The Epochal Question

Do digital commerce platforms provide wealth to the many or only the few?

This guest article was written by William Laraque who is the Managing Director of US-International Trade Services

“When you point your finger at the moon, the fool sees your finger, the wise man sees the moon.” ~ Mao Tse Tung 

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E-commerce platform providers like Alibaba (owned by SoftBank),  Amazon and INFOR claim to provide a democratic opportunity for SMEs and entrepreneurs to engage in global trade. This, it is avowed, provides everyone with both the opportunity for wealth and wealth itself.

If instead, digital commerce serves to concentrate wealth in a few fintech entrepreneurs, the owners of the platforms, then we have oligarchy, plutocracy and digital mercantilism, not democracy. This is my great fear and that of Stephen Hawking.

According to Hawking:

“The concerns underlying these votes (Brexit and Trump) about the economic consequences of globalisation and accelerating technological change are absolutely understandable. The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.

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This in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world. The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive.”

Masayoshi Son of SoftBank just went to see Donald Trump, the president-elect of the US; the Koch Brothers are investing $2 billion in INFOR. INFOR-ION uses AWS (Amazon Web Services).

They both compete with Amazon in providing platforms whereby enterprises can engage in global trade.

Ultimately does this provide wealth to the many or only the few? Do digital commerce platforms lead to the employment of millions or do they represent the ultimate concentration of wealth via fintech, putting millions out of work? This is the epochal question.

Stephen Hawking is saying that we can’t screw this up as we continue to destroy the planet we inhabit because we can’t all colonize Mars.

President-elect Donald Trump is holding a technology conference soon. Can you see the moon?

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