The Internet Is Not the Answerby Andrew Keen
A sharp indictment and incisive analysis of the detrimental effects of the Internet on our psychology, economy, and society.
Since its creation during the Cold War, the Internet, together with the World Wide Web, personal computers, tablets, and smartphones, has ushered in the Digital Revolution, one of the greatest shifts in society since the Industrial Revolution. There are many positive ways in which the Internet has contributed to the world, but as a society we are less aware of the Internet’s deeply negative effects. In 2007, Andrew Keen, a longtime Silicon Valley-based observer of the digital world and a serial Internet entrepreneur, published one of the first Internet-sceptic books, The Cult of the Amateur, which asked how quality content can be created in an online environment that demands everything for free.
In Keen’s new book, The Internet Is Not the Answer, he offers a comprehensive look at what the Internet is doing to our lives. The book traces the technological and economic history of the Internet, from its founding in the 1960s to the creation of the World Wide Web in 1989, through the waves of start-ups and the rise of the big data companies to the increasing attempts to monetize almost every human activity. Successful Internet companies have produced astronomical returns on investment, and venture capital and the profit motive have become the primary drivers of innovation. In this sharp, witty narrative, informed by the work of other writers, reporters, and recent academic studies as well as his own research and interviews, Keen shows us the tech world, warts and all—from hoodie-wearing misfit millionaires, to the NSA’s all-encompassing online surveillance, to the impact of the Internet on unemployment and economic inequality. The Internet Is Not the Answer is a big-picture look at what the Internet is doing to our society and an investigation into what we can do to try to make sure that the decisions we are making about the reconfiguring of our world do not lead to unpleasant, unforeseen aftershocks.
“The Internet Is Not the Answer claims that the only real best friend today’s tech titans have is money, and until policymakers intervene, or until the ‘digital elite’ adopt a more altruistic posture, the Internet will remain a winner-take-all marketplace that’s widening a yawning gulf between society’s haves and have-nots. . . . The Internet Is Not the Answer supports its convincing narrative with startling numbers and research cataloged over roughly forty pages worth of endnotes.” —John Wilwol, San Francisco Chronicle
“Keen should proudly wear the label of 21st-century Luddite. His new book, The Internet Is Not The Answer, is a packed compendium of all the ways digital life casts aside basic human virtues in favor of a rapacious, winner-takes-all economy. . . . Keen has delivered an enormously useful primer for those of us concerned that online life isn’t as shiny as our digital avatars would like us to believe.” —Michael Harris, Washington Post
“Keen is intent on exposing the greed, egotism and narcissism that fuels the tech world . . . Even if you don’t agree with, say, his vitriolic takedowns of Uber and Airbnb, his sheer passion is likely to hold your interest.” —Laura Pearson, Chicago Tribune
“A damning indictment of the Internet and digital technology . . . A well-written, convincing critique of Silicon Valley, and a worthy read for anyone with an email account.” —Publishers Weekly
“Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andrew Keen takes on the very institution that provides his living . . . Impassioned and insistent, this is a wake-up call worth considering.” —Donna Marchetti, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Keen, himself a veteran of the tech industry, reveals the behind-the-scenes workings of the Internet . . . His best message, however, is that with consideration and the application of care we can still shape a future society that utilizes the strengths of the internet while not allowing it to overwhelm us and turn us into robotic servants of the very technology that was designed to help us gain freedom and growth as human beings.” —The Daily News Online
“The Internet Is Not the Answer returns to arguments that Mr. Keen has made in previous books, expanding the case for worries about privacy in the wake of the revelations of Edward Snowden . . . it makes a strident economic argument. . . . Unbridled techno-Utopianism shows only the revolution’s benefits, and is dangerously incomplete. It is handy, therefore, to have skeptics like Mr. Keen around.” —Economist
“The Internet Is Not the Answer is the most compelling, persuasive, and passionately negative thing I’ve yet read on this topic. It offers a scary picture of how the ultra-libertarian superstars of Silicon Valley are leading us inexorably into a future with the sort of social inequalities not seen in the West since the early days of the Industrial Revolution.” —Kazuo Ishiguro, New Statesman (Books of the Year)
“[Keen] can be a telling polemicist and has a sharp eye when it comes to skewering the pretensions and self-delusions of the new digital establishment. . . . Keen has a sharp ear for the sanctimonious of tech happy talk.” —Financial Times
“If you’re stuck like a fly in the World Wide Web and your life is largely lived online, then The Internet Is Not the Answer is a book you won’t be able to put down.” —Terri Schlichenmeyer, Journal Record
“Keen’s larger point stands: The tech world, like industrial capitalism before it, will not become sufficiently equitable unless we legislate it to be that way. . . So instead of waiting for technology to sort us out, Keen argues that it’s time to intervene—to manage digital developments in ways that increase rather than undermine human welfare.” —Simon Lewsen, Globe and Mail
“[A] brilliant, packed history . . . An outstanding polemic, not only for internet skeptics (below as well as above the age of sixty) but also for its credulous users.” —Sydney Morning Herald
“The most devastating book I’ve read in a long while. Keen describes an Internet that’s not as virtuous, open and egalitarian as was promised by those who developed it . . . this is from someone who embraces the digital age and still sees its potential.” —San Jose Mercury News
“Keen warns of [the] Internet’s disastrous impact . . . [he] argues that the digital revolution has been—his words—‘an epic fail.’ . . . A harsh critique of the digital world.” —Voice of America
“A devastating new book.” —Daily Mail
“Should be applauded for rowing against the tide of veneration for technological innovation.” —Daily Telegraph
