This story on the 20 U.S. cities abjectly prostrating themselves as they bid for Amazon’s HQ2 is yet another leading indicator supporting the theory that technology companies have so much potential power in the sheer size of the pile of money they control that, in the not-too-distant future, they will become city-states in their own right. Amazon correctly estimates that it is more powerful than 20 major metro areas combined.
In effect, Amazon can buy and help itself to a city, like Kublai Khan did upon finding Dadu (Beijing) to his liking.
After all, the founder of Oracle, Larry Ellison, already owns a fair-sized island in Hawai’i. The state police garrisoned there are required to follow a highly detailed code of conduct, and enforcement is rapid and fierce. The tourists may find it off-putting, but, hey, that’s what happens when arbitrary people run private territories. They make up their own rules.
Tech titans — particularly founders — have such enormous egos that they see nothing wrong with that. They long ago convinced themselves that they are the most enlightened people in the world, and in their distorted view allow themselves any transgression. Apple has practically declared itself a religion.
If the ragtag Democratic People’s Republic of Korea can build nuclear weapons, what’s to stop Apple, Google, or Amazon? It’s probably easier than running AWS or developing an iPhone.
After relocating the headquarters to Guyana, Paraguay, or whatever locality over which the city-state assumes control after bailing it out, the acquisition of nuclear weapons is really just a next step. One might wonder whether having mountains of cash is really enough to take over a major piece of geography without something like a good military strategy to go along with it, but Paraguay already has police, and they need paychecks, too. The specialists in your private force can work with them.
It’s not that hard to imagine.
We have gated communities. Why not gated countries? No concrete walls for the city-state, just the latest in modern surveillance technology with manpower applied in the most intelligent way. Drones keep an eye on everything, reducing the need for a huge police force.
In Applithuania, every citizen gets the latest iPhone. The phone serves as the citizen’s ID card and handy tracking device. All payments are done by phone, no pesky Visa or MasterCard taking a cut out of the middle. A pleasant side effect of this felicitous system is complete control over monetary policy, since there is no cash. If Applithuania wants to exert its muscular foreign policy, it can embargo iPhones. So, the United States isn’t allowed to import any unless it plays ball on other matters.
Citizens in Googlatvia get free health care because the state keeps all the records and mines all the data. For enforcement, Googlatvia can embargo search. Blocking search from the United States would be more powerful than a nuclear arsenal, especially for Generation I or whatever they call the latest crop of electronic addicts.
Also: you won’t be driving your own car. Only self-driving vehicles allowed. Manual cars will all be exported. If need be, Proles can ride buses the way they do in Silicon Valley.
In Facebookhazakstan, it’ll be Black Mirror, where social ranking evolves into a “citizen score” used to gate access to everything. You need enough likes to rent a particular apartment. If you’ve only got a 4.65 and they rent to 4.7+s, you’re out of luck.
So, get ready, folks. This is the pivot from Trumpism. As the United States cedes technology leadership to other countries, things will start to fall apart, and the big tech firms will head for the exits to form private political entities.
It’ll be a whole new world.