The evil impact of category-leading companies is destroying the planet

Karthiga Ratnam
5 min readMay 11, 2021


We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet. — Stephen Hawking

This blog post has been five years in the making. But to write this post I really had to dig deep. Look objectively at my love of category design. I couldn’t in good faith write this blog and also be a category designer in the conventional sense. This blog post is what lead me to create the 4th element of category design — impact design.

Fair warning this a rant with a lot of unanswered questions.

Category creators and leaders are at an unfair advantage when compared to the rest of the world. One could argue that’s the system of capitalism. That’s what category design means. If you do it well you gain 76% market capitalization.

The sheer creation potential of category design is what drew me to it in the first place. And yes the world needs different. But the world needs different good. Not different worse.

Up to now, I have written about creating a positive impact through category design. But the impact isn’t always positive. The impact is also negative. I have skirted around the issue of holding current behemoth category leaders accountable. But not today.

Today is different. Today I’m angry. I’m angry that we seem to take 2 steps forward and 10 steps back. I’m angry that my neighbors in India are dying by the thousands. I’m angry that there seems to be no dignity in death. I’m angry that scores of children had to watch their parents die gasping for breath. And we expect these children to grow up to be functional adults? After what they have just witnessed?

I’m angry that friends all over the world are losing loved ones and no one is being held accountable.

I’m angry that companies have violated the sanctity of category design for their own greed.

And choose to blame all functional category-leading companies.

Source — Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

It's not fair! What is this system we have created that about 10–20 companies hold all the power, while the innocent are literally dying on the street gasping for breath. I am also angry at myself. Why did I not get this angry when animals were/are dying in the thousands? Why did they not matter to me as much as humans do?

Has my love of category design led me to believe that all creation is good? Is Elon Musk creating Neuralink good? Is he using a monkey — non-consensually good? It's different yes. But is it good? Is it fair? Is it equitable? Who is holding him accountable? Who can hold him accountable? When did private companies get to decide they have dominion over Mars. Seriously?

How is it pharmaceutical companies get to hold countries' ransom for supplying vaccines? How can private companies demand collateral from governments? Is this the price we have to pay for saving lives?

I’m a firm believer in net neutrality. That doesn’t mean Facebook gets to dictate the world and the very fabric of society. Mafias are generally considered illegal. But within the framework of capitalism, we have made it legal. How else do we explain Zuckerberg being judge, jury, and executioner?

In our quest to create, innovate, to leave a legacy we have robbed generations of a future. Our hubris has caused a pandemic, sent countless families back into poverty, and cheated the children of our generation of their childhood.

But it doesn’t matter, right? We are innovators! We are creating new categories. We are colonizing Mars. Hurray for humanity.

We live on a breathtakingly beautiful blue and green planet. But we wanna go live in the toxic red one. And we are high-fiving each other for the win! Go figure!

What is it about tech evangelists that lead us to hero-worship them? Be it Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or countless others. We put them up on a pedestal. They can do no wrong.

The same applies to heads of states. We fight over politics and parties. We draw loyalties based on party lines. When a crisis hits where are these heroes? It's the regular folks who are stepping up and helping the community.

Leaders and heroes are safely ensconced in their mansions sticking their heads in the sand.

Don’t even get me started on Bill Gates. His recent remarks on vaccine patents prove one thing. Once a monopoly building entrepreneur always a monopoly building entrepreneur. These future proof moon shot ideas that billionaires are funding are not the secure a better and more equitable future for everyone. It's a better future for them! They are future-proofing their future generations at the cost of ours!

We blindly celebrate them for being innovators and category creators. But creation doesn’t by any stretch of imagination come at the expense of something or someone else.

Whether you believe the universe was created by an act of God or the Big Bang, what was the downside? Who lost out? No one. We all gain in abundance. Because the universe was a category creation with clearly defined impact boundaries.

It’s human creations that can’t seem to operate within the confines of greed. Today I truly understand the impact of Greta Thunberg’s infamous words. How dare you?

How dare you create categories without accountability? How dare you create categories without considering the impact? How dare you play god with our planet?

Do you really think you have mastered your own fate? Because you’re an innovator? Because you are a category creator? You will always be a slave to your greed.

We have comprised privacy, human rights, health, wellbeing, the future of our planet, for what? So that billionaires can pat themselves in the back for being category leaders? If this is what success looks like I’ll pass.

Success must be about creating impact-driven categories that create a more equitable society.

If you need to understand the vicious cycle we have created for ourselves, take a look at the Wicked 7 problems. We cannot solve one without solving another. Drawing the cause and effect maps at Wicked 7 has made one thing evident. It’s modern colonization that has led us to this moment in time.

We may no longer be colonies in the traditional definition of the word. But we are still colonies. We are colonies to category-leading companies. The difference is we used to have a public system to rebel against. Today even when we rebel, we need to use the tools our masters have created — smartphones, social media, etc. The irony. Whoever said karma wasn’t real?

Let’s not create any more category leaders without a framework to hold them accountable. If we can’t do that then let's do the next best thing. Let’s do nothing.

“To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual.” — Oscar Wilde.



Karthiga Ratnam

Impact-Driven Category Designer | Working group member Wicked 7