While globalisation has still to battle it out with nationalism, regionalism, protectionism, cultural resistance, education in mother tongue and what not. The robust waves of global trade, the supply chains, integrated production and world sales could not make the world fluid and nebulous. It was conducted as per the rules of the game, fully in compliance of with national laws, systems and taxation mechanism. Then came the companies which started uniting the world without small or no physical presence. The story till the hardware and the concomitant software can still be understood to a considerable degree. The trend towards becoming more and more virtual while controlling more and more of humans kept on increasing.
Google marks a very serious beginning of this trend in a big way. There would not be any physical footprint henceforth, no company registration, no taxes and no liabilities. You would barley see even their officials in the physical world. The world would become their stage and they could control their services through few data centers worldwide. Now it’s the cloud. Their customer / user growth story has been one, even beyond the best of the fairy tales. Exponential got a new definition. Most of their services went out for free. All businesses in the history of mankind started looking puny.
As if the Apples, Googles and Microsofts were not enough, came the global retailers and finally and most vehemently the social media. It created business giants, which can put the best of the mercenaries to shame. Services for free meant users forfeiting their freedom. The Social Dilemma documentary explains what it is all about. Billions of users worldwide, hooked on or dependent on it, for most of the activities of life. The benefits to our daily life for free was humungous and their gains skyrocketed. Data become the most important asset class. We kept talking about it in seminars and they gained unassailable power based on it.
Their functioning remained most opaque of the companies which were bringing transparency to the world. The ease of life kept on improving and so was our bondage. Our main asset today – data – which included sentiments too, went into their control. Governments were not able to fathom out the business, commercial, social and even political implications. While they are still to get up and get going, the IT behemoths control seems to be becoming all pervasive. Twitter battle we can all see. They have had many a tiffs with the govt’s successfully in their favour in their own homeland, the most recent being the congressional hearings. When rules of a private company takes precedence over the diktats of nation states, its certainly time to take serious stock of the situation for our own dignified existence.
WITH DATA, USERS AND MONEY AT THEIR COMMAND, THEY ARE THE SUPERSTATES OF THE DIGITAL AGE.