On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, “How to Fix the Future” author Andrew Keen talks about his new book. Tech is neither the solution nor the scapegoat for all problems, he says, and he urges Silicon Valley to look to history for answers.
You can listen to the entire interview here or in the audio player above. Below, we’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
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Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode coming to you from the Vox Media podcast network.
Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You may know me as someone who can predict the future and I predict this podcast will be fascinating. You’re listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas and how they’re changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes Recode Decode on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Play Music or wherever you listen to podcasts, or just visit Recode.net/podcasts for more.
Today in the red chair is Andrew Keen, who I’ve known a long, long, long time. Andrew, we’re super old. He’s a writer, entrepreneur and also a frequent critic of the Internet. In 2015, he wrote a book called “The Internet Is Not the Answer.” We might want to know what the question is, but his new book is called “How to Fix the Future.” It’s all about finding reasonable solutions to problems caused by the digital revolution, of which there are many and which we have just covered in our show we’re doing for NBC also is the responsibility of tech, so there’s lots to talk about, Andrew. Welcome to Recode Decode.
Andrew Keen: Thank you, Kara, honored to be here.
Oh, absolutely. I’m thrilled to talk to you because you’re always such a good critic, you’re such an intelligent critic about the Internet, not just, you know, yammering on about its evils, but really trying to think hard about what it does. So let’s hear a little bit about your background and your first book and your first thoughts. Let’s give people an idea of where you came from to get to this position.
Well, where I came from is, I was an internet entrepreneur in the mid ’90s, I had a startup — you might remember it — called Audio Café.
Yeah, I met you then, I think.
Yeah, we knew one another then and it was one of those me-too music startups that raised lots of money and then failed because it didn’t really have a coherent business idea.
Which didn’t matter at the time.
Well, it didn’t matter. It was a lot of fun, it was most exciting. We were on Spear Street and it all happened around here. We had an office on Mission Street. Raised lots of money, got into the internet, had a lot of interesting, exciting experiences, and then some other business development stuff after the crash, so lived through both the boom ...
Yeah, the boom and the crash, and then I was in an event probably around 2003 ... No, probably about 2004. I was at Foo Camp, which I’m sure you’ve been to.
Tim O’Reilly, which we’ve had on this show.
Yeah, and who now is a friend of mine even though we haven’t always been friends. But anyway, I went to Foo Camp in the early days of Web 2.0 and it occurred to me that the dream of Web 2.0, of this kind of disintermediated media, of this media that could work because it would be democratized and we’d get rid of gatekeepers wasn’t such a great idea, so in 2007 I wrote a book called “Cult of the Amateur,” which was a critique of the sort of democratized nature of digital media, and it was very controversial.
Because at the time everyone ... It’s so interesting that we sort of fast-forward to today where everyone’s gone crazy, essentially. But you were talking about the idea you want to get to, the ethos behind the people who made the Internet, which was everybody should have a say, everybody has equal footing, everyone has equal expertise, perhaps. There was an idea, there was a very strong ethos to give that concept of that.
Yeah, and I think it was very genuine. I think people like O’Reilly meant it and I think they were genuine in their wish that media would be democratized, but my critique was that firstly curators have value. Secondly, when you do away with curation you also undermine truth. And of course, you know, more than 10 years after “Cult of the Amateur,” many, many people have come up to me and said, “Well, when that book came out I thought you were an elitist and I thought you didn’t know what you’re talking about, but actually in the last 10 years I think you’ve been proved to be more correct than incorrect.”
Now, the book was purposely provocative and perhaps took a slightly extreme view, but it certainly had an important impact and I think it was a valuable correction to the kind of utopianism of the time, which believed that you could have this purely democratic media, no gate-keepers, and everything would work perfectly.
Right, I think it left out human beings. I’ll never forget Barry Diller when we talked about this. This was way back when and he goes ... I asked about citizen journalism and he said, “Citizen journalism. How would you like citizen surgery?” and it was really ... I was like, “Exactly.”
