Do Tech Slogans Really ‘Make the World a Better Place’?

The simple deception of Big Tech’s aspirations

Maria Farrell
OneZero
Published in
7 min readDec 4, 2018

--

Photo by Josh Couch

Bringing people together.

Changing the world.

Making the world a better place.

There’s a reason so many tech company slogans sound similar. It’s not just that they’re all trying to do the same thing — commodify human experience, sell it back to us, and pipe the tax-free profits offshore. It’s that the smooth straplines all work so hard to draw our attention away from that. But Big Tech’s cheery slogans reveal more than they mean to.

It’s late 2018. We’ve all reread our Hannah Arendt. We know organizations with totalizing worldviews love slogans that contain their own opposites. It’s all part of the wacky hall of disinformation mirrors we live in now, laughing knowingly at our own manipulation. So, sure, work will set you free. (And “never again” will we use corporate data-gathering to help states fatally abuse their power. Except we already are.) The world’s information can and should be “organized.” Go ahead and “broadcast yourself”; it’s not like we need reporters or actual facts. And just because its mission to “bring the world closer together” helps drive inequality and extremism, why panic at the chilling claim on Facebook’s office posters that “this journey is 1% finished”?

The best corporate slogans are aspirational but also express something of the firm’s basic identity. Sometimes they’re a simple riposte, a punchline we remember long after the setup’s been forgotten. Apple’s 1997 “think different” was partly a response to IBM’s “think (itself a distant descendant of Descarte’s “I think, therefore I am”). “Think different” set out Apple’s stall as the computer for creatives and educators, tapping their instinctive feeling that they were not the corporate peons of the IBM borg. The slogan was rolled out the year Steve Jobs was reinstated as CEO and relaunched Apple by reverting to its original outsider identity. (While the slogan has long since been retired, Tim Cook recently referenced Apple’s almost genetic distrust of authority in his speech to European data regulators, implying he’s on the side of people in a way Google and Facebook are not.)

--

--

Maria Farrell
OneZero

Irish writer based in London. Tech policy, possible futures, politics. @mariafarrell http://www.crookedtimber.org