Jeff Bezos’s Customer-Centric Universe


NPR reported this morning that Jeff Bezos is buying the Washington Post newspaper. Amazon is not buying it but the leader of that customer-driven empire is personally buying the newspaper. He says he shares the values of the newsroom and doesn’t plan to change those, but you have to wonder how the Post will change with Bezos as owner.

NPR pointed out by way of a 1999 audio interview of Bezos that he set out to make Amazon the most customer-centric company in the universe.

How do developments like this change the way we think and live?

We 21st Century Western people don’t have superstitious gods and idols, but we certainly do have technology. The late Neil Postman first alerted me in his Technopoly that when a culture believes a certain technology is its savior, it becomes a Technopoly. At the time he wrote the book he believed Japan had crossed that rubicon, and he believed the United States was in midstream. I think technology is our modern day god. This god comes in the form of dependence and submission to technologies: medical, digital, business, pleasure, and social. We think without these technologies we cannot function, we have no purpose, we have no diagnoses, we have no life.

I’m not a Luddite, what Postman would call someone who is against technology. After all, I write on a blog using technology, a Mac laptop, and post these things on social media. But there’s a reason one of my favorite books in high school was Aldus Huxley‘s Brave New World. Because, while I’m not Luddite, I was convinced by Postman that there are downsides to technologies, and we need to be paying attention to those downsides and not blindly accept everything that comes our way. Reading Huxley’s book, I began to imagine a world where people were sleepwalking through life, and missing God, missing each other, even as we think we are paying attention to one another through social media technology. Maybe we’ve re-connected with each other in some powerful ways, but I wonder if we’ve still missed re-connecting with God.

Amazon is good, but Amazon is not our provider. We pay money to Amazon, lots. Amazon is a company. The Post is a newspaper, not the dispenser of all truth. I know this all sounds ridiculous to some people, but it’s a subtle movement in our minds that takes us to this place of believing people (social media), businesses (Amazon), and sources of information (Washington Post or this blog!) are the relationships, providers, and truth-givers we need to exist. These are tools, good ones, but we need to be reminded constantly that they are not our gods.