The Internet Is Not The Answer is a punchy manifesto about the future and integrity of the internet age. Keen focuses on the greed and inequity lying in plain sight in Silicon Valley and beyond. He guides us through the history and excesses of the net, from its arrival in 1991, through the birth of Instagram in 2010 and onwards, to the spectre of privacy concerns and “big data” that loom over us today.
Twenty-four years after the arrival of the internet, the place we inhabit is a connected entity; by 2018 60 per cent of the world looks set to be online. In 2011 the United Nations deemed the denial of access to the internet a violation of human rights; shortly after Syria blacked its out.
So what of its more nefarious aspects? Modern society might espouse the notion of liberal values when referring to the internet – the idea of nodes connecting, becoming a free-for-all untameable beast where any do-gooder or do-badder can do what they want.
Books highlights of 2015
Books highlights of 2015
1/6 God Help the Child by Toni Morrison - 23 April
A new book by this American Nobel Laureate is always going to be an event, and this one has excitement building around it already: it is the story of the way in which the legacy of childhood trauma can shape, and damage, adult life.
2/6 The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro - 3 March
Ishiguro’s first novel in a decade is being billed by his publishers as urgent, relevant, troubling and mysterious, and its central characters are called Axl and Beatrice. We’ll have to wait to find out more
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3/6 So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson - 12 March
The idea for Jon Ronson’s latest offering was sparked by his online identity theft in 2012. Ronson confronted the imposters and began a probing inquiry into public shaming on social media. It looks funny and seriously hard-hitting.
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4/6 Mr & Mrs Disraeli: A Strange Romance by Daisy Hay - 8 January
A biography of a fascinating couple, gleaned from letters found in the Bodleian Library archives. He was one of the foremost politicians of the Victorian age, she the daughter of a sailor on her second marriage. Their passionate letters through courtship and marriage will surely make fascinating reading.
5/6 The Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems - 20 January
A diary written by a Guantanamo detainee, this book promises to be a powerful and unsettling read. Mauritian-born Slahi has been imprisoned for 12 years and has yet to be charged for any crimes.
6/6 Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig - 5 March
A rumination on depression, Matt Haig’s book takes the novelist into personal territory while keeping an eye on the bigger picture: “In the Western world suicide is the leading cause of death among men under the age of 35.” Joanna Lumley calls it a “small masterpiece”.
There’s also a kind of laissez-faire, two fingers to government and big corporations attitude. But there is also a darker edge to the world of instant “presentism”. If anything 2014 showed us that an ever-connected world still retains the evils of the old, just in new, instantly accessible ways.
The book is dazzling in its scope. Take for example the idea that the race between computers and people will be a defining one – that Google’s interest in both the Uber taxi app and self-driving cars looks to provide a future where the current concerns over taxi-driver wages and cabbies being kicked out of their black cars are but a distant memory.
What if you could click a button and a self-driving vehicle turned up instead of a driver, thus reducing prices all round and, ideally, in a speaking network of cars, resulted in reduced accidents on the road? By 2020 Keen predicts that there will be 50 billion connected devices, the so-called “internet of things” as products talk to each other.
In this electronic world of little regulation, a technological behemoth dominated by companies that seem to monopolise this new “internet economy”, how do we make sure it doesn’t run away with itself and become a hydra-like monstrosity?
Keen shows us how: through regulation at governmental levels and an attempt to adhere to net neutrality. This book is a must-read for anyone remotely concerned about their lives on the net. Which, let’s face it, is pretty much everyone reading this.
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