11:11:15 The Internet Is Not the Answer, a book review

The Internet Is Not the Answer by Andrew Keen examines the tech tsunami that swept into our lives the last few decades. The title of Keen's book signals a review of how the World Wide Web failed to deliver on its social promise of openness/transparency and egalitarian access for all.

[book cover]

Keen begins The Internet Is Not the Answer with a historical survey. The reader is walked through the Internet's evolution: from a 1940s speculation of computer scientists, to a 1960s DARPA linked network of four university computer centers (an Internet the Defense Department intended to survive a nuclear holocaust during the Cold War) to 1989 and CERN where Tim Berners-Lee wrote up the original specification for an Internet of linked web pages [the Web].

Much of the Internet's promise [which we'd like to keep alive] came from idealism of the 70s and 80s. Disillusionment began once the American government turned over control of the Internet to any and all commercial internet service providers [ISPs] in the early 90s. In a Wild, Wild West moment, the Internet lost its government/academic discipline and became a potential Gold Rush for whoever could figure out how to make money from the "eyeballs."

Making money off those who browse the web was, of course, solved by the ubiquitous tracking and data mining we routinely accept as “the price” for all that appears free and convenient. Keen deftly disabuses the reader of the latter notion. We learned even before Snowden a person's right to privacy is on the auction block.

Beyond loss of privacy, Keen's targets include a perversion of capitalism that leads to a "winner takes all" [that is, one search engine thrives and the also-rans flounder]. A corollary is Internet-created plutocrats, behind whom the Internet tsunami leaves a shrinking middle class and a growing underclass of have-nots. Job destruction is anything but virtual [Keen offers the killer app Uber as but one example.]

With a cascade of Internet-derived dysfunction so pervasive and widespread, Keen wraps up The Internet Is Not the Answer with the admonition we must stop our rabbit- eyes-caught-in-the-headlights-brain-freeze and look at history. Specifically, when American trustbusters took on Standard Oil. We must break up Google for similar reasons. [The European Union has already begun such an action.] Read The Internet Is Not the Answer for a cogent examination of what we must do to restore some of the Internet's social promise and integrity.

The Internet Is Not the Answer by Andrew Keen, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015, 274 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8021-2313-8.

Image credit: google images: amazon.com

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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.

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