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The Four

The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google

By Scott Galloway
16-minute read
Audio available
The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google by Scott Galloway

The Four (2017) examines the great superpowers of our digital age – Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google – and attempts to answer a few tough questions: How have these companies changed the world we live in and what is their formula for success? How can other companies rise to similar echelons of power? And what does it take to thrive in a world shaped by the Four?

  • Facebook and iPhone users
  • Anyone who regularly performs searches on Google, shops on Amazon, uses an Apple device or spends time on Facebook
  • Business enthusiasts and business analysts

Scott Galloway is a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, where he teaches brand strategy and digital marketing. Galloway is a serial entrepreneur who has founded nine firms, including L2, Red Envelope and Prophet. In 2012, he was listed among the website Poets & Quants’s 50 best business school professors.

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The Four

The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google

By Scott Galloway
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google by Scott Galloway
Synopsis

The Four (2017) examines the great superpowers of our digital age – Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google – and attempts to answer a few tough questions: How have these companies changed the world we live in and what is their formula for success? How can other companies rise to similar echelons of power? And what does it take to thrive in a world shaped by the Four?

Key idea 1 of 10

Four companies – Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google – pervade modern life, and their presence isn’t purely benevolent.

Every human has needs. And today, four companies – the author refers to them as the Four Horsemen – seek to satisfy them all.

Google has supplanted God. Instead of directing questions to an ever-silent deity on high, we now type them into Google’s search engine and receive answers instantaneously.

Facebook provides the love and connection that were once only to be found at home or among friends.

Apple shores up our sex appeal. The iPhone and the MacBook aren’t technically superior to other smartphones or laptops. But they’re undeniably sexier.

And Amazon, the temple of consumption, is there to bring us everything our heart may desire, be it fiction, food or fashion.

These Four Horsemen – god, love, sex and consumption – probably aren’t harbingers of a biblical apocalypse. But their ubiquity has certainly changed the world.

Today, it doesn’t matter whether you’re searching for a nail file or a novel – you’ll probably look for it on Amazon first. In the United States, Amazon is already the top choice for online purchases, and it’s swiftly moving into that position abroad as well.

And Apple isn’t only the producer of universally coveted mobile phones and computers; it’s also the most profitable company ever.

Meanwhile, 1.2 billion people visit their Facebook profile every day. In other words, Facebook has managed to congregate nearly one-sixth of the world population in the same digital space.

Finally, Google is a latter-day oracle, an ever-flowing fountain of knowledge. There’s no question we can’t ask it, and the answers come back at pace – in roughly 0.0000005 seconds, which is a lot faster than you’d get a response back in Delphi’s heyday.

There’s no doubt that the Four Horsemen have changed – many would say improved – our world, but they aren’t the benevolent knights people often imagine them to be.

Here’s the standard story: this quartet of companies has done a great deal of good, creating thousands of jobs, making a myriad of products easily accessible and providing services that improve our day-to-day lives. In other words, they’re making the world a better place.

But take a moment to look at the fine print.

Amazon, in addition to refusing to pay sales taxes, is renowned for mistreating its employees; in the wake of a domestic terrorist attack, Apple refused to follow court orders and provide information that could have been valuable to federal agents; Facebook takes our most personal information and sells it; and Google aggressively lobbies and litigates against regulation of its anticompetitive practices.

So let’s learn a bit more about these potentially dubious companies.

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