Scott Galloway writes a provocative expose on the most powerful companies in the world called The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. What an interesting read, not just because I’m a tech nerd, but also because he had a very causal, easy-to-read style to his writing that kept me turning more pages than I really had time for. I was captivated by the enormity of the impact these companies are having on America, and a little nervous at the same time. It was disturbing to read how Amazon is eliminating thousands of jobs each year with robots, but refreshing to also read how other companies are investing in people and experts who can be available when people walk into a store. The author raised the question of which strategy will emerge victorious. He goes on to speculate…“Or will they somehow accommodate each other and carve out a separate peace? The answer will not only decide the fate of companies, but millions of workers and households as well. 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 f—ing vision.” This is the provocative part of the book I was talking about, where the author calls a spade a spade and is not afraid to call the leaders of these companies on the carpet. Although I don’t appreciate his unprofessional language, I do appreciate his boldness and I couldn’t agree more with his above statement about Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.
The lack of focus on people (the ones most of us minister to or work with on a daily basis) or on philanthropic efforts was sad to me. It felt like this book was a window into the extreme greed and materialistic nature of our country. I would love to see more companies around the world invest in truly making this world a better place. I love the fact that Bill & Melinda Gates have decided to invest their millions in a foundation that is trying to make sure all lives on the planet have equal value. They are doing this through initiatives such as: Survive and Thrive, Empower the Poorest, Combat Infectious Diseases, Inspire People to Take Action…very inspiring! I love Galloway’s idea for Apple…“The cocktail of low-cost product and premium prices has landed Apple with a cash pile greater than the GDP of Denmark, the Russian stock market, and the market cap of Boeing, Airbus, and Nike combined. At some point, does Apple have an obligation to spend its cash? If yes, then how? My suggestion: Apple should launch the world’s largest tuition-free university.” Education should not be just for the elite. I think it is a tragedy how universities have been allowed to continue to raise tuition costs 1,000% over the course of 30 years as opposed to inflation rising only 200% for that same period. This is hurting all of our pocketbooks if we are wanting to better ourselves (don’t we all know this :-).
Facebook has done many interesting things to transform our culture, and the aspect it cultivates the most is the reality that human relationships make us happier people. It was interesting that the author included the following famous study to reiterate this fact: “The legendary Grant Study at Harvard Medical School has borne this out. The study—the largest longitudinal study of human beings to date—began tracking 268 Harvard male sophomores between 1938 and 1944. In an effort to determine what factors contribute most strongly to “human flourishing,” the study followed these men for seventy-five years, measuring an astonishing range of psychological, anthropological, and physical traits—from personality type to IQ to drinking habits to family relationships to “hanging length of his scrotum.” The study found that the depth and meaningfulness of a person’s relationships is the strongest indicator of level of happiness. Seventy-five years and $20 million in research funds, to arrive at a three-word conclusion: “Happiness is love.” Love is a function of intimacy and the depth and number of interactions we have with people.” It was unfortunate this study only involved men, but that seems to be how they did research back then. Yes, I know what you are thinking, not very gender-balanced was it? In dealing with relationships on a daily basis, I see this research conclusion affirmed over and over. The most depressed people are the ones who are isolated and have no meaningful relationships. Facebook is all about relationships, in fact, changing your “relationship status” has become something that most people are careful to update and everyone tends to notice, including the nerds at Facebook. “The Facebook machine tracks this and runs it through a process called “sentiment analysis”—categorizing positive and negative opinions, in words and photos, of each person’s level of happiness. And as you might expect, coupling (being in a relationship) significantly increases happiness (though there appears to be a dip following the initial euphoria).”
The author also highlights another provocative topic in America, this idea of “fake news”, made popular by our very own President Trump. Many of us have a hard time trusting much of the news that is reported on today’s media outlets due to the extreme bias oozing from each and every story broadcasted. It feels like we have all been lulled to sleep by this because it has been going on for years and the truth continues to slowly erode…Galloway shows great concern for this. He says, “The greatest threats to modern civilization have come from people and movements who had one thing in common: controlling and perverting the media to their own devices in the absence of a fourth estate that was protected from intimidation and expected to pursue the truth. A disturbing aspect of today’s media duopoly, Facebook and Google, is their “Don’t call us media, we’re a platform” stance. This abdication from social responsibility, enabling authoritarians and hostile actors to deftly use fake news, risks that the next big medium may, again, be cave walls.” Once again, the author has a way of just cutting to the chase and calling things like they are. This is probably what I appreciated most about the book, although his own bias, he was not afraid to call the issues out and he seemed to challenge us to explore what greater purpose we are using our brain power for.