The Daily Bruin
Scott Galloway teaches advanced courses to MBA students at NYU’s Stern School of Business. He is a widely recognized economics professor and has founded over nine firms. In the book The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, Galloway “provides a perceptive analysis of the four-horse race to become the first trillion-dollar company.” The financial numbers of these four companies are quite staggering, “from 2013 to 2017, their combined market capitalization increased in size by the GDP of Russia ($1.4 trillion) and by next year, it will surpass the GDP of India.” Galloways’ argument that we have allowed these companies unfettered access into our lives hits home to this student as I read a review of this book from my iPhone (Apple product) after searching for it using Google, purchased it off Amazon, and found out that this was a book I had to read for my doctoral program via a post this summer on Facebook. Galloway is right, I use these products every day, and clearly, I am not alone.
Lifestyle permeation aside, these four companies, GAFA for shorthand, have rethought the business model of the past, and reimagined “business and value creation in the digital age.” Through the intentional purchasing of the competition, the use of alarmingly cheap capital, and the millions of dollars spent lobbying to keep their tax status low, these companies have grown to be monopolies in the digital age. And while this news has been good for consumers pocketbooks, I wonder how good it has been for society’s overall psyche and health. I also may sound like the prophet Digby Wilkinson when I lament the fact that these large-scale companies could only have been founded in America, the land of access and excess.
Let’s take a look at access first; is it a good idea for consumers to be able to purchase whatever they want, whenever they want, and have it delivered to their door the very next day? Recently Canada celebrated their Thanksgiving Holiday and the United States will be celebrating hers in the upcoming weeks. Though marked by different historical traditions, both Canada’s Thanksgiving and the USA version do culturally acknowledge the harvest season and the gratitude for a bountiful crop. As anyone who has ever tried to plant a garden knows, the sweet potatoes on that Thanksgiving table did not magically show up, they needed to be sown, cared for and harvested. That process is not instantaneous. And though food is just one example, the alarming necessity for speed to be the primary factor in so many life decisions has in my opinion negatively impacted our culture.
Next, lets take a look at excess. An over-abundance of material goods has never been a scriptural suggestion. Constant reminders of only collecting enough manna for one day,  praying only for our “daily bread,” and Jesus’ frequent verbal jabs at “the rich,” all remind me that it isn’t only the Presbyterian tradition to shun ostentation and ornamentation that calls into question what the true desire is to be the worlds first trillion dollar company. Is it pride? Is it greed? Perhaps. Galloway even comments on the possibility of that drive being lust, gluttony, envy or wrath. That would be six of the seven deadly sins, not necessarily the business model I find in scripture.
As we ponder what this research means about how we can cultivate our own leadership identity, I keep wondering if the entire practice rests on the art of awareness. The four are all here to stay, but each leader needs to wield them in a fashion that best suits the leader, and those they lead, not best suiting GAFA. One can use Facebook to check an academic private group page, or wield its connective powers, without spending 45 minutes and countless dollars on minigames, or giving them ALL of your personal information. One can use amazon, while still supporting businesses that are much more earth and small business friendly, or dare I suggest, the library!
Every day I receive an email from George Fox University called the Daily Bruin. No matter the semester – it is always there, present, available. So too are the Four, but we must learn from them, understand them, and wield their power wisely, maintaining a balance and a distance, that may look less and less American than the land that spawned them.
 Tom Upchurch, “Why is it so hard to ditch Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook,” Wired, accessed November 4, 2019,https://www.wired.co.uk/article/scott-galloway-the-four-book-review.
 Upchurch, “Why?”
 Scott Galloway, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, (New York: Penguin, 2017), 9.
 Exodus 16:1-36
 Matthew 6:9-13
 Mark 10:17-31 for example
 Perhaps sloth is best demonstrated in the collective cultural response of choosing the simple, next day amazon prime delivery method lifestyle.
One response to “The Daily Bruin”
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Hi Jacob. I know you posted late because of “human error” (lol), but I thought I’d respond to your blog. I enjoyed your perspective of Galloway’s book. I especially liked your quote from the “prophet” Digby! I agree that the business model of The Four doesn’t always appear scriptural, but I agree that staying AWARE of what is going on around us is crucial to keeping ourselves on a spiritual journey. Thanks for sharing, Jacob!