Bent on dominating our markets as well as the world, the four corporations have lulled us into a sense of pliant dependency as they influence our thinking and activities.
Silicon Valley’s achievements are typically viewed through the lens of innovations that have transformed modern life. We can go back a few decades and look to Intel’s development of the integrated circuit, for instance, or Apple’s reimagining of the personal computer. More recent are planet-spanning websites, such as Facebook; search engines that resemble magic mirrors, such as Google’s; and bazaars without end, such as Amazon’s. Many of us over 35 see this as a mixed blessing, of course: Access to wondrous technological tools has also brought us too much email, too many distractions and too much vulnerability — hackings, trollings, stalkings and worse. But what if the trade-offs are much larger than we realized? In the midst of our digital lives, Franklin Foer argues, doesn’t it seem possible that Silicon Valley’s darkest, stealthiest triumph has been to merge personal technologies that improve our efficiency with personal technologies that alter our humanity?