The finance secrets of big tech

AMERICA’S TECH giants make ungodly amounts of money. In 2021 the combined revenue of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft reached $1.4trn. These riches come from a wide and constantly expanding set of sources: from phones and pharmaceuticals to video-streaming and virtual assistants. Analysts expect the tech quintet’s combined sales to have surpassed $340bn in the first three months of 2022, up by 7% compared with the same period last year. In a quarterly ritual that kicks off on April 26th, when the big five start reporting their latest earnings, the staggering headline numbers will once again turn into headline news.

Big tech firms are understandably eager to trumpet these impressive figures, as well as their diverse offerings. They are considerably more coy about how much many of their products and services actually make. Annual reports and other public disclosures tend to lump large revenue streams together and describe them in the vaguest terms. Last year, for example, the five giants’ sales were split out into 32 business segments in total. That compares with 56 segments for America’s five highest-earning non-tech firms.

Apple breaks its sales into five slices; Meta into only three (see chart 1). The category that Alphabet labels as “Google Other” made $28bn in revenue last year. It includes Google’s app store, sales of its smartphones and other devices, and subscriptions from YouTube, a subsidiary. Last year YouTube’s advertising revenue, which Alphabet first revealed only in 2020, reached $29bn. That means that in 2021 Google Other and YouTube’s ad business each generated more money than four-fifths of the companies in the S&P 500 index of the biggest American firms.

The opacity makes business sense. Keeping rivals in the dark helps ensure that they will not try to replicate a prized business unit

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Planet Earth’s Future Now Rests in the Hands of Big Business

On a brisk Monday in Houston in early March, dozens of protesters gathered across the street from the giant Hilton hotel hosting CERAWeek, the energy industry’s hallmark annual conference. Their signs accused the corporate executives inside of betraying humanity in pursuit of financial return. STOP EXTRACTING OUR FUTURE, read one. PEOPLE OVER PROFIT, read another. Two days later, inside a standing-room-only hotel ballroom, Jennifer Granholm, the U.S. secretary of energy, offered a different message to the executives: the Biden Administration needs your help to tackle climate change. The scene encapsulated this moment in the fight to address global warming: some of the most ardent activists say that companies can’t be trusted; governments are saying they must play a role.

They already are. The U.S. Department of Energy has partnered with private companies to bolster the clean energy supply chain, expand electric-vehicle charging, and commercialize new green technologies, among a range of other initiatives. In total, the agency is gearing up to spend tens of billions of dollars on public-private partnerships to speed up the energy transition. “I’m here to extend a hand of partnership,” Granholm told the crowd. “We want you to power this country for the next 100 years with zero-carbon technologies.”

Across the Biden Administration, and around the world, government officials have increasingly focused their attention on the private sector—treating companies not just as entities to regulate but also as core partners. We “need to accelerate our transition” off fossil fuels, says Brian Deese, director of President Biden’s National Economic Council. “And that is a process that will only happen if the American private sector, including the incumbent energy producers in the United States, utilities and otherwise, are an inextricable part of that process—that’s defined our approach from the get go.”

Photo illustration by C.J. Burton for

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How Google and Amazon bankrolled a ‘grassroots’ activist team of modest organization entrepreneurs to lobby versus Big Tech oversight

The symbol of Google is witnessed on a developing at La Defense business enterprise and money district in Courbevoie in close proximity to Paris, France, September 1, 2020.

Charles Platiau | Reuters

Clay Montgomery owns a little blacksmith shop named “Arrow M Enterprises” outside the house of Mingus, Texas, exactly where he manufactures hand-solid metal will work and grilling tools. He also sells a spicy barbeque sauce and a meat rub identified as “Chunk My Butt.”

In modern many years, Montgomery’s blacksmith shop has been stated as a member of a Washington, D.C.-centered trade team named the “Related Commerce Council” that promises to lobby on behalf of compact corporations. On its website, the council describes by itself as a non-income membership organization with a solitary objective: “to endorse little businesses’ obtain to crucial electronic technologies and applications.”

