The Book Summary of The Four by Scott Galloway

“The Four” by Scott Galloway dissects the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google in today’s tech landscape. Galloway argues that their success has adverse effects on our society, from privacy concerns to the functioning of our democracy. Our guide explores this impact, divided into five key sections:

  1. The Four’s Triumph: Examining the astounding success of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.
  2. Detrimental Effects on Society: Investigating the negative consequences of their power.
  3. Taming Their Influence: Strategies to limit the immense power of these tech giants.
  4. The Next Tech Titan: Who might emerge as the next big player in the tech world?
  5. Thriving in the Competitive Landscape: Strategies for navigating the competitive economy shaped by the Four.

Throughout this guide, we compare Galloway’s insights with those of other experts in the field, offer contextual background, and provide updated data since the book’s original publication in 2017.

Decoding the Success of the Four Tech Giants

In this first section, we delve into the extraordinary accomplishments of the tech giants collectively known as “the Four”: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Their size and influence are colossal, reaching every corner of American life. As of 2018, these behemoths held the top spots among American companies by market capitalization, with Apple leading the pack. Their impact on our daily existence is undeniable, from Amazon’s convenience to Apple’s allure, Facebook’s connection, and Google’s encyclopedic knowledge.

Galloway proposes that their triumph stems from a simple, compelling vision that attracts significant capital investment. Amazon’s audacious vision as “Earth’s Biggest Store” garnered immense investor backing, enabling rapid growth. The Four’s business narratives influenced stock market valuation and fueled their expansion. In Amazon’s case, this led to calculated risk-taking and rapid scaling without immediate profitability.

But there’s more to their success; they cater to fundamental human desires. Amazon appeals to our ancient inclination to accumulate goods, tied to our survival instincts from a time when hoarding ensured survival. Apple taps into the desire to procreate, where owning their products signifies exclusivity, wealth, and attractiveness. Facebook nurtures our deep-seated need for love and relationships by connecting us with friends and family across distances. Google acts as a modern deity, trusted with our most profound queries and serving as a constant presence in our lives.

Yet, while these companies continue to thrive, it’s essential to consider the broader impact and underlying dynamics of their success. Their size and influence, while impressive, also raise questions about competition, privacy, and market dynamics.

The Four’s Detrimental Effects on Society

In this section, we explore the adverse impacts of the Four tech giants on society, highlighting how their incredible success has often come at a significant cost. Galloway outlines five key areas where these companies have negatively affected society:

1. Job Destruction: Despite providing many conveniences, the Four destroy more jobs than they create. Amazon’s emphasis on automation and the advertising capabilities of Facebook and Google eliminate jobs in their workplaces and their competitors’.

2. Prioritizing Profit Over Privacy, National Security, and Democracy: The Four prioritize profit over values like privacy, national security, and democracy. They infringe on users’ privacy, endanger national security (as exemplified by Apple’s stance on the San Bernardino case), and contribute to the spread of fake news that undermines democracy.

3. Tax Avoidance: These companies actively avoid paying taxes by exploiting complex tax codes and legal loopholes. This results in them paying significantly less in taxes than other corporations.

4. Elimination of Competition: The Four use their size and power to eliminate competition by acquiring competitors, forcing competitors out of business, and engaging in practices like predatory pricing. They also break promises, borrow ideas, and, in some cases, steal intellectual property.

5. Contributing to the Decline of the Middle Class: The tech giants concentrate wealth in a select group of workers and investors, leaving behind a significant portion of the population. This wealth concentration contributes to the erosion of the middle class.

These negative impacts shed light on the complexities of the Four’s dominance and their implications for society at large.

In Part 3 of the book, Scott Galloway emphasizes the need to curb the outsized power of tech giants, often referred to as “the Four” – Amazon, Apple, Facebook (now Meta), and Google. He argues that their unchecked dominance has negative consequences for the economy, such as job destruction, tax avoidance, privacy concerns, and national security issues. To address this, Galloway suggests treating these companies like monopolies and breaking them up through antitrust lawsuits. By doing so, smaller companies could have a fair chance to compete. He uses the example of the antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft in 1998, which led to increased competition and the entry of companies like Google into the market.

