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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Google and Amazon Make Us Worse People

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logos or names of Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft

Everyone knows that five tech giants — Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook — control vast swaths of the Internet, directly or indirectly. Amazon alone, for instance, facilitates nearly 40% of online commerce in the U.S. and holds a whopping 23 million IP addresses thanks to its subsidiary Amazon Web Services.

That online control has ramifications. These massive companies might actually be making us worse people. They're narrowing our choices online, intentionally corralling us toward behavior that benefits them. Rather than outright coercing us, though, these companies use a handful of key motivators to condition us to behave in certain ways. But that conditioning has an unexpected outcome: As we practice decision-making driven more by impulse and economic self-interest than by any more deeply held values, we erode our conscience over time. In short, we're becoming worse human beings.

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