Looking at the rich harvest of tech earnings last week, I couldn't help but think of “Scale,” a surreal story that Will Self wrote in 1995, the same year Amazon set up its online store.

“Some people lose their sense of proportion; I've lost my sense of scale,” says the protagonist, a drug addict whose febrile narration is both a vision for the future and a nightmare in which the world scales ever larger around him. It must be how companies in media, health care, auto manufacturing and other industries soon ancillary to tech feel watching companies like Amazon and Alphabet grow ever more capable of crushing them by the day.

For their first two decades, these big-tech companies were content to grow inside their own industries – Amazon inside retail, Alphabet inside online ads. Growth became more than a business model, it became something of an addiction, and the things they were best at - organizing information, offering discounts, machine learning, cloud services – eventually allowed them to encroach on industries that were once not worth an afterthought...