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Technology for Me, Not for Thee

Technological change will always be deeply disruptive and generate new winners and losers. It is ironic, but hardly surprising, that the new narrative of techno-pessimism is being promoted most loudly by those at the forefront of yesterday’s innovations.

PRINCETON – Capitalism relies on competition. In practice, however, this core principle is often violated, because ambitious capitalists will naturally seek to eliminate competition and secure a commanding market position from which they can keep new would-be competitors at bay. Success, in this respect, can make you rich and establish your status as a visionary; but it can also make you feared and hated.

Hence, China – arguably one of the most successful market economies of the twenty-first century – has been waging war against its own tech giants, most notably by “disappearing” Alibaba Group co-founder Jack Ma from the public stage after he criticized Chinese financial regulators. At the same time, the Europeans, deeply worried that they lack a Big Tech sector of their own, have focused on enforcing competition (antitrust) policies to limit the power of giants like Google and Apple. And in the United States, Big Tech’s political allegiances (to both the “woke” left and the “red-pilled” right) have become focal points in the country’s corrosive culture wars.

It is only natural to worry about the market power and political influence of such massive – and massively important – corporations. These are companies that can single-handedly decide the fate of many small and even medium-size countries. Much of the debate about corporate influence is rather academic. But not so in Ukraine, where private-sector technology has played a decisive role on the battlefield over the past year.