Andrew Keen’s book, The Internet Is Not The Answer (2015), which I recently finished reading, is a good antidote to cyber-utopians such as Kevin Kelly.
Keen says the Internet is shaping society in ways we the people don’t understand. Some of them are good, some of them are bad, but all are out of control.
Like Kelly, he writes about technology as if it were an autonomous force, shaped by its own internal dynamic rather than by human decisions. Unlike Kelly, he thinks this is a bad thing, not a good thing.
He does not, of course, deny that the Internet has made life easier in many ways, especially for writers. But that is not the whole story. He claims that—
- The Internet is a job-destroyer.
- The Internet enables business monopoly
- The Internet enables surveillance and invasion of privacy.
- The Internet enables anonymous harassment and bullying.
- The Internet enables intellectual property theft
Keen quotes Marshall McLuhan’s maxim, “We shape our tools, then our tools shape us.”
What he doesn’t quite understand is that the “we” who shape the tools is not the same as the “us” who are shaped by them.
Or to use Marxist lingo, what matters is who owns the means of production.
Technology serves the needs and desires of those who own it. Technological advances generally serve the needs and desires of those who fund it.
Advances in technology that benefit the elite often serve the general good as well, but there is no economic or social law that guarantees this. This is as true of the Internet as it is of everything else.
Let me look at his claims one by one—