Or citizen air pilots.
Yeah, right, that kind of thing, and so it was ... At the time it was definitely pushing back about that idea that this is all for the good, you know, and this is sort of the Panglossian idea of ...
Yeah, and I think what was forgotten more than anything else was business models. Everyone would assume — as you know this better than I do — that in Silicon Valley as long as you have eyeballs the business model will work itself out. What people weren’t willing to acknowledge was that implicit in the idea of democratized media was surveillance capitalism, because if you give all the stuff away for free and everyone’s spending their time blogging and tweeting and posting on Facebook, ultimately you get business models where these big companies are watching us and selling our data.
And so you did that and then continued to sort of be a, I wouldn’t say gadfly because there’s a lot of gadflies.
But you were trying to be provocative.
Well, I’ve done a lot of different things. I sort of stepped in and out of media, a little bit of business, business development, consulting. My second book was called “Digital Vertigo,” which was a kind of critique of social media. It probably should have been called “Cult of the Social.” It was a critique of the cult of social media which came out in 2012, and then my last book ...
But talk about that because I think again, right now, sort of this has been a really lost year for social media, like that it’s suddenly ... tech has suddenly become evil in a way that people hadn’t thought of it that way. And it’s largely around social media.
Actually the book was called “Digital Vertigo” because it was a rather ambitious remix of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” which I’m sure most of your listeners know the narrative of that book, that movie of an innocent man or perhaps not so innocent man who fell in love with this blonde who turned out not to be a blonde.
And my point in “Digital Vertigo” is we’ve fallen in love with this idea of social media but it’s not really social, it’s actually anti-social. It only compounds the narcissism and the self-centered nature of not so much digital media or technology, but our contemporary culture. And rather than ... I’ve got nothing against the social — you know, social is apple pie, social is good — but the problem is the social media is anti-social and compounds or the sort of individualists, narcissistic elements in our culture. You’ve seen it today politically manifested most clearly, I think, in Trump.
Who is the kind of dystopian distillation of social media. If we would have imagined the worst-case scenario or perhaps at least in American terms the worst-case political scenario in 2012, it would have been Trump. I mean, I was in my book slightly dystopian but even in 2012 if someone had said, “Well, you’re going to get Donald Trump coming to power riding on the wave of social media and talking about himself all the time and making stuff up,” I’d’ve thought, “You’re absolutely out of your mind.”
Right, right. You couldn’t have imagined it.
But of course it’s happened.
Because he really is the world’s best troll. He really is a talented genius troll.
A narcissistic troll, and trollery and narcissism are sort of intimately bound up with one another.
Yeah, it works, it really does work. You can insult him all you want, but it works.
You can tell him, but it does work.
Well, in San Francisco, the independent state of San Francisco.
No, we’re not. That’s actually the people who want to pull it off now are right-wing people, just so you know. The most recent new California people, they’re all conservatives.
But we’re going to leave them. They want us out, right?
No, there’s another ... There’s always a new ... We’re not leaving the United States of America.
There’s not enough guns to do that. So they’re not letting us go, we make everything. We make everything.
They’re not letting you go. Where would be the world without Kara Swisher?
Oh, stop, stop, stop. Don’t be complimentary, it’s not like you. So you did that and then you wrote about a third book, correct?
Yeah. “The Internet Is Not the Answer.” So you said, “What’s the question?”
So the question is what should the operating system be for our digital 21st century, and whilst I think the internet ultimately or at least digital technology will have to be that operating system, my argument in 2015 when the book came out was it wasn’t ready. And so I used examples like Uber and Airbnb and the rest of the sort of the P2P economy suggesting that it actually was compounding inequality.
I develop my ideas about surveillance capitalism, and “The Internet Is Not the Answer” was one of the ... I think the first full-borne critiques of the kind of society that the digital revolution was producing. And I concluded that for the most part it wasn’t something that we really wanted, so we had to reform.
