Jon Taplin, Author of ‘Move Fast and Break Things,’ Speaks at Malibu Library

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Jonathan Taplin, author of “Move Fast and Break Things”

The Malibu Democratic Club sponsored Jonathan Taplin as a guest speaker at the Malibu Library last Sunday, author of the critically acclaimed 2017 book “Move Fast and Break Things.” The talk, attended by about 30 local residents, was billed as a nonpartisan event open to the community—although liberal politics did take center stage in Taplin’s talk. 

Democratic Club President Jane Albrecht told TMT she first learned of Taplin and his ideas at a book event put on by USC’s Annenberg Media Lab a year ago. 

“It was so good that right then, I thought ‘I’ve got to get him out to Malibu,’” Albrecht said.

While “Move Fast and Break Things” focuses on how the Google, Facebook and Amazon monopolies affect the vast majority of musicians, composers, journalists, authors and filmmakers in the digital age, his lecture covered a much broader scope of economic issues, culture and politics needing reform in this country. 

Taplin said only one other period in American history experienced as many technological innovations in such a short period of time as today. From 1880 to 1906, when the airplane, car, telephone, electricity and photography all came on the scene, the changes forced a cultural reform led by President Theodore Roosevelt.

“The current situation we find ourselves in has been a 30-year process to protect capitalism from the government,” Taplin asserted. “The Koch brothers and other billionaires have taken the stand that the government should have no control over business.

“We have the most corrupt administration in the history of the country. [Head of the EPA Scott] Pruitt is completely eliminating environmental protections for the plutocrats,” Tapin said. “The top one percent holds more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, and became even wealthier after tax cuts under Bush and Trump.

“The technological world has become winner-take-all—Facebook, Google and Amazon are all monopolies. Amazon now has 78 percent of the U.S. book business. They all got rich by one of the greatest corporate welfare schemes ever,” Tapin lectured, describing how copyright laws and tax codes allowed the three advantages over more traditional companies.

“Tesla’s self-driving truck will be the norm in 10 years, and the five million people working in the trucking business will be out of luck,” he said. “And Artificial Intelligence (AI) will start creating job losses in 10 years in fields like radiology. The AI business is going faster than anyone realizes—pedal to the metal. Its processing power is doubling every three months. “

Tapin talked about the number of new graduates “starting their careers off underwater” with student loan debts of $100K to $120K. 

In addition, the infrastructure of the U.S. is crumbling, he said, with no major spending programs since the 1950s. “The U.S. spends 54 percent of its discretionary spending on the military—more than the next eight countries combined,” he said. “It’s absurd we’ve spent $5.6 trillion since 2001 on the military. Meanwhile, the Chinese are spending their money on infrastructure like new airports.”

The global influence of the U.S. has dropped to almost nothing, Tapin pointed out. He said Trump supporters are willing to put up with this because of what sociologists call “false consciousness,” which prevents someone from perceiving the true nature of their social or economic situation. For example, studies show that the worst counties for the opioid epidemic are Trump counties, “and yet you still see these guys with their ‘drain the swamp’ signs.”

“The internet and TV have become weapons of mass destruction,” Tapin said. “And Trump, a master of reality TV, has a scheme to keep you tuning in—all the White House drama is part of the game.”

“The internet is a disinformation platform—two days after the Parkland [High School] shootings, the first two pages of results on YouTube were total propaganda and lies that the students were all played by actors,” he said. 

He explained the use of Facebook to market to anti-Semites and other hate groups, Facebook’s reselling of personal data and the fact that real regulation is needed—just as the European Union is currently doing with its General Data Protection Regulation.

Tapin also said he hopes something will light a fire under millennials—young adults ages 22-37—to start voting. 

Jonathan Taplin is Director Emeritus of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab.