Remember the Yellow Pages? I know I am walking down memory lane a lot lately, but things are changing so quickly. I often like to think about life before tech because it has certainly changed the way we do just about everything. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! What would we do now without Amazon or Google? As long as you are near a computer screen in whatever form you prefer, you can probably survive living alone on an island provided there is connectivity and free home delivery.
Here is what one NY Times reporter noted recently: “When the kids were born, it (Amazon) become my household Costco – supplier of diapers and other baby gear. Then it began a services designed to remove any decision-making from shopping: My toilet paper, paper towels and other consumables now come to my house on schedule, no thinking required. Then Amazon moves into media, and I was more hooked: It had me for packaged goods, so why not movies and TV shows too?” And now there is even more. Amazon gave us Echo, the company’s talking computer which speaks through a persona known as Alexa, and which has now infected American families like a happy virus.
But if it’s not Amazon for you, it’ll be one of other tech giants: Alphabet (Google), Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft. It’s too late to escape.
Do you ever think of social media as a business that has to be regulated in order to ensure fair competition in this marketing space. In the period of ten years we have gone from a time when the American marketplace was dominated by companies such as Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Microsoft, Citigroup and Bank of America to a new era of technology companies replacing them in the size of their market caps. Microsoft remains in the middle of this group at #3, but is now joined by its largest tech competitors: Apple (1), Alphabet (2, Google parent company), Amazon (4), and Facebook (5). We may eventually have to regulate these tech giants if they are determined to truly be monopolies that limit competition by smaller tech businesses in this space.
“We are going to have to decide fairly soon whether Google, Facebook and Amazon are the kinds of natural monopolies that need to be regulated, or whether we allow the status quo to continue, pretending that unfettered monoliths don’t inflict damage on our privacy and democracy. It is impossible to deny that Facebook, Google and Amazon have stymied innovation on a broad scale. To begin with, the platforms of Google and Facebook are the point of access to all media for the majority of Americans. While profits at Google, Facebook and Amazon have soared, revenues in media businesses like newspaper publishing or the music business have, since 2001, fallen by 70 percent.” So most Americans can now “proudly” say that they only know what they see on their computer screens (of varying sizes). Maybe this is really how all those fake news stories began?
Fewer newspaper readers, but more “screen” readers. Let’s face it, our social media markets are like the Wild West of the Digital Age. Maybe we do need a few Marshall Dillons to protect all of us law-abiding citizens (anyone remember Gunsmoke?).
Or we can call this, articficial intelligence vs. human intelligence. Depending on your perspective, this may be either good news or bad news when you hear that the machine seems to be winning all the time. The game that is being used in this contest is something called “Go,” which I have never played. It is a game played with round black and white stones, and two players alternately place pieces on a square grid with the goal of occupying the most territory. So is this really a game anymore since the machine’s “intelligence” never loses? But maybe I am overreacting, and I should join the ranks of the artificial intelligence advocates and simply admire the ingenuity of designing such a “perfect” Go player/opponent.
I hate to be a poor sport, but what is the point of playing a game when the odds clearly tell you “not a chance.” This machine will never make a mistake, unlike you. There are no weaknesses to be exploited, but I guess I am getting too competitive in a very human way. Maybe I can learn from the machine (after I learn how to play Go first). I’m sure there must be a computer program that can teach me, so I should at least be thankful for that.
If you are really interested in all this, Alphabet (Google) will match its AlphaGo program against Leo Sedol, the current Go champion in a five-game match in March streamed live on YouTube. There will be $1 million prize for the winner (donated to charity if AlphaGo wins). I hope they pick a needy charity if they have to, and good luck to you too, Mr. Sedol.