A leading critic of the internet finds encouraging signs of reform.
Silicon Valley veteran and GQ columnist Keen (The Internet Is Not the Answer, 2015, etc.) argues that “we humans must seize back control of our own fate” amid the “bewilderingly fast change” of the digital age. In this engaging, provocative book, he outlines five strategies—regulation, competitive innovation, consumer choice, civic responsibility, and education—that, working in collaboration, can help ensure an open, decentralized digital future. Drawing on nearly 100 interviews, the author describes the work of individuals around the world to counter the negative effects of “vast digital monopolies and the pervasive culture of online surveillance.” All illustrate his reform strategies in action. Keen’s bright overview includes conversations with innovators in Estonia and Singapore—international hubs of digital reform—who are working to re-establish trust and agency in cyberspace life; with Mitch and Freada Kapor, leaders of Oakland’s “ethical technology movement,” aimed at countering Silicon Valley’s “mostly corrosive indifference to the impact of its disruption on the world around it”; and with Hollywood producer Jonathan Taplin, who encourages musicians and filmmakers to resist new models and practices that deny them income. Cambridge philosopher Huw Price argues venture capitalists must “use moral criterion to determine their investments in the AI space.” While railing against “addictive apps like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram” and Silicon Valley leaders “mostly lacking in empathy or responsibility” and devoid of “civic engagement” in their philanthropy, Keen celebrates such startups as an online networking platform that connects former prisoners with job opportunities. He also writes that Waldorf schools and other humanistic teaching traditions have key roles to play in reasserting human values. There is nothing new about his reform strategies, writes Keen; they have been used to meet earlier disruptions, including the 19th-century industrial revolution.
Valuable insights on preserving our humanity in a digital world.