“It is with an acerbic wit, perspective and profound dismay that Keen dismisses the Internet as the revolutionary vehicle for progressing human civilization that it started out to be.” —John Kendall Hawkins, Prague Post
“The argument travels between a beach in Mexico where the photo-sharing app Instagram was invented on a laptop and the boarded-up buildings in Rochester, N.Y., that memorialize the bankruptcy of Kodak. . . . [Keen] knows the digital world inside and out—both as an entrepreneur and as a journalistic commentator.” —Andrew Cleary, Christian Science Monitor
“A punchy manifesto on the internet age. . . . [Keen] guides us through the history and excess of the net, from its arrival in 1991, though the birth of Instagram in 2010 and onwards, to the specter of privacy concerns and ‘big data’ that loom over us today. . . . The book is dazzling in scope. . . . This book is a must-read for anyone remotely concerned about their lives on the net.” —Max Wallis, Independent
“Andrew Keen’s pleasingly incisive study argues that, far from being a democratizing force in society, the internet has only amplified global inequities. . . . [Keen] wants to persuade us to transcend our childlike fascination with the baubles of cyberspace so that we can take a long hard look at the weird, dysfunctional, inegalitarian, comprehensively surveilled world that we have been building with digital tools. . . . Keen challenges the dominant narrative about the internet—that it’s a technology that liberates, informs and empowers people.” —John Naughton, Guardian
“[Keen is] the most famous British tech voice in the US.” —GQ
“The Internet Is Not the Answer is the most frightening book I’ve read in years (perhaps in my lifetime), as frightful as the conservative Supreme Court justices and the deniers of climate change. . . . Keen is unsparing of what he calls ‘the libertarian elites’ who want to eliminate all oversight, all regulations, all concern for the safety of others. . . . I’d call him a prophet.” —Charles R. Larson, CounterPunch
“Given the increasing power of technology in our lives, it’s worth spending some time with skeptics, people like Andrew Keen . . . The Internet Is Not the Answer is a polemic with a good dose of gratuitous tech bashing . . . Keen argues that the Internet’s hidden costs outweigh its benefits.” —Michelle Quinn, Mercury News
“[Keen’s] message is clear enough, and downright radical. . . . No question Keen is onto something.” —Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe
“Keen goes among the Silicon Valley hipsters—those who truly believe they are on the verge of joining the one percent who own half the winner-takes-all economy—and he is not impressed.” —The New Scientist
“Keen wants you to know that the Internet has not lived up to its early promise. Rather than fostering an environment of intellectual and social democracy, it has spawned a rule-by-mob culture, promoted narcissism and voyeurism, encouraged intolerance and exclusivity, created global monopolies, increased unemployment, and decimated whole industries.” —David Pitt, Booklist
“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 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
“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. Beneath the criticism is a moral commitment, too, a defense of humane society—the right to be left alone, a fair shot at success, access to the doings of the powerful, and other democratic ideals threatened by the Internet and its moguls.” —Mark Bauerlein, 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. But will anyone accept the invitation? And, if they do, will anyone thank Andrew Keen for bursting our bubble? If so, maybe there’s hope for the digital generation after all.” —Larry Downes, 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
“Andrew Keen has done it again. With great authority he places modern Silicon Valley into a historical context, comparing its structure to the feudal system, which produced a wealthy elite from the efforts of myriad serfs. If you have read The Circle, this is your next read. Like me, you may find much to disagree with. But you won’t be able to put it down. This is a book that demands a reaction. The Valley will never be the same.” —Keith Teare, co-founder of Techcrunch, EasyNet and Real Names
“Keen makes a deeply important argument and offers a constructive caution that there is no Moore’s Law for human progress, that technological determinism is not a good in itself, and that until we fuse technology with humanity the real power in the technology that connects will in many ways be to disconnect us from what matters.” —Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN and author of How
“This is the best and most readable critique of Silicon Valley yet. Keen is no technophobe nor a stranger to The Valley and this is what makes his book especially devastating. On the other hand it allows him to carve out a small space for optimism.” —David Lowery, founder of Camper Van Beethoven and cofounder of Cracker
A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Book of the Fall (Social Sciences)
No, the more the future unfolds, the clearer it has become that Internet is not the answer. The more we use the network, the less value it actually brings to us. It is more like a negative feedback loop, a digital vicious cycle in which it is us, the Web’s users, who are its victims rather than beneficiaries.
Rather than making us wealthier, the digital revolution is making most of us poorer. Rather than generating more jobs, it is a principle cause of our structural unemployment crisis. Rather than creating more economic competition, it has created new, leviathan-like monopolists like Apple, Google, and Amazon. Rather than promoting economic justice, it is a central reason for the growing gulf between rich and poor and the hollowing out of the middle and working classes. Rather than creating transparency and openness, it is creating a panopticon of information gathering and surveillance in which we, the users of supposedly “free” big data products like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, have been packaged up as the all-too-transparent product. Rather than creating more democracy, it is empowering the rule of the mob.
Rather than encouraging tolerance, it has unleashed such a distasteful war on women that many females no longer feel welcome on the Internet. Rather than making us happy, it’s compounding our disappointment and anger. Rather than fostering a cultural renaissance, it has created a selfie-centered culture of voyeurism and narcissism. Rather than establishing more diversity, it is massively enriching a tiny group of young white men in black limousines.
So if the Internet is not the answer, then what is the question?