U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s ambitious plan to regulate Facebook, Google and Amazon as utilities and roll back some of their biggest acquisitions, is a giant stake in the ground for the 2020 presidential campaign — but is it realistic? Would it really have the desired impact on competition and consumers?
We dive into those questions on this episode of the GeekWire Podcast, and in short, our answer to both is no. The fundamental problem: technology moves faster than the regulatory process, and by the time these protections would be put in place, many of these challenges will have evolved to the point that the solutions may not apply.
“I don’t even know if Facebook is going to be around in 10 years,” GeekWire co-founder John Cook says on the show. “They are suffering that many problems right now.”
However, this is just the latest sign that the tech industry’s power in the country and influence on our lives will be an even bigger issue in the 2020 campaign than it has in the past.
“We’re going to hear about this for the next few years as we go into the heavy duty presidential cycle,” he says. “This is going to be the key issue. Maybe not this specifically on the breaking up of tech, but socialism versus capitalism is the battle line being drawn here.”
Warren didn’t target Microsoft for breakup but singled out the company in an unexpected way, pointing to positive benefits from the antitrust case against Microsoft and throwing shade on its search engine with this line: “Aren’t we all glad that now we have the option of using Google instead of being stuck with Bing?”
Attention-getting barbs aside, the fact that Microsoft is sidestepping this type of scrutiny these days is just one of the advantages the company enjoys because of its efforts to take the high moral ground on a variety of issues in society and technology. Reporter Lisa Stiffler explored that topic in an in-depth story on GeekWire this week: From ‘evil empire’ to model citizen? How Microsoft’s good deeds work to its competitive advantage.
In the second segment, I challenge John (and the rest of you) to distinguish between a human narrator and an synthesized voice reading the same passage. The new AI technology was developed by a Seattle startup called WellSaid Labs, which was spun out this week from the incubator program at Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.
And in the final segment, listen for a report from the scene of this week’s GeekWire Bash in Seattle, in the aftermath of a particularly epic ping-pong match.