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Over the past few decades, there has been a revolution in terms of who controls knowledge and information. This rapid change has imperiled the way we think. Without pausing to consider the cost, the world has rushed to embrace the products and services of four titanic corporations. We shop with Amazon; socialize on Facebook; turn to Apple for entertainment; and rely on Google for information. These firms sell their efficiency and purport to make the world a better place, but what they have done instead is to enable an intoxicating level of daily convenience. As these companies have expanded, marketing themselves as champions of individuality and pluralism, their algorithms have pressed us into conformity and laid waste to privacy. They have produced an unstable and narrow culture of misinformation and put us on a path to a world without private contemplation, autonomous thought, or solitary introspection - a world without mind. In order to restore our inner lives, we must avoid being coopted by these gigantic companies and understand the ideas that underpin their success.
Elegantly tracing the intellectual history of computer science - from Descartes and the Enlightenment to Alan Turing to Stuart Brand and the hippie origins of today's Silicon Valley - Foer exposes the dark underpinnings of our most idealistic dreams for technology. The corporate ambitions of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, he argues, are trampling longstanding liberal values, especially intellectual property and privacy. This is a nascent stage in the total automation and homogenization of social, political, and intellectual life. By reclaiming our private authority over how we intellectually engage with the world, we have the power to stem the tide.
At stake is nothing less than who we are and what we will become. There have been monopolists in the past, but today's corporate giants have far more nefarious aims. They're monopolists who want access to every facet of our identities and influence over every corner of our decision making. Until now, few have grasped the sheer scale of the threat. Foer explains not just the looming existential crisis but the imperative of resistance.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Christopher B Valentine on 11-02-17
A critical message in an era of conformism.
World Without Mind accurately describes the critical crossroads that we as a culture find ourselves between technological and informational Utopia and authoritarianism. He provides specific examples and historical parallels that frame the current problem well. I can forgive him for being a bit of a romanticist about the paper book, but the points that he makes are completely valid. Media consumption should be a private, introspective affair. We need to recognize the value of dedicated, professional journalism, authorship and criticism. There are certain things that simply cannot be commodified. The most recent election is the best example of the manipulative power of social media. Not that Russian “hacking“ should not be investigated, but I think the much larger question is whether we as a country should permit there to be a system by which any power, corporate, governmental, foreign or domestic, may influence our democracy.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
By David Larson on 09-18-17
5-Star Book with a 1-Star Title
5-Star Book with a 1-Star Title
There's a recent trend where we take an amazing book that everyone needs to read and give it a crazy title (e.g., Chasing the Scream, Fantasy Land, etc.) virtually guaranteeing that nobody will become intrigued enough to pick up said book. To help overcome this deficit, I have written this review to point out how insanely good this dull-titled book really is.
Pop quiz, during the last four years of the Obama administration, which American company sent the most lobbyists to the White House?
Was it some bloated weapons-system maker who just signed a sweetheart, no-bid, multi-billion dollar deal to deliver a weapons system that will come in late, over-contract, and have multiple technical glitches requiring expensive ongoing maintenance and upgrades from said company? Nope not those guys.
Was it lobbyists from some big pharma company trying to convince the president to let them make a handful of minor 5000% price increases on drugs invented 50 years ago and available for pennies on the dollar in every other country in the world? Nope, not those guys either.
The company with the most lobbyists regularly visiting the White House over the last 4 years, was a little silicon valley startup called Google.
Do I have your attention?
Here's what to do now:
Step 1: Read this book immediately. Step 2: Question everything.
Okay, maybe not everything. The weak spots in this book are mostly in the first half where the author (a famed former editor of the New Republic) rails bitterly against falling standards in his profession amid piracy and abundance. The author balances precariously here as he imagines himself stumbling upon some ancient economic law stating that an increase in supply somehow leads to an inevitable decrease in quality. No such law exists, and usually the opposite happens (i.e., if you want to find the most diamonds in the rough, it helps to start with a lot more rough). If you want more successes, you need to take more attempts, and that means you will have more misses too.
This book is really two books. The first half is a slow-burn oral history of the information age, and it completely undersells what’s about to hit you in the second half. The second half of the book is a rousing polemic that makes you realize suddenly that the pod people walk among us and you don’t even own a pair of katana blades to defend yourself. The second half of the book is a quadra-latte vascular injection into the orbicularis oculi muscles of your eyes. In other words, read it, and you shall be made to see the light.
18 of 20 people found this review helpful