I ended up cancelling my Verso books subscription because I was overwhelmed with the number of amazing books coming out every month. This looks like one to keep an eye out for.
Several decades into our experiment with the internet, we appear to have reached a crossroads. The connection that it enables and the various forms of interaction that grow out of it have undoubtedly brought benefits. People can more easily communicate with the people they love, access knowledge to keep themselves informed or entertained, and find myriad new opportunities that otherwise might have been out of reach.
But if you ask people today, for all those positive attributes, they’re also likely to tell you that the internet has several big problems. The new Brandeisian movement calling to “break up Big Tech” will say that the problem is monopolization and the power that major tech companies have accrued as a result. Other activists may frame the problem as the ability of companies or the state to use the new tools offered by this digital infrastructure to intrude on our privacy or restrict our ability to freely express ourselves. Depending on how the problem is defined, a series of reforms are presented that claim to rein in those undesirable actions and get companies to embrace a more ethical digital capitalism.
There’s certainly some truth to the claims of these activists, and aspects of their proposed reforms could make an important difference to our online experiences. But in his new book ‘Internet for the People: The Fight for Our Digital Future’, Ben Tarnoff argues that those criticisms fail to identify the true problem with the internet. Monopolization, surveillance, and any number of other issues are the product of a much deeper flaw in the system.
“The root is simple,” writes Tarnoff: “The internet is broken because the internet is a business.”