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Wow. I had mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I admired the authors’ bold imagination on complex global issues. The idealism was almost childish, but I kept reminding myself that “these are the Google guys” and gave them the benefit of the doubt.
The allure of the book revolves mainly around its passionate and revolutionary tone. More and more, the physical world is casting a kind of digital shadow where almost all human activity can be recorded. This data is a new metric available to those with access to it. However, the authors seem almost blinded by their own imagination. There is some bizarre detachment to some of their solutions. They paint pictures of Somalis running around with cell phones and snitching on war lords using a form of cyber-bullying. Let them eat cake! Or more, appropriately, let them have cell phones and data plans!
Instead of an Orwellian police state, where the government spies on its citizens…..we can have a Democratic Police State, where citizens spy on their government and each other. By stripping away privacy, the authors envision a kind of transparent super-state in which each citizen has the technological power to expose any wrong-doing. Each citizen is a reporter, a photojournalist, a spy, and vigilante. Through a system of total surveillance, we will apparently have a world of total transparency, and thereby a world where no one does anything wrong. Why? Because everyone is watching. Instead of Big Brother, we get Big Neighbor.
To justify this digital anarchy, you’ll notice the authors’ heroic image of a digital super-state in action. Citizens would cyber-bully bad governments until they topple while NGO’s [non-governmental organizations] are deployed around the world to distribute food, commodities, and technology. NGO’s replace governments by distributing resources wherever needed thereby ending poverty and dictatorships. The Digital Age apparently is one of distribution….not free trade. The role of the citizen is as an informer working “together with the State” against undesirables. Digital mob actions would keep everyone in check. The authors’ literally suggest public tribunals and community policing programs. We would have a decentralized fascist public equipped to expose wrong-doers and undermine any central authority at will. Therefore, the main ‘revolution’ of the Digital Age appears to be radicalism against…ourselves.
These are not new ideas. This policing and distribution model for society is simply getting new life because of new technology. This time, we are assured, the power will be used for good. This time, only bad people will be targeted.
If anything, this book got me thinking. Instead of destroying privacy because we can, we should focus more on how to better protect it. Privacy is a barrier between us, the public, and the government. Our lives are our own record of experiences, a secret patent to our personal belief system, a trademark for our self-image, and our very own brand of personality. Our digital self is our own intellectual property. You, Inc. The government’s role should be in protecting your privacy….and NOT in protecting the rights of the intruders.
Google isn’t sharing its secrets with the world. Why are they asking us to share ours?
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
Nice survey of what great things are possible, along with the potential nightmare scenarios. Much of this book discusses how the digital age will create new public policy issues, both domestic and international.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful