I was intrigued by Andrew Keen’s recent book “How to Fix the Future” and noticed a pretty good review by a writer at the Guardian, John Naughton. I wouldn’t normally point out a book I haven’t read, but it seems so topical. Naughton points out the problems with the internet today both its addictive traits and its surveillance and abusive elements, where a small group of powerful internet companies take advantage of the rest of his. We are almost ended up with all the prophecies of Alduous Huxley and George Orwell. Andrew Keen’s book dissects some of the problems but actually has a series of fairly smart proposals. Here are some of the key ones:
“A key plank in this platform is that the dominant digital technologies of the future must not be proprietary, but open. And there must be real competition in digital markets. This means that governments have to update antitrust laws for a digital age in which winner-takes-all outcomes are routine, and enforce them rigorously. Monopolistic abuses should be prosecuted and punished. Mergers and acquisitions that were once waved through (Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick, for example, or Facebook’s of WhatsApp) should be scrutinised sceptically. Competition lawyers should be crawling all over the hidden, high-speed ad-trading markets operated by Google and Facebook. And so on.
Second, we need to protect the public sphere on which all democracies depend. Facebook and Twitter – and, in some areas, Google – should be treated and regulated like the media companies they have become. The era when we were suspicious of Rupert Murdoch but indulgent towards Mark Zuckerberg is over. Tech companies should be held responsible for the harms they do.
And citizens – the users of tech services – should also examine their consciences. If you care about how musicians are rewarded, for example, should you be subscribing to Spotify? And should Facebook and YouTube users be supporting automated platforms that facilitate the dissemination of Russian, white-supremacist, racist, sexist or terrorist propaganda?
We also need to rethink our education systems to teach kids about the stuff that machines will never be able to do, and to start planning a new social security system that will provide a safety net for all the people whose lives will be disrupted by automation. If we don’t, all the wealth that accrues from the productivity gains will go not to communities but to the companies that own the machines. If that happens, social cohesion will erode, with political consequences that are easy to foresee.”
You can read the full review here:
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