Bethany McLean’s Weekend Reading List: Google’s Secrets, Banking, and Boeing

Corruption, lobbying, corporate malfeasance, and frauds: a weekly unconventional selection of must-read articles by investigative journalist Bethany McLean. 

 

I think I’ve been reading too many of my ten-year-old daughter’s dystopian fantasy novels, because dystopia is starting to feel like not so much of a fantasy.

 

This Wall Street Journal investigation into Google is everything we feared. Here’s the key line: “Far from being autonomous computer programs oblivious to outside pressure, Google’s algorithms are subject to regular tinkering from executives and engineers who are trying to deliver relevant search results, while also pleasing a wide variety of powerful interests and driving its parent company’s more than $30 billion in annual profit.”

 

A Google spokesperson disputed the piece (of course), but what worries me the most is what this might portend for the future. Will our children’s children live in a world where the only reality is the reality reflected by Google? Will the concept of “fake news” come to seem quaint in a future where the information you get is dictated by which corporation (or government) pays Google the most? 

 

 

My second selection is this Wired piece which could have been a glowing look at new banking services. Hint: It isn’t! Instead, the piece highlights the underlying reality, which is that we’re increasingly reliant on services that pretend to help us with our fragile bottom lines. Does less predatory than a payday lender mean not predatory? (Thanks to my friend Ken S. for sharing this.)

 

 

 

Lastly, Boeing. Do we need any more evidence that short-termism in business literally kills? 

 

 

The ProMarket blog is dedicated to discussing how competition tends to be subverted by special interests. The posts represent the opinions of their writers, not necessarily those of the University of Chicago, the Booth School of Business, or its faculty. For more information, please visit ProMarket Blog Policy.