Saturday, December 28, 2019

"Is It Too Late to Stop Amazon?" (AMZN)
"No Mr. Bond, I expect you to buy"

From Gizmodo, December 18:
The brain-splitting moment happened about a week ago. A video (watermarked with the logo of a camera from Ring, an Amazon company) showing a man delivering an Amazon package, finding a box of snacks on a porch, then dancing went viral. My mind failed to find joy in the moment.

Think of the moving parts. There’s a hungry and dehydrated Amazon employee—or, more likely, an Amazon contractor—finding a slight reprieve from his grueling job only to see that moment turned into some weird viral ad. There’s a Ring security camera, made by Amazon, watching what this Amazon employee or anyone else in the neighborhood is doing and potentially sharing that video feed with the local police department. There’s the knowledge that Amazon and Ring have used police partnerships to bait potential package thieves in what could be described as a marketing campaign for a privately run state-sponsored surveillance effort. 

Ten years ago, this situation would have sounded perverse to me. Although Amazon was a much smaller company back then, you might argue that 2010 was a powder keg moment for Amazon. Sales were up 40 percent year-over-year. The company launched Amazon Studios. Amazon’s stock price was about to skyrocket. In fact, if you’d invested in Amazon a decade ago, you’d be looking at a total return of 1,232 percent in December 2019.

Those milestones might only look extraordinary in retrospect, however, knowing that Amazon has become much more than a successful business. The rest of Amazon’s decade was one big hit, one big acquisition, one big record after another. As the next decade arrives, it’s obvious that Amazon founder and chief Jeff Bezos has built some sort of grotesque post-capitalistic empire that makes Standard Oil look like a local firewood stand. Not only does Amazon dictate the future of retail in the United States and around the world; its sprawling cloud computing business all but ensures that, on any given day, you can’t use the internet without putting a penny in Bezos’s bank account.

What’s one to do when staring into the depths of dystopia? In this particular instance, maybe stop buying shit on Amazon. (There’s nothing like a good old fashioned boycott to take on our 21st-century tycoons.) But pushing back against the empire Bezos built is not as simple as no longer shopping at this everything store. I’m afraid it might already be too late to stop Amazon.

Think about your life at the end of the last decade. Think about how you bought stuff and survived. Chances are, when you bought stuff on Amazon, you paid for shipping and waited and ultimately wondered if maybe going to the store would have been more convenient. Chances are you couldn’t imagine that Amazon would have microphones installed in scores of millions of homes in the near future or that Amazon Prime would be a ticket to cheaper groceries at Whole Foods. Chances are you didn’t worry about Amazon building a privately owned surveillance state....