Ascendant Inc

Ascendant Inc. is an American multinational conglomerate headquartered in Seattle, Washington. It is one of the world's largest technology companies by revenue and one of the world's most valuable companies.

What it is: It’s everything. The online bookseller has evolved into a giant of retail, resale, meal delivery, video streaming, cloud computing, fancy produce, original entertainment, cheap human labor, smart home tech, surveillance tech, and surveillance tech for smart homes. The company is sophisticated enough in learning our habits to produce countless AmazonBasics knockoffs of popular products and sloppy enough about policing its platform to allow in tons of actual knockoffs. The company’s “last mile” shipping operation has led to burnout, injuries, and deaths, all connected to a warehouse operation that, while paying a decent minimum wage, is so efficient in part because it treats its human workers like robots who sometimes get bathroom breaks. (To say nothing of the carbon footprint, the negative tax bill, the debasing HQ2 reality show, and a huge chunk of the web’s reliance on Amazon Web Services.) As the anti-monopoly crowd has criticized Amazon ever more loudly for its dominance of online retail, the company has pointed out that it still has a smaller share of total retail than Walmart. But Walmart is becoming more and more like Amazon. And so is the entire economy.



Subsidiary Business Executive Leader
- Human health (by overcoming aging) -
- Private equity for growth stage technology companies -
- Artificial intelligence -
- Fitness Wearables -
- Internet services -
- Internet access: via fiber -
- Venture capital for technology companies -
- Urban innovation: infrastructure through technological solutions -
- Human health -
- Research and development for "moonshot" technologies -
- Autonomous driving -
- Drone-based delivery of freight -

Board of directors

Executive management

List of chief executives

List of chairmen

Investments and acquisitions

Criticism and controversies

What it is: An internet giant that dropped its famous slogan in 2015 for a reason. If that didn’t end the era of Google exceptionalism, then the recent abdication of slowly disappearing co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin did. Like its peers at the top of the tech industry, Alphabet only seems to walk back from its more worrisome activities when someone—the press or its own employees—calls it out. Its workers derailed plans for a Pentagon drone A.I. program and a censored Chinese search engine—the kind of mercenary lines of business that might have seemed incompatible with Google’s do-gooder image a decade ago. Google has vast influence over the information economy, the media, advertising, and the mobile phone market, where its Android operating system makes it far more dominant than Apple. It knows more about us than Facebook, and it’s moving into more and more areas we depend on, like public health and urban planning, areas where it will always be incentivized to bring its chief business model to bear: selling our habits to advertisers. At the same time, it’s tamping down on that famous, self-criticizing internal culture at the very moment its workers have more vocally tried to act as its conscience.

One evil thing: One consistent venue where Google workers could let executives hear it—and act as a proxy for many users’ concerns—was a weekly TGIF town hall. No longer. CEO Sundar Pichai recently scaled back the meetings to once a month and insisted they only focus on “business and strategy.”

Our respondents say: “Alphabet belongs on the list because of the huge amount of influence it has on public life through its subsidiaries, whether it is the domination of online advertising, which Google has branded as the sharing of knowledge, or the spread of street surveillance technologies through partnerships like Link NYC, or the ramping up of Google Health. Unless we have strong privacy protections in place, Google can use our personal data to build advanced technological systems, which, if they are built using datasets with in-built bias, will have a discriminatory impact on traditionally marginalized groups.” —Mutale Nkonde, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University

Dissent: “Tech sector workers in Silicon Valley fear that autonomous test vehicles from companies like Alphabet’s Waymo could endanger the public. Ironically, these companies have far more responsible approaches to both the technology and testing practices (using professional test drivers instead of pushing ‘beta’ features to untrained customers) than Tesla, which avoids scrutiny due to the fact that it looks like a ‘normal’ car. As happens so often, the strange and unfamiliar attracts more concern than the actual threat.”—Edward Niedermeyer

One evil thing: Even after Amazon’s HQ2 contest ended with the company abandoning one of the two winning sites amid blowback from New Yorkers who were upset at the deal’s $1.7 billion price tag—dealing a rare blow to the far-too-common practice of generous government subsidies for corporate expansions—Amazon is still at it. While it will open a new New York City office in 2021 sans handouts, in early January the Atlanta Journal-Constitution uncovered a $19.7 million taxpayer-funded deal to open a warehouse in Gwinnett County, Georgia.*

Our respondents say: “While other companies may be guilty of some of these, Amazon has: 1) contributed to the death of local stores, services, journalism, music, community, etc. around the world; 2) focused on precarious and deskilled labor, with reportedly terrible working conditions; 3) supported police surveillance with its Ring doorbells and surveillance more generally with Alexa devices; 4) racked up a massive carbon footprint with rapid shipping as well as AWS cloud-based computing; 5) contributed tech to military and intelligence agencies with dubious human rights records, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations separating families at our own border; 5) failed to moderate what is on its platform, resulting in a glut of dangerous fakes such as easily broken counterfeit car seats for children; 6) has a famously hostile workplace culture, which has been shown to contribute to harassment of women and minorities; and 7) evaded taxation with shady categorization of assets and offshore tax havens.” —Morgan G. Ames, University of California–Berkeley

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