Furthest Right

We Told You About the Collapse of Big Tech

Some time ago in these pages some of our writers pointed out that Big Tech had gone the way of all big successes: it grew huge, attracted parasites, and now under assault from taxes and lawsuits, was trying to squeeze more income out of its existing customers.

Back in 1993 or so, many of us were skeptical about the internet as a medium that could be advertising-funded. After all, every protocol lets you filter traffic, and an environment built around client software interpreting open data formats can never be controlled, really.

But in came the usual brainiacs, certain they could make it work. For awhile it seemed to work; the internet provided direct access to information from those in contact with the events and fields in question, so we got past the filters and the tendency to dress everything up for yuppie consumption.

However all of this fell apart as soon as traffic concentrated. It began with the search engines, who then adopted Wikipedia as their way to provide an answer for any question. The normie audience ate it up and used it because it was convenient. Then came social media.

At this point, most people spend their internet time on one of a dozen big sites, and they see the corporate advertising there, especially video. However, this has not been working. Over the last fifteen years, advertising revenue per impression has steadily ticked downward, requiring more impressions to have the same effect.

Social media discovered mostly by accident that it could use algorithms to lure in people for more and more content, giving birth to “Fear Of Missing Out” (FOMO). That, too, had a limited lifespan as people began to move on to newer social media sites and ignore the daily dose of whatever propaganda was required.

Even more ominously, a lot of people began to tune out. Some just cut the cord from television and kept moving on, but anecdotally, a lot more just recognized that the internet had become what daytime television was in the 1980s, and social media an addictive bother.

No one really made this connection, but social media had become the infomercial of a new era. User-driven content mostly focused on big name products, large-scale entertainment, media stories, and trends. This meant that users discussed what would normally be advertised alongside the advertisements for the same products.

The downside of infomercials however is that they have a limited lifespan as an obsession. Once everyone had a computer, everyone had to have a mobile device, but after that point, the fascination began to fade. Big Tech made its money from repackaging 1990s technologies and offered nothing really new during this time.

At this point, social media has become another jobs program for people who need to be distracted with promises of greatness in order to keep them occupied. The new highly-desired career is in fact a large distraction to keep “educated” normies busy while life passes by outside their windows:

Google managers may not be mean, but they have—by Gordon’s definition—become fat. In the early days of the company, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin thought that middle managers were a layer of bureaucracy that obstructed engineers from doing good work, so they kept the number of managers to a minimum—and even experimented with eliminating them altogether. In 2009, they funded a multiyear research initiative called Project Oxygen to test whether managers mattered (the results indicated that, yes, apparently, they did). But while the project gave Google the data to justify the role of management, the ensuing lack of scrutiny over the role has resulted in bloat. Today, about 15 percent of Google’s workforce is made up of middle managers, roughly one manager for every five to six employees, far surpassing the average manager to employee ratio in the service sector of one to fifteen. Where it was possible for a hundred engineers to report to a single manager in the aughts, most engineers are now placed on teams of no more than a dozen, frequently less.

The goal for managers, though, is to grow their teams as much and as quickly as possible since the number of people who report to them functions as a measure of their own “productivity.” One Googler told me that management is “incentivized to grow their own team blindly, like a cancer cell.” To demonstrate their own managerial prowess, they must sell the illusion that whatever it is their team is doing is good for business and users, even if it clearly isn’t. In the absence of concrete metrics to evaluate a team’s productivity, headcount becomes a key, if wildly inaccurate, metric. As a result, management is forced into a vicious cycle of upselling their team’s importance in order to be allocated a higher headcount, meaning they then have to come up with new projects to justify the new headcount. The more workers there are, the more important the work must be, and the more important the work is, the more people must work on it.

Fat industries of this sort are a step away from cash cows. They provide a service that lots of people need, but it requires very little to make it happen, and is never going to be high-margin again because now it is old technology. Everything Google did over the past fifteen years has turned into a gross failure.

Were people at Google thinking clearly, they would cut down to a few thousand engineers who would keep the systems going and forget about the advanced projects that keep dying. However, that would pierce the veil and wreck the mythos of Silicon Valley as some otherworldly savior of technocracy that will keep our economy afloat.

Forget not that in the late 1990s it was considered “wisdom” among the “educated” that we were now a service economy. That is, we no longer produced things; we resold products using the power of our analysis and advertising, and we were all creatives now. It was some kind of Utopian vision out of the 1960s.