Since the book’s publication, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, aiming to break up the company by forcing it to divest acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp. Additionally, new legislation called the American Innovation and Choice Act has been introduced to regulate Big Tech, preventing preferential treatment of their products and services over competitors’.

In Part 4, Galloway discusses the characteristics necessary for a company to become the next trillion-dollar tech giant. These include having a unique product, the ability to attract capital, global reach, likability, vertical integration, the use of artificial intelligence (AI), offering career opportunities, and proximity to a top university. Galloway also explores potential candidates for the next tech giant, including Alibaba, Tesla, Airbnb, and Microsoft, considering their strengths and weaknesses.

It’s worth noting that the tech industry is evolving, and while some factors identified by Galloway remain relevant, there are differing opinions on what it takes to become the next tech giant. Factors such as social responsibility, empathy, and compliance with regulations are becoming increasingly important in this changing landscape. Vertical integration’s importance may vary depending on industry dynamics. Finally, the ability to harness AI and expand globally remains critical.

In Part 5, Galloway explores how the tech giants, often referred to as “the Four,” have transformed the job market and created a highly competitive environment. He suggests that to succeed in this new digital world, individuals need to possess specific personal qualities and take strategic actions.

Developing Personal Qualities for Career Success:

  1. Emotional Maturity: The ability to appropriately express and control emotions is crucial in the constantly changing digital age.
  2. Curiosity: Embracing change and proactively seeking new ideas and solutions is essential in a rapidly evolving tech landscape.
  3. Ownership: Taking ultimate responsibility for your work projects, demonstrating psychological ownership.
  4. Grit: Perseverance and resilience are necessary to compete in the competitive digital economy.

Landing a Great Career:

  1. Higher Education: Galloway advocates attending college, emphasizing that graduates typically earn significantly more over their lifetimes than those with only a high school diploma. He suggests aiming for prestigious colleges to open more doors.
  2. Urban Relocation: Moving to cities, where a significant portion of the global GDP is generated and tech companies are located, can provide career opportunities.
  3. Talent-Focused: Rather than blindly following passion, Galloway advises identifying your talents and becoming excellent at them.
  4. Corporate Opportunities: While creative careers are appealing, Galloway notes that corporate jobs often offer higher pay and stability.
  5. Career Trajectory: Consider job opportunities based on potential for advancement.
  6. Equity Negotiation: When negotiating compensation, seek equity shares in your employer.
  7. Entrepreneurship: If being an employee doesn’t align with your goals, consider entrepreneurship.

Career Success Definitions: Galloway’s advice primarily caters to individuals seeking high-paying, prestigious positions. However, career success can be defined differently by others, focusing on fulfillment, work-life balance, or living in line with core values.

Diverse Career Paths: The strategies Galloway suggests are not one-size-fits-all. Depending on your definition of success, you may choose different paths, such as developing career capital, balancing employment and entrepreneurship, or prioritizing relationship-building.

Advancing in Your Career: To advance further in your career, Galloway provides the following recommendations:

  • Work Ethic: Prioritize hard work and efficiency, particularly during the early years of your career.
  • Self-Promotion: Publicize your achievements within your company and on social media to avoid going unrecognized.
  • Seek and Provide Help: Collaborate with both senior and junior colleagues.
  • Loyalty to People: Build and maintain strong relationships with individuals, as companies are not inherently loyal.
  • Physical Fitness: Regular exercise can enhance mental acuity.
  • Measured Success and Failure: Accept both success and failure, learning from each experience.
  • Serial Monogamy: Dedicate several years to an employer, absorb knowledge, and consider other opportunities. When you receive an external job offer, allow your current employer to make a counteroffer.

It’s important to note that while Galloway’s advice emphasizes competition, experts stress the significance of soft skills, trust-building, and teamwork in career advancement. Building trusting relationships with colleagues and bosses fosters innovation, collaboration, and efficiency.