It’s missing an apostrophe for one thing, but who’s counting?
Warning! Some math will be involved in the following paragraphs. Or numbers anyway. Large numbers with dollar signs fore and lots of zeroes aft.
By now you’ve heard that a five year old company with 55 employees named WhatsApp has been bought by Facebook for $19 billion.
Wow, that’s amazing. Who knew Facebook had $19 billion. For what? Letting people share pictures of their vacation or the fact that their dog has got the mange? So what does WhatsApp do that’s worth $19 billion? Cure cancer? Stop climate change? Eliminate poverty?
No, apparently it lets people send text and videos and pictures of their mangy dog to others who have subscribed to WhatsApp for 99 cents a year. But get this! It hasn’t got ads getting in the way of your shared narcissism. A breakthrough.
The valuation of $19 billion (roughly the same as the market cap of Macys, Michelin, Chipotle, Autozone, Kellogg, Kroger or Sherwin-Williams) means each of the 55 employees is worth $345 million – equal to four Bill Clinton’s or one Beyonce. (By way of comparison, the net worth of the average American is $38,000) Not that the dough will be shared equally by all WhatsApp employees. This isn’t a communist country, you know. It’s more like Russia where a few oligarchs control all the wealth. Except here they are cyberarchs.
The WSJ quotes another Valley Boy cyberarch who has devised a way to store data online (you know, so tweets about your dog’s mange or pictures of it can be preserved forever). On hearing of the deal, he was crestfallen since he is about to go public for a puny $2 billion. “It makes you depressed if you’re not selling at $20 billion.”
Whoa! If that’s depression, what should minimum wage workers who Wal-Mart and Republican congressmen are teaming up to stiff be feeling? Or 15 or 20 million un- and underemployed people? I’d tell you, but I don’t want Mark Zuckerberg’s mother to wash my mouth out with imported French-milled soap. Besides, Kurt Vonnegut described our present dystopia in 1952’s “Player Piano” complete with techno haves and everybody else. Check it out.
Not that I’m a Luddite. Yet. I believe technology has the power to create a utopia for all of us. Just as soon as the 1000 gigawatt brains of the cyberarchs are devoted to something more useful than Candy Crush, Facebook, or WhatsApp. Like eliminating cancer, poverty, climate change or even the dog’s mange.