What this really meant was that the third world provided labor and a dumping ground for our techno-trash so we could focus on swanning around office jobs pretending we were important for generating new “products” that repackaged old ideas as something trendy. We could all be bigshots like the Big Tech superstars.

It turns out that the business model was dead on arrival and everyone knows the illusion is going to burst at some point, so people are just cashing in. Careerism has replaced a desire to do much of anything. The new American dream may be to get a job at Google so that you can do nothing and be paid well for it.

None dare call it the rent-seeker economy, but when you raise costs through taxes, lawsuits, affirmative action, unions, regulations, and public relations demands, the only way a company can stay in business is to be too big to fall out of business. They bloat up, jack up their share prices, and everyone is happy.

In a rent-seeking economy, people seek to avoid controversy so that they can shill their stuff and get their “share” of the pie, a concept similar to Communism that is similarly based in me-first individualism by groups that want to be subsidized by the civilization around them; it is the ultimate evolution of the bourgeois mentality.

This means that no one is striving for anything anymore; they simply want to be part of the system, avoid controvery, and take a paycheck for following procedures they were taught in education whether the situation warrants them or not:

Lauren Tousignant, Jezebel’s interim editor in chief, told 404 Media that Jezebel was told “brand safety,” the fact that advertisers don’t want to be next to the type of content Jezebel was publishing, was “one of the biggest factors” that led G/O to stop publishing the site and lay off its staff. Tousignant said that a couple of weeks ago, the ads sales team asked if it could remove Jezebel’s tagline—“Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth”—from the site.

In theory, the “free market” should reward publications that are doing important work. The more people care about a given issue the more they’ll read news stories about it, which should give publications covering it traffic and ad dollars. In reality, the advertising industry has singled out the issues the audience cares about most, like reproductive rights, as unsuitable to sell ads against, even though a ton of people want to read about them. This helps explain the precarity of publications like Jezebel, despite it being more vital to its audience than ever.

“The closure of Jezebel also underscores fundamental flaws in the ad-supported media model where concerns about ‘brand safety’ limit monetizing content about the biggest, most important stories of the day—stories that create huge traffic because people read and share them,” Jezebel staff said in a statement from its union, the Writers Guild of America. “A well-run company would have moved away from an advertising model, but instead they are shuttering the brand entirely because of their strategic and commercial ineptitude. Jezebel was a good website.”

Businesses thrive when the goal is to open up new spaces with useful products or services. Once those products or services become older, however, the big margins go away along with the hope of being significant. This means that they cluster people who have given up on life and just want to live without risk.

“Life without risk” is usually known as “death,” but you cannot tell that to an arrogant human, so instead you get the living death once associated with the suburbs but now properly linked to big liberal cities. Everyone is important, which means no one is, and there is no goal except endless advancement of “progress.”

Although the origins of this begin in liberalism, the core tenet of liberalism is egalitarianism, which means taking from the strong to give to the weak; liberalism has an inherent bias in favor of the underdog. Whoever portrays themselves as a victim wins points, which makes the society oddly conservative in avoiding controversy while expanding propaganda.

Now we turn again to the service economy. What is this, but the end stage of a once-prosperous society? There are no new inventions; the people that made them got replaced by nepotism and affirmative action. There are no new ideas; those are controversial.

All that remains is rent-seeking, and not surprisingly, this pushes people toward socialism, usually through the gateway of unions which are by definition rent-seeking enterprises:

Seventy-one percent of Americans now approve of labor unions. Although statistically similar to last year’s 68%, it is up from 64% before the pandemic and is the highest Gallup has recorded on this measure since 1965.

The American Dream died; they taxed it, regulated it, and red taped it to death, then followed it with diversity that turned it into a jobs program for the incapable. Silicon Valley was just the vanguard of the American Dream, not our new best hope, but a Hail Mary for something that could keep the whole system together long enough for us to retire.

Instead we face a new reality where very little is actually produced and almost all jobs consist of going through the motions so that it can be claimed procedure was followed if anything goes wrong, allowed them to scapegoat someone else for the blame. Everyone has job security that way.

Ironically, this socialist nightmare began with Keynesian socialism, or the idea that we could fund a welfare state with the free market and still be productive. The ongoing collapse of Big Tech shows that that not only is an illusion, but always was an illusion, because it brought us to this sorry state in under a century.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Share on FacebookShare on RedditTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn