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Checks and balances on innovations: A tug between corporates and the governments

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In the 2010 American biographical drama The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg, portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, is in a deposition surrounded by lawyers. When the opponent’s lawyer asks, ‘Mr.Zuckerberg, do I have your full attention?’

He replies:

If your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have a right to give it a try. You have part of my attention. You have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things no one in this room, especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.’

Even though it is a fictional movie based on actual events, you could sense a chill up your spine in this scene.

In a way, it is not far from the truth. Corporates like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple are constantly creating and developing pathbreaking technologies that would come to the market by the next decade. Some of them we cannot even imagine in our wildest dreams.

For instance, let’s talk about the recent Google I/O keynote. Even though the Google Assistant feature has been with us for years, they’re further developing advanced features into it.

LaMDALanguage Model for Dialogue Applications for a deeper understanding of natural languages. The example conversation with pluto is impressive and terrifying at the same time.

The technological platforms which are designed to bring people together are already tearing them apart. It is taking a toll on the psyche of its users.

We’re universally connected, but the divisions among ourselves, too, are increasing exponentially. Would Mark Zuckerberg have ever imagined that the application he created would impact the elections, cause multiple scams, and a repository for fake news?

Listening to keynotes, reading the company’s marketing copy, scrolling through LinkedIn, you could see countless techies implying they’re trying hard to make the world a better place. They don’t just say it. They believe it. They honestly believe it.

BUT. Yes, the big BUT

They’ve tunnel visions.

All these corporates have gone bigger, and they’ve started monopolizing around their interests. They have gone cash-rich and began dictating terms on how they should be managed and how much tax they’d pay.

How does it make the world a better place?

It is not only about the tech companies. It applies to every corporates-mining, commercial fishing, oil, automobiles, electronics, sports, etc. They think Government’s regulation prevents them from achieving something great. They believe Government is outdated to oversee them.

Yes, it is true. Governments are outdated to supervise them. They don’t have the resources to monitor and analyze the present with what kind of impact it would make in the future.

But, a Government cannot afford to have a tunnel vision. They should think about the priorities of both Bill Gates and a fisherman fishing in the middle of the ocean with only his canoe. They should zoom out of a particular scenario to get an understanding of how it creates a universal impact.

Seaspiracy, a documentary I recently watched, introduced me to some new information.

I’ve always thought of Somalians as historical pirates. I learned it is not true.

They were fishermen before the corporate trawl fishing companies wiped their source of income.

Without any source of income and the civil war, they’ve become a pirate nation. Who is to be blamed here? The one who invented trawling nets? The Government representatives who allowed them? The employees working on the ships?

No one would take the blame, and they have multiple options to point their fingers at. Of course, the government didn’t have the forethought to analyze this situation and put a stop to it because the Government is also people. People who can be manipulated, threatened, bribed, or just replaced.

They don’t have the resources to overlook all such things happening around them, and the corporates take advantage of this situation. Even the Government think tanks are not equipped to have a visionary opinion.

That’s how the NGOs came into the scenario. It is a group of people advocating a cause and fighting against harmful advancements. Sadly, they are no longer virile.

NGOs depend upon donations to carry on the works. Take the United Nations, for instance. It is an organization formed to prevent another world war among many of its goals. But they depend upon the wealthy nation’s contributions to carry on its work. Governments do exploit this to arm-twist the UN. Former US President Mr.Trump threatened to pull out the USA’s contribution.

If the mighty United Nations cannot operate independently, how could simple NGO organizations can?

Those NGOs are used by corporates to distract people’s attention. In most NGOs, people who occupy the board seats are related to the corporates they’re fighting against.

There is an interesting example I could borrow from the Seaspiracy documentary.

Earth Research Institute is an organization responsible for certifying seafood companies that their tuna cans are ‘Dolphin safe.

What does it mean?

For catching tunas, the massive ships have to deploy nets. While doing so, they catch not only tuna but also other species. They sometimes catch endangered species too. To get the ‘Dolphin Safe’ label from the Earth Research Institute, the companies should catch only tunas. They should not kill any dolphins in the process.

In reality, that doesn’t happen.

The representatives of ERI don’t go on every fishing trip. They don’t have the human resources to cross-check it. So they trust the words of the fishing ship captains and the companies.

The tuna cans people buy because the label says it is ‘Dolphin Safe’ in reality is nothing but a scam. Earth Research Institute earns around 85% of its income/donation by giving out these labels to companies. The companies don’t adhere to the rules, yet they market the products ‘Dolphin Safe.’

This is the reality in many places. Corporates don’t have checks and balances in place. The Government doesn’t have the resources to monitor them.

Yet, a handful of people take it upon themselves to fight against these issues for the greater good of humanity. Even though the system is rigged and they don’t have a chance to change it.

This reminds me of a dialogue spoken by the lawyer character in the K-drama, Vincenzo.

Smart people may rule the world, but reckless and stubborn people like me protect this world.’

If we don’t stand by them, there won’t be anything left to protect.

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