Scott Galloway’s book, The Four, is a dystopian vision of our world run by the Four Horsemen of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. They read our mail, they track our steps, they know in advance what we will purchase, they listen in on our conversations. They know our political convictions, they lurk among our network of relationships: friends, family, and even those that offend us who are blocked. They suggest movies and songs and news media and ways home that we will “love”. They anticipate the questions we are asking that we haven’t dared yet ask out loud. They know us better than we know ourselves. And this is a scary proposition that has crept up upon us while we were sleeping.
All four of these horsemen are driven by the insatiable quest for More, driven by the raging fear of irrelevance. I will resurrect a Mad Men theme here in recalling our first term when we had drinks with Don Draper.
“In Season 5 of Mad Men, ad man Don Draper declares in a pitch, “Even though success is a reality, its effects are temporary. You get hungry even though you’ve just eaten . … You’re happy because you’re successful — for now. But what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.” There is no such thing as enough. No matter how much luxury or love you accumulate, that feeling of insufficiency doesn’t ever go away. Draper is perhaps the best example of a character who had it all, but spent every waking minute craving something different and potentially greater — fearing stagnancy above all else.”
Can I underline at this moment in this blog post, dear friend Mike, how satanic this is? The Four are driven by the need to acquire 100% of our lives under their domination. I alluded to this voracious appetite unleashed on our world in my recent “Globalism and the Tower of Babel” post. World domination through Empire is the agenda of the evil one. Poor Don Draper epitomizes our sad, exhausted age.
St Paul counsels a different pathway: “Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Jeff Bezos doesn’t live by the simple rule that small may be good. But small may be very good, as long as it is sustainable and giving life.
Now, this post up to now has focused on the dark side of world domination by the Four. What vestiges of glory can be found even in the darkness of Empire? Without a doubt, each one of the top four have risen to greatness through a creative challenging of the status quo and a brilliant execution to take advantage of their moment in history and the convergence of multiple advantages.
For Apple, for instance, it was small but powerful batteries with a long life, an insatiable need by consumers for data on demand, a mobile society, the inclusion of a personal, high-quality camera, the migration to cellphones from landlines, the integration with social media, music and video, and amazingly simple, yet beautiful, design. Galloway says the risks are real: “Failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment.” You take what converges, and creatively propose a solution.
Today, I participated in an invitation to a fellow named Shaun to join us on campus to explore the concept of social innovation for our small, impoverished university community as a pathway forward for sustainability and mission fulfillment. A group of ten of us met throughout the day to brainstorm possibilities led by this leader who has witness social innovation transform impoverished fly-in communities of the Cree First Nation in northern Manitoba. His book, An Army of Problem Solvers: Reconciliation and the Solutions Economy outlines his dream that is taking root.
As Edwin Friedman stated, reframing questions is a key activity that is required to exit the swamp. As a leadership team, we are now grappling with the risks of upending the entire university model and creating a new type of socially innovative community going forward. Learning from Apple, we know that we must experiment or die. When we fail to risk, we invest in continued irrelevance and eventual death. Refusing to reframe questions means staying stuck.
Being faithfully present in a small town, however, means more than being static. It requires a willingness to risk it all to serve through social innovations unleashed. The goal is not world domination, just sustainable livelihood at the margins of Canadian society, contributing real value and an invitation to transformation. This is God at work and released through us and through the renewed institutions at hand.
 Sadaf Ahsan, “What If All of This is Enough?”, National Post, November 26, 2018. https://nationalpost.com/entertainment/television/how-amazons-forever-asks-what-if-this-were-enough. Accessed on November 29, 2019.
 Philippians 4:11-13, NRSV.
 Scott Galloway, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (New York: Portfolio, 2017), 37.
 Shaun Loney, An Army of Problem Solvers: Reconciliation and the Solutions Economy (Shaun Loney, 2016).
 Friedman, Edwin H. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. (New York: Seabury Books, 2007), 38.