GeekWire’s Todd Bishop: PBS Frontline reveals Amazon’s impact on society

Feb 22, 2020, 8:42 AM | Updated: 9:13 am
Amazon, Jeff Bezos, Frontline...
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Living in Seattle, it seems residents here often get a front-row seat to Amazon and Jeff Bezos updates. A recent documentary from PBS Frontline, “Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos,” offers a new view into the company and its executives from the very beginnings to present day.

GeekWire co-founder, and Amazon expert, Todd Bishop called KIRO Nights this week with his review.

“It was new in that they were able to stitch things together and really debunk some of Amazon’s traditional defenses to some of its biggest critics, using facts, using public records, using insider interviews with some former Amazon executives,” Bishop said.

Amazon has an impact on our lives, whether we realize it or not. This documentary, Bishop said, shows that impact in a unique way.

“It really goes as far as I’ve seen any documentary go in term of revealing Amazon’s impact on us as a culture, as a society, and on humanity writ large,” he said. “We are only beginning to wrap our minds around how this company is affecting our behavior, putting itself into our lives and influencing the way, not only commerce happens, but the way that we all interact with each other.”

All of Amazon’s intentions, good or bad, have implications on consumers and society, some that Amazon doesn’t always expect, Bishop said, using the Ring camera hacks as an example.

Bishop’s favorite part of the documentary was the back and forth between the Amazon executives and the journalist host.

“I thought, more often than not, the Amazon executives actually misstepped,” Bishop said. “They were clearly well rehearsed, attempting to repeat back the standard talking points. But they got boxed into corners.”

The documentary shows how aware Bezos has been about the expansion and trajectory of the company, even beyond Amazon with his commercial space venture in Blue Origin.

Bishop recalled that he showed a clip of himself as a teenager talking about the need to go beyond Earth at the unveiling of the moon lander Blue Origin plans to send to the moon.

“I think Jeff Bezos not only knew where Amazon was headed, but he knew what he was going to do with all the spoils of all that success and how that was going to play out in his larger vision for humanity to populate the galaxy,” Bishop said.

If this sounds like Star Trek, you may not be surprised to hear that Bezos is a big sci-fi fan. Alexa is modeled after the Star Trek computer, Bishop said.

“I think there’s a lot of Jeff Bezos being inspired as a kid by sci-fi,” he said, “being extremely prescient about the Internet and stitching all of these things together to create this incredible, extraordinary, and at times terrifying, company.”

Find the full documentary online from PBS.

Listen to KIRO Nights weeknights from 7 – 10 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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GeekWire’s Todd Bishop: PBS Frontline reveals Amazon’s impact on society