chips that power our lives continue to follow Moore’s Law (doubling of capacity every two years), our devices will continue to be faster, smarter, and, who knows, sentient. Indeed, Google was in the news for firing someone who said almost the same thing, so I should not be saying sentient. The bottom line (literally and figuratively) for Big Tech is a much-needed “reality check”, which seems to be in the offing and, more so, for all us Kool-Aid drinkers, who should be sanguine, yet guarded on the influence that tech has on our lives.