Another week, another congressional hearing that puts the incompetence of congressional leaders on full display. This time it was Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai taking the heat.
Congressman Smith: To my knowledge, you have never sanctioned any employee for any type of manipulating the search results whatsoever. Is that the case?
Pichai: It’s not possible for an individual employee to manipulate the search results. We have a robust framework including many steps in the process.
Congressman Smith: I disagree. I think they can manipulate the process.
Or how about this one.
Congressman King: I have a seven-year-old granddaughter who picked up her phone during the election, and she’s playing a little game, the kind of game a kid would play. And up on there pops a picture of her grandfather. And I’m not going to say into the record what kind of language was used around that picture of her grandfather, but I’d ask you: how does that show up on a seven-year-old’s iPhone, who’s playing a kid’s game?”
Pichai: Congressman, the iPhone is made by a different company.
Don’t these elected officials have aids or staffers that are screening their questions and prepping them for these sessions? Perhaps not.
So I’m poking the bear a bit, but that’s not to say that this is not a serious topic. I’d say that the dominance of the big consumer technology companies is problematic in more ways than one.
First, it seems that government oversight and regulation is basically a non-issue for them. Our consumer welfare-centric antirust approach leaves them immune to any real antitrust action. You might even say that consumers benefit greatly by taking advantage of often free and incredibly useful products and services.
Second, innovation in consumer tech seems to be stagnating. Investors seem wary to invest in what has become known as “kill zones” (markets adjacent to those dominated by the big tech companies) and enterprise tech firms seem to dominate IPO headlines.
So it seems difficult to conceptualize what might unseat the tech giants and what might be the next big thing in consumer internet. But it was probably equally difficult to conceptualize what might unseat Microsoft and IBM in their heydays.