And none of my books, I need to remind your listeners, none of my books — I hope, at least — are luddite. They’re not against technology, although it’s always easy to pigeonhole someone like myself as being anti-technology, but you know I’m a tech entrepreneur, I’m as connected and in love with technology as anyone else, it’s just that I think I’ve been a little bit more critical in understanding the social and economic and political consequences of the revolution.
Well, I think against a backdrop of when you do talk to leaders of these companies they’re unusually naive about ... Maybe they’re willfully naïve. Maybe they know just what they’re doing and they’re the most ...
Well, a lot of them they do have a vision. Like we did last couple, two years ago we were talking about AI and literally every single leader of every company except for Elon Musk, interestingly enough ...
Benioff. They thought AI was is great, it’s a happy, shiny future. They tend to go that way. They tend to like ... They’ve stuck to the script of “this is all for the good,” you know, the best of all worlds, whatever the best of all things and the best of all possible worlds. And so I think this year is sort of a real slap to the side of their heads and it’s like, “Wait a minute, you have impact on jobs, you impact on our society, you have impact on elections.”
Do you think they’re finally getting it now, because ...
I do, I think they’re terrified now because I think ...
Terrified because their business is going to go under or they’re waking up morally?
Morally. I do. I think some of them are quite troubled. I think others are like, “This is a real challenge to our business model.” I think ... You know, I’d like to see, say, Mark Zuckerberg, who’s probably at the center of this in a more ... I think it never occurred to him, the damaged parts of what he was doing. It was only ... You know what I mean? And I don’t think he’s not someone who cares for money that much, or he’s not ...
But Sheryl got it, right?
I think they just willfully believe it’s for the ... They all do, it’s a really ... I’ve not heard except for Elon Musk who has his own issues too with his stuff too like his cars and everything else, I think they tend towards naivete bordering on willful naivete.
But it doesn’t necessarily cross over into their personal lives. So for example they’re quite careful about how much access their kids have to personal technology, so they do get it as long as getting it doesn’t involve undermining their professional lives and their wealth.
Right, exactly. I think that you’re seeing a lot of resurgence of like Tristan Harris and tech addiction. You’re seeing the Russia stuff. Today there’s a terrorism ... Like did Facebook cause terrorism. It seems like you know, they’re ...
Yeah, but I think the danger ... There are two dangers. Firstly, we can flip this thing on its head and suddenly from being our savior, technology becomes the problem. And neither of those things are true.
We’ve got to walk the fine line between digital utopianism and dystopianism, and I think we also need to be careful particularly in Silicon Valley, which has no memory. I think the most culturally problematic thing about Silicon Valley is this general amnesia, this idea that well, if we thought of it no one else thought of it before. So you sometimes see that in the work of people like Tristan Harris who have suddenly discovered that tech is addictive. Well, there are lots of people who knew that before. All you need to do is read Nick Carr. Nick got it 20 or 15 years ago.
So this idea that, well, we’ve discovered it so must be true, we must embrace it, I think we need to be a little careful. And also — and I mean, we’re going to talk about my book, but I really think the most important thing, the way for Silicon Valley to genuinely grow up is to be more historical. Understand we’ve been through this before. We’ve been through it with the Industrial Revolution and other historical periods. This is not happening for the first time in human history.
No, but you know, they hung the moon. I don’t know if you know that. I mean, it was really interesting, it’s an American expression.
What does it mean?
They hung the moon. They did everything. The moon, they did it. They did ... They’re responsible for all beauty and all ...
You mean the tech guys.
Yeah, they think of themselves that way. It was interesting because when President Obama was leaving he gave a speech that didn’t get as noticed as much but I certainly did where he talked about this idea that tech people have this idea that tech solves all problems and maybe government isn’t a problem to solve by tech and that there are certain problems that don’t have tech solutions and including ... And we’ll talk about this, you know, the impact on jobs. The new inventions coming are quite impactful on jobs in a way that you know a SQRL database wasn’t. You know, they certainly decimated music entertainment journalism, now we’re going for the big jobs, driving, accountants, lawyers and things like that. We’ll talk about it more, about your book.