The team, which campaigns against intense regulation of large tech organizations, also says it desires to be certain “policymakers recognize the essential intersection of technological innovation and tiny organization,” in accordance to its web site.

But you will find just just one difficulty: Montgomery says he’s not a member and, in actuality, has in no way read of the Linked Commerce Council. The blacksmith informed CNBC he would never sign up for a tech lobbying team in Washington. “Technologies is not accurately my forte,” he stated.

Montgomery just isn’t the only modest enterprise owner bewildered to obtain their names shown as a member of the Linked Commerce Council, which also goes by “3C.” More than 20 other “members” contacted by CNBC claimed they in the same way had hardly ever listened to of the council and did not know why they were on their membership listing.

The council, which pitches by itself as a grassroots movement symbolizing small small business homeowners, is actually

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Finding out the big bang with synthetic intelligence

A quark gluon plasma soon after the collision of two weighty nuclei. Credit rating: TU Wien

It could barely be far more challenging: small particles whir about wildly with very higher strength, numerous interactions manifest in the tangled mess of quantum particles, and this benefits in a point out of subject regarded as “quark-gluon plasma”. Right away right after the Massive Bang, the full universe was in this point out these days it is produced by high-electrical power atomic nucleus collisions, for illustration at CERN.

This sort of processes can only be analyzed making use of significant-general performance pcs and hugely intricate computer system simulations whose final results are hard to appraise. As a result, working with artificial intelligence or equipment understanding for this goal would seem like an apparent concept. Common machine-studying algorithms, even so, are not ideal for this task. The mathematical properties of particle physics call for a quite specific framework of neural networks. At TU Wien (Vienna), it has now been demonstrated how neural networks can be productively applied for these tough jobs in particle physics.

Neural networks

“Simulating a quark-gluon plasma as realistically as probable necessitates an exceptionally significant amount of money of computing time,” suggests Dr. Andreas Ipp from the Institute for Theoretical Physics at TU Wien. “Even the most significant supercomputers in the planet are overwhelmed by this.” It would for that reason be desirable not to calculate every element precisely, but to acknowledge and predict specific homes of the plasma with the help of synthetic intelligence.

Consequently, neural networks are utilized, related to those people made use of for picture recognition: Synthetic “neurons” are connected collectively on the personal computer in a equivalent way to neurons in the brain—and this creates a network that can acknowledge, for example, no matter if or

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Big Business Games the Supply Chain

This article appears in The American Prospect magazine’s February 2022 special issue, “How We Broke the Supply Chain.” Subscribe here.

Grocery store owner Jimmy Wright spent months stocking up for the holiday season. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he had struggled to maintain inventory at his sprawling store in east Alabama, and as the holidays approached, he anticipated that annual favorites—hams, gingerbread men, pies—would be in short supply. To prepare for the shortages, he began stockpiling products in early November, spending $70,000 on top of the $250,000 he usually devotes to inventory. The investment paid off: Wright’s Market entered the holiday season with goods that were sold out elsewhere, like cream cheese and cranberry sauce.

But this was a bright spot in an otherwise bleak couple of years. Since the pandemic began, manufacturing slowdowns, worker shortages, and volatile demand have dogged the grocery industry, forcing grocers to find new ways to stock their shelves. “We’ve just had to be creative,” Wright said. “When a product was there, we’ve had to try to buy all we could buy.”

Customers still frequent Wright’s Market, which is located five minutes outside of downtown Opelika, a small city of 30,000 that borders Auburn University. But Wright, who has run the market since 1997, said it’s never been so hard to stock up on inventory, and that the process of simply getting supplies overwhelms his employees. “My meat department man will start at about 3:00 every afternoon on the phone, and it takes him until 6:00 each night to call suppliers and see who’s got this, who’s got that,” Wright said. “It takes him about three hours every day, when it used to be maybe 30 minutes before.”

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