In 2013, The Economist columnist Adrian Wooldridge – now editor of the weekly – predicted that tech moguls would be as hated as bankers and oilmen. They would go from being seen as geeks who got rich, to being rich who happened to be geeks.
During the demonstrations in the wake of the 2009 economic crisis, the Occupy Wall Street protesters were lenient with the Silicon Valley millionaires. However, they have become part of public hatred in most recent years.
Seven years ago, the current editor-in-chief of The Economist described the breeding ground for this change of mind. The CEOs of the main technology companies had successfully protected themselves from both the tax authorities and their shareholders, having a large percentage within their company’s shares.
Likewise, these geeks behaved as the most aggressive capitalists, forming oligopolies in sectors such as smartphone operating systems (dominated by Google and Apple), or reducing all kinds of expenses as much as possible, with reduced workforces and hiring their manufacturing by outsourcing.
“The tech tycoons have displayed a banker-like enthusiasm for hoovering up public subsidies and then avoiding taxes.”A. Wooldridge, The Economist
In that year, tech millionaires began to buy media and spend on lobbying in Washington. At present, they have almost complete control of the information that circulates on social networks, with the ability to prevent certain news from going viral, and their lobbying spending amounts to 54 billion dollars while the United States government begins to investigate them for monopolistic practices.
This makeover was called “techlash.” Wooldridge foresaw that in 2014 the public would begin to demand the little that these millionaires give back to society and would rebel against them.
This debacle did not happen, but concerns about privacy and its economic power are on the rise. And while tech giants still have a good reputation, people are increasingly concerned about their control, which can lead to changes in legislation that limit their influence, as suggested by the results of a survey conducted by the Brunswick Group.
While 65% of those surveyed by Brunswick in Europe and the United States believe that technology companies have acted in good ugliness during the pandemic, three out of four of those surveyed believe that governments should regulate these companies more actively.
Large technology firms have been the main beneficiaries during the pandemic and this trend may continue in the coming months. Paradoxically, this success may be your downfall in the near future.