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The Internet Is Not the Answer by Andrew…
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The Internet Is Not the Answer (2015)

by Andrew Keen

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While I do not agree with most of Keen's opinions, it was interesting to learn about how he reached his position regarding how the internet has taken away traditional jobs. ( )
  Darwa | Mar 18, 2016 |
Entertaining and polemical read. I have some sympathy with Andrew Keen's central hypothesis his background in this world means that he clearly knows his enemy. His viewpoint is one that should be heard amid all the puff and splendour that surrounds the main internet companies.

However, I found the book to be a bit loose. In his desire to write a barn storming take down of the new elite, he regularly drifts into sloppy writing, questionable statements and repeated ad hominem attacks. Despite his claims that he can see some good in the internet, he doesn't seem willing to engage with the possible benefits of certain platforms (e.g. Uber or AirbNb) but rather is content to present negative stories as proof that they are a bad thing.

Would recommend Jaron Lanier as a more thoughtful alternative. ( )
  xander_paul | Jan 27, 2015 |
“Surveillance is the internet’s main business”

Andrew Keen is angry. He hates what the internet has done to us. His hatred is thoroughly developed, and morphs into a totally rational, historical conclusion: this internet age is no different than feudal society or the era of Trusts 150 years ago. The inequality, the fantasy worlds of wealth, the hubris, the arrogance, the selfish navel gazing – all repeating before our Google-Glassed eyes. It’s a dark truth he explores with seemingly thousands of aspects and examples. The pacing is consistent and blistering.

He spends a lot of time and effort mourning the passing of Kodak, which worked at perfecting film. Today we don’t care much about photo quality; we just post photos of next to nothing, in their billions. But Kodak is hardly a poster child. The same can be said for numerous other formerly precious legacy systems. In the sixties, it was all about sound quality. The measure of your household was in your stereo components. Today, we accept lousy mp3 quality over pathetic earplugs without a second thought. Our appreciation and priorities change, and the internet era is no different.

But Keen seems to live in an imaginary world that used to have full employment, where everyone was polite, civil and honest, and trolls hid in English woods. The truth is, the internet simply exposes more of our inherent, narcissistic, selfish, self-centered and shortsighted selves. Greed and theft are not proprietary to internet entrepreneurs. The whole basis for the American economy is smuggling and theft, as in my review of the superlative Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America.. Apple hiding billions from the taxman is nothing new. Keen comes to the same conclusion by the end of the book.

He is wrong about our knowledge of history too. Keen trots out the canard about millennials and history: how they don’t mix. Millennials live in the present only, and history as recent as the Berlin Wall is otherworldy if known at all. But it has always been this way. Keen says he is accused of elitism, and justifiably. He is better educated, more perceptive and analytical than the hoi polloi he defends. They have never put things in historical perspective, and claiming the internet has taken this away from them by keeping everything short and superficial is wrong.

He seems most concerned by the net unemployment from Kodak giving way to the minimalist Instagram and its ilk. But he ignores the massive crowdfunding that has helped create thousands of businesses, not just individual jobs. Same for ebay, amazon, etsy and alibaba. They have spawned literally millions of businesses that could not have existed before the web. Meanwhile, Kodak had to go, like the inkwell makers and whalebone corset companies before it.

The parallels with robber barons, the monopolists and the lords of the past are apt and fit like a glove. Today’s internet giants are fiercely against unions, against government interference (unless there’s money available), above the law, and all for their own (unprecedented) wealth and power. The internet they wield is all about bottomless oceans of personal data that would make the Stasi jealous, but it’s just a byproduct they milk for profit. That people volunteer all this data, from social media to tracking devices like mobiles would move a spy to tears. That we have accepted this way of life is totally consistent with history. It’s the new opiate of the masses.

Keen is correct: the internet is not the answer. What we need is a new question.

David Wineberg ( )
1 vote DavidWineberg | Nov 7, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802123139, Hardcover)

In 2014, the world wide web will be a quarter of a century old. There is no doubt that the web, and the new businesses it has enabled, has transformed the world forever. But, according to celebrated technology writer Andrew Keen, this disruption has had some extremely pernicious effects. In The Internet Is Not the Answer, a sharp, witty polemic, Keen argues succinctly and passionately that the web has so far been on balance a disaster for everyone—except a tiny a group of young, privileged, white male Silicon Valley multi-millionaires.

Rather than making us wealthier, the unregulated digital market is slowly making us all poorer. Rather than generating jobs, it is contributing significantly to rising unemployment. Rather than fostering equality, it is creating a chasm between rich and poor. Rather than holding our rulers to account, it is turning the world into a brightly lit glass cage in which everything is recorded. Rather than promoting democracy, it is empowering mob rule. And rather than fostering a new renaissance, it is encouraging a culture of distraction, vulgarity, and narcissism. So what is to be done? We are twenty-five years in to the age of the internet, and the next twenty-five are key, as Keen explains, as by 2039, everyone alive will be online. In The Internet Is Not the Answer, he systematically explains what must be done in order to change what is increasingly becoming a tool of oppression, normativity, and big business into a tool that fosters art, small business, innovation, and personal freedom.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:17 -0400)

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