There's a lot to love about the Internet: You don't need to be on campus to go to college; long-lost connections are just a tweet or post away; and whether you need groceries or a cab, there's an app for that.
But the promise of the Internet is far removed from its reality, argues Andrew Keen, author of "The Internet Is Not The Answer." Far from creating equality, he says, it has birthed a new elite.
“My argument is that the ideology of Silicon Valley is improving the world, but the truth is, it’s improving the bank balances and cultural power of a tiny group of techno-plutocrats in Silicon Valley.”
Keen views this digital revolution as similar, in many ways, to the Industrial Revolution. The early 19th century promised manufactured goods that the common man could attain. It lived up to that promise, but along the way, created morally reprehensible working conditions, led to phenomenal fortunes, and resulted in untold environmental devastation.
Keen is quick to point out there’s a difference between robber barons and, in his words, techno-plutocrats.
“This new elite, this Silicon Valley elite, is more confident in their moral virtue. I think the 19th century entrepreneurs had a sense of their virtue, but nothing quite as arrogant as people like Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page of Google who think they can both make enormous fortunes and make the world a better place. You can do one of those, but not both," he argues.
Now, because the digital revolution has impacted all of our daily lives (and as you’re reading this post, I’ll assume the Internet is a factor in yours), the social consequences of our personal digital existence can be fairly easy to parse. A study by University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross found that, on the whole, spending time on Facebook makes us lonelier and less happy. Anecdotally, as someone who’s seen pictures of their old friend’s glamorous vacation in New Zealand, this holds up.
But Keen is also focused on the broader economic and cultural impacts of the digital revolution. He argues that while the Internet gives ordinary people publishing platforms, it actually makes it much harder to earn a living as a creative artist (some like Cory Doctorow disagree), making what's suppsoed to be a free model not so free at all.
Read the full article "The Internet may be hurting all of us" at PRI.