Strongly Emergent

What comes from combining humans, computers, and narrative

Turning Into Microsoft on Net Neutrality

So the Internet is abuzz with the news that Google has decided that the famous “Don’t be evil” motto doesn’t apply to Net Neutrality, a reversal of their previous position. To me, this is moderately surprising, but only moderately. I take it as more evidence that they’re turning into Microsoft. They probably don’t like to think that about themselves, and clearly don’t like to hear it, but I think that it’s pretty easy to see that that’s happening.

Growth isn’t always good for companies: Google is, I think, still struggling with the challenges of being enormous. With one failed product after another, they’re acting startup-ish - but they’re not getting the full benefit of those mistakes the way a startup-sized company would. They’re flailing. I expect that they’ll stabilize - but the alliance with Darth Verizon makes it pretty clear that they’re not going to create a new way of being a big company. The most likely thing is that they’re going to be just as evil as every other company their size.

What’s much more interesting to me is the form of the agreement. It’s another step towards the equivalency of governments and corporations - it’s an American commonplace that corporations de facto write legislation to favor themselves, but rarely is it practiced as openly as Verizon and Google are now doing. It interests me because it makes me think of the Declaration of Independence: “[G]overnments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. [When] any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.” As a private citizen and a single human being of extremely modest means, it’s extraordinarily difficult for me to meaningfully withdraw my consent to be governed. There are lots of guys with guns that can come to me and say “you’re gonna be governed whether you like it or not.” But Google and Verizon here are making themselves part of a trend of corporations who refuse to be governed, and are getting away with it - they are actively participating in the writing of the rules that will govern them. Individual citizens have nothing like that level of autonomy.

Politics isn’t the point of this blog, so I’ll just say that when corporations have walked further down this road, compatibility issues will probably be even more of a headache than they are already - I don’t envy the people whose job is is now or will be in the future to make one government’s systems talk to another’s.