There are those who look at our business and technological climate and try to understand what will happen – and, more important, what should happen – in the future. Obviously I play at this a little bit, but there are certainly people who do a much better job at this than I do. Or at least they get paid more to do so.
Maria Bustillos summarizes the views of two of these thinkers, Evgeny Morozov and Jaron Lanier.
Morozov is a noted critic and scholar whose influential 2011 book, The Net Delusion, took issue with the idea of the Internet as a tool for encouraging the spread of democracy. He made the useful point that the political dimensions of our new technologies can be as dangerous and as deceptive as they are liberating. Authoritarian regimes, for example, can use online tools to quash dissent quite as easily as dissidents can take to Twitter to organize and to disseminate their views….
To Save Everything, Click Here is a polemic against what Morozov calls “solutionism” and “Internet-centrism.” “Solutionism” is the tendency to assume that technology can solve any problem efficiently and free of unintended consequences (“an unhealthy preoccupation with sexy, monumental, and narrow-minded solutions”); “Internet-centrism” is the belief that “the Internet” will fix everything….
Lanier’s new book, Who Owns the Future? is rich in ideas, imagination and humanity. Despite quite a lot of loopy bits, this self-described “book of hypotheticals, speculation, advocacy” succeeds in proposing the beginnings of a possible—even practical—way out of the soup of wealth inequality and economic decline in which we have unhappily landed ourselves in the information age.
Such a simple idea: redesign the Internet so that all who participate, whether by providing personal data or by writing influential blog posts, make money by their participation. This would require implementing a system of universal micropayments to create what Lanier calls a “humanistic information economy.”
Our data has monetary value, Lanier argues; we should all be compensated for it. We’ve been tempted into contributing data and content for free, thereby enabling the development of massive online monopolies….
Bustillos’ article is not solely dedicated to summarizing the thoughts of these two authors; she also pokes holes in their thoughts; in the case of Morozov, she speaks with a few people who simultaneously agree with Morozov and don’t agree with Morozov. Sadly, Bustillos does not devote a great deal of time to Alexandre Koyré.
But the Bustillos article gave me a starting point to begin to read about both of the people she cited. Of course, it’s best to go to the original sources: Morozov is on Twitter, and Lanier used to write for the Huffington Post. (Presumably he decided that they weren’t paying him enough.)