When you say they decimated journalism and music ...
It just changed the business plan in a way that was very fast and very problematic and I don’t think there was anything to stop it because this is the way people want to consume media, but it was the thing that caused the change to happen.
Well, certainly in the music industry I’ve always, in all my books, I’ve written especially because I had a music startup in the mid ’90s so I drank the Kool-Aid as much as everyone else. And certainly the impact on the music industry is self-evident. It’s inarguable, the impact. I mean, the global revenue of recorded music dropped 50 percent I think between Napster in 1999 and about 2015, so there’s no arguing with it.
As perhaps it should have. It shouldn’t have stayed the same way. It’s like saying we should still have horses. You know, cars had an impact and now whatever’s going to replace cars. Like the other day I was in something and they were talking about self-driving cars and things like that. I said, “It’s not a matter of if, it’s when it happens, so what are we going to do about it and who’s responsible for it?”
All right, we’re here talking to Andrew Keen, who’s a very sharp chronicler of ideas around the impact of the internet and where it should be, and he’s written a number of books about a variety of things, but his next book seems rather hopeful, because most of your books were not hopeful. It’s called “How to Fix the Future.” It’s certainly broken right now, or it feels broken, and we’re going to talk about these reasonable solutions to problems caused by the digital revolution when we get back.
Today’s show is brought to you by Audible. Audio books are great for helping you be a better you, whether you want to feel healthier, get motivated or learn something new. Andrew, what book should I read to get better at something?
Well, I think Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography read by himself on Audible is fantastic, especially since I’m going to see him on the 20th of April in New York.
All right, so that will make me feel better.
I actually like him.
Well, I do love him. I love him.
Because it’s so human, because it’s so honest and because he’s ... And maybe this comes back to our conversation. You understand how much intense, personal, emotional investment is required to develop talent. Clearly the guy’s a genius, but he had to spend 15 years in his bedroom practicing the guitar.
Becoming a genius.
To actually realize that genius.
And coming back to the music industry, if Bruce was around now, probably none of us would have heard of him. If he was still in his bedroom in New Jersey, he wouldn’t have made it in the music industry. You need talent, you need A&R people. The same guy who discovered Bruce also discovered Dylan.
Oh, wow. All right, that’s great. The Bruce Springsteen book on Audible.
All right, we’re here with Andrew Keen. He is a sharp chronicler of Silicon Valley over the years. He’s written many books, but his new book is sort of positive. Positive Andrew. “How to Fix the Future,” let’s talk about that. How do we fix the future?
Let’s not be too kind to me, Kara.
I know, because you’re a British guy so you have to seem ...
Yeah, and you taught me not to be too kind to you.
“Positive” might be a slight exaggeration, but certainly I’m less miserable than I used to be.
And I’m cautiously optimistic that we can fix this stuff.
All right, so let’s talk about what we need to fix, to start with. What’s the problems?
Well, I think the problems are for four- or five-fold in very broad terms. The first is the economic inequality that is being created by the digital revolution. The second is the imminent crisis of jobs. The third is the kind of surveillant capitalist economy that is developing in the midst of the digital revolution, and the fourth is the general cultural crisis bound up with incivility, fake news ...
And all the divisiveness and everything else that seems to have been both created and also as a consequence of the digital revolution. So those four broad categories.
All right, that’s a lot.
It’s a lot. We can do it, I hope.
All right, so let’s start with the first one.
How do we fix it? That’s a good one.
We can walk the streets of San Francisco just to see.
Well, I think when it comes to inequality we need to look at the broader economy. We need to understand the role of regulation and government. I don’t want to appear like a big government European lecturing Americans on these things and I don’t want to sound as if every solution requires a sort of regulatory solution, but I do think when it comes to these profound inequalities and the appearance of these enormous monopolistic companies — what one British historian called private superpowers.
They’re countries of themselves.
