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The Institute for Public Knowledge is hosting a book launch for Evgeny Morozov's new book, TO SAVE EVERYTHING, CLICK HERE: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, which delivers a candid investigation of the digital world and its threat to real-life democracy.
Imagine a world in which humanity—equipped with powerful self-tracking devices—finally conquers obesity, insomnia, and global warming as everyone eats less, sleeps better, and emits more appropriately. The fallibility of human memory is conquered, as the very same tracking devices record and store everything we do. Car keys, faces, factoids: we will never forget them again. No need to feel nostalgic, since that moment is surely stored somewhere in your smartphone—or, more likely, your smart, all-recording glasses—you can stop fantasizing and simply rewind to it directly. Politics is freed from all the sleazy corruption, backroom deals, and inefficient horse trading. Parties are disaggregated and replaced by Groupon-like political campaigns, where users come together—once—to weigh in on issues of direct and immediate relevance to their lives, only to disband shortly afterward. And even those who’ve never bothered to vote in the past are finally provided with the right incentives and so they rush to use their smartphones to “check in” at the voting booth. Crime is a distant memory, while courts are overstaffed and underworked and prisons are unnecessary. Both physical and virtual environments—walls, pavements, doors, log-in screens—have become “smart.” That is, they have integrated the plethora of data generated by the self-tracking devices and social-networking services so that now they can predict and prevent criminal behavior simply by analyzing their users. Newspapers no longer publish articles that their readers are not interested in; the proliferation of self-tracking combined with social-networking data guarantees that everyone gets to read a highly customized newspaper that yields the highest possible click rate. No story goes unclicked, no headline untweeted; customized, individual articles are generated in the few seconds that pass between the click of a link and the loading of the page in one’s browser.
While there are many in Silicon Valley who subscribe to an “internet-solutionism” ideology and find such a technology-driven utopia enticing, Morozov finds this sort of future terrifying. He argues: “Silicon Valley’s quest to fit us all into a digital straightjacket by promoting efficiency, transparency, certitude and perfection—and, by extension, eliminating their evil twins of friction, opacity, ambiguity, and imperfection—will prove to be prohibitively expensive in the long run.”
Evgeny Morozov (@evgenymorozov) is the author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, a New York Times Notable Book of 2011 and winner of Harvard’s Kennedy School’s 2012 Goldsmith Book Prize. He is a contributing editor to The New Republic. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, the London Review of Books, and many other publications. His monthly column comes out in Slate, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), El Pais (Spain), Corriere della Sera (Italy), and several other newspapers. He was born in Belarus.