- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books; Export/Airside edition (2 January 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1782393412
- ISBN-13: 978-1782393412
- Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 1.8 x 23.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,07,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Internet is Not the Answer Paperback – 2 Jan 2015
|Paperback, 2 Jan 2015||
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Andrew Keen has written a very powerful and daring manifesto questioning whether the Internet lives up to its own espoused values. He is not an opponent of Internet culture, he is its conscience, and must be heard. * Po Bronson * Andrew Keen has again shown himself one of the sharpest critics of Silicon Valley hype, greed, egotism, and inequity. His tales are revealing, his analyses biting. * Mark Bauerlain, author of The Dumbest Generation * Keen provokes us in every sense of the word-at times maddening, more often thought-provoking, he lets just enough out of the Silicon Valley hot air balloon to start a real conversation about the full impact of digital technology. * Larry Downes, co-author of Unleashing the Killer App * A provocative title and an even more provocative book. Andrew Keen rightly challenges us to think about how the internet will shape society. I remain more optimistic, but hope I'm right to be so. * Mark Read, CEO, WPP Digital * If you've ever wondered why the New Economy looks suspiciously like the Old Economy - only with even more for the winners and less for everyone else - put down your shiny new phablet and read this book. * Robert Levine, author of Free Ride * Andrew Keen is the Christopher Hitchens of the Internet. Neglect this book with peril. In an industry and world full of prosaic pabulum about the supposedly digitally divine, Keen's work is an important and sharp razor. * Michael Fertik, CEO, Reputation.com *
About the Author
Andrew Keen is the executive director of the Silicon Valley salon FutureCast, a columnist for CNN and a regular commentator on all things digital. He is the author of Digital Vertigo and the international sensation and The Cult of the Amateur, which has been published in seventeen languages.
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Top customer reviews
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The author has researched his topic and provides interesting stories about failures and successes of internet business and website. He did not change my mind about technology and the future, but he did make me understand that the internet has not yet created a more egalitarian world as many promised or anticipated. This book is a very interesting read about an important topic.
"…rather than democracy and diversity, all we've got from the digital revolution so far is fewer jobs, and overabundance of content, an infestation of piracy, a coterie of Internet monopolists, and a radical narrowing of our economic and cultural elite."
A number of Keen's arguments are familiar. Far from encouraging openness and freedom, the Internet is often a hotbed of hatred and inequality. New monopolies, such as Google and Amazon, are increasing inequality and taking control of our data. Jobs are being destroyed, entire swathes of the economy are being decimated, and the middle class is disappearing as there is little room for those other than the wealthy or participants in the gig economy.
And those with the money controlling the Internet are attempting to impose their libertarian views to prevent unionization of their employees, block government regulation, and avoid paying taxes.
Keen points out that the Internet, designed to be open and cooperative, is anything but. "Instead, it's a top-down system that is concentrating wealth instead of spreading it."
Keen sketches the early history of the Internet, and explains how money started pouring into new ventures. And this is when thing went wrong:
"As Wall Street moved west, the Internet lost a sense of common purpose, a general decency, perhaps even its soul."
Far from being open and egalitarian, and far from creating competition, the Internet has spawned winner-take-all companies. Amazon's dominance of online retail, as well as e-book sales, has reached a dangerous level, killing off retail stores in every country where it exists. Google's dominance of search is such that it is nearly impossible for any company to compete with. (It's true that Microsoft's Bing, and Yahoo, are not dead yet.) And in many other industries, one player is in a quasi-monopolistic position.
The Internet has also spawned a new approach to identity. In an attempt to emulate stars, people take selfies and share their statuses on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, Yet these services "delude us into thinking we are celebrities. Yet, in the Internet's winner-take-all economy, attention remains a monopoly of superstars."
One of the biggest problems with the Internet is the fact that we trade access to free content in exchange for providing personal data to companies like Google. "Most of these Web 2.0 businesses have pursued a Google-style business strategy of giving away their tools and services for free and relying on advertising sales as their main source of revenue."
Keen goes on to say:
"The problem, of course, is that we are all working for Facebook and Google for free, manufacturing the very personal data that makes their companies so valuable."
All our activity is being quantified and monitored. "We think we are using Instagram to look at the world, but actually we are the ones who are being watched. And the more we reveal about ourselves, the more valuable we become to advertisers."
This, of course, highlights the fact that there is no such thing as a free lunch. In the early days of the Internet, companies gave away all their content for free because they were trying to attract users to a new platform. We have seen how free has become so rooted in the mindset of Internet users, that people are hesitant to pay even $1 for an app, or to pay a subscription to read the news. Of course, the recent kerfuffle around ad-blockers in Apple's iOS nine has shown that users no longer want to put up with advertising overload, and all these content providers need to figure out a new way to monetize their work.
And all this has caused many people to lose their jobs. Sure, we have Amazon Prime delivery, Uber, AirBNB, and Netflix, but all these companies are making money for the tech 1%. These companies have few employees, who are often treated as disposable. "The problem is the Internet remains a gift economy in which content remains either free or so cheap that is destroying the livelihood of more and more of today's musicians, writers, photographers, and filmmakers."
Keen offers some ideas as to how to change directions, but these suggestions are sketchy at best. "The answer [...] can't just be more regulation from government. [...] The answer lies in our new digital elite becoming accountable for the most dramatic socioeconomic destruction since the Industrial Revolution. Rather than thinking differently, the ethic of this new elite should be to think traditional. [...] Rather than an Internet Bill of Rights, what we really need is an informal Bill of Responsibilities that establishes a new social contract for every member of networked society."
This thought-provoking book may make you think differently about how the Internet affects your life, and how it will continue to affect your future.
I come at this book with three “given” premises: (a) There is no human work endeavor that cannot be done by a machine – either already or relatively soon; (b) There is no way to stop technological advance – if it can be done, someone will do it and the rest will have to keep up; (c) Technology is now advancing on the steep part of the exponential curve. So while I may well agree with Keen’s observations and conclusions about the way things are right now, I judge that his diatribe is helpful only in that it may serve to ignite conversation about where we are going. That is a goal I can get behind.
Keen segmented the book well. Along with other topics, he separately addressed the network, money, and the Silicon Valley culture of celebrating failure. But it did not take long before I was bored with the same theme being repeated in each segment. So I was looking forward to getting to the chapter titled “Conclusion.” Sadly, I still had to slog through more demonstrations of who is lined up on his side of the argument and why. I was looking for a definitive answer, or at least strong suggestions of viable alternatives, and found none.
"It’s a conversation that needs to take place in Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, and the other centers of digital power in our networked world. The time is now ripe for this."
The above quotation is a conclusion which I and the many folks with whom I’ve been discussing this topic have already drawn. I’m thankful for the support, yet we haven’t moved the conversation forward with this book. To be fair, there were some “mild” suggestions including taking regular holidays from technology, refusing to shop on-line and other individual actions. Yet those suggestions tend to back-up the three premises rather than give us a viable way forward.
There is some hope for things not progressing too fast down the road to dystopia. Recent articles indicate there may be a move toward having my on-line purchases delivered to brick-and-mortar facilities. It seems that several “pure play” on-line stores are building out physical stores. That may be a welcomed compromise, but we will not stop the evolution and adoption of technology. Consumer convenience will definitely win.