They’re countries in themselves. They have more money, they have more power, they have more resources and they’re certainly less transparent than countries. The role of government I think is important, and in one of the chapters in my book I interviewed Margrethe Vestager.
Vestager, I just interviewed her in Europe, in Lisbon.
So she’s a real hero, didn’t you think?
She is. I love her. I’ve interviewed her several times, she’s great. She’s been on the podcast.
So she’s the kind of person who can take on these powers and make sure that the kind of economic divisiveness and in some ways injustice is counted. I’m not a socialist, I’m not in favor of nationalizing the economy.
She’s quite reasonable. People sort of try to paint her here — a lot of companies — as sort of communist almost, you know, just that she wants to stay in control of everything. That’s not what she’s saying if you actually listen to her. She’s talking about fairness. She’s talking about basic fairness.
Well, she’s talking about sort of importing a certain set of values into the economy. Now they may not always work in the U.S. I don’t think she’s interested in exporting her values to the U.S., but one of the things I think to fix the future is we’ve got to get beyond this idea of a single technology or a single idea being successful throughout the world.
The fragmentation of the internet — which horrifies perhaps the Facebooks and the Googles of the world because they’re so dependent on a global marketplace — might not be such a bad thing. So Vestager’s values may be relevant in Europe, but not so much in Asia and certainly not so much in America. And she doesn’t want to impose those but she has a set of values, and in the book I describe my conversations with her. She has a set of values, which I think are very credible and coherent and she has successfully taken these companies on. She’s the only one who is. I mean, Obama didn’t and Trump certainly isn’t.
Absolutely not. No, we just abrogated all of it. All of it.
Well, we fell in love with it, and I think Silicon Valley has a responsibility. When it comes to Obama, they did a great job seducing the guy. Eric Schmidt and everybody else who convinced him that Silicon Valley was the solution, that the Internet was the answer, and it isn’t. Now, that doesn’t legitimize Trump, but certainly I think one of my most ... I’m overall an admirer of Obama, but I’m not a great admirer of his relationship with Silicon Valley.
Yeah, he did change, though.
I don’t think he had much ...
By the end.
Yeah, but I don’t think he had a lot of distance and I think even his critique of Vestager when he said well, you’re only doing this ...
He did it to me. Remember, he did it on ... I did an interview with him. Yeah.
Right, but I think that was unfair, don’t you?
A protectionism is what he calls it.
Well, it’s this idea that any time you’re critical of Silicon Valley, any time you begin to take on the monopolist and change tax policy, you’re somehow protecting your own interests, which I think is very unfair.
Yeah, I would agree. And again, just so people who don’t know, Margrethe Vestager is the head of ... She’s the EU minister in charge of competition.
Yeah, she’s the commissioner of antitrust.
Yeah, and she’s giving Google, Facebook, all of them really, tax ...
Yeah, ex Danish politician.
Apple. I had a show written about her.
Ex Deputy Prime Minister of Denmark, a couple of teenage daughters, a woman in her ’40s or ’50s, extremely friendly, very personable, but in political terms extremely steely.
Yeah, she really is. She’s terrific and she’s coming to Code this year, I’m hoping. That’s driving them crazy, that’s pretty much why I want her there.
Well, and Tim Cook said famously when he had her interview with ... I don’t think it was an interview, an interrogation, inquisition with her in her Brussels office it was the worst interview he’s ever had because she was the only one who’s taken on these companies and changed tax policy.
Right, that was over taxes.
That was over the taxes.
But what was the fine, it was ...
It was a lot.
A large amount of billions of dollars.
It was a large amount of money. Yeah, she did fine them. All right, the second one.
The second one: Unemployment.
Which is my big interest.
Well, the first is I think recognizing that it’s a problem. Without overdoing it, without believing ... again, without going the whole kind of dystopian hog and saying well, no one’s going to have a job. It’s still very hard. I mean that famous Oxford report predicted that 47 percent of jobs would go away by 2025 or whatever it was. I mean, God knows how they came up with 47 percent. Why isn’t it 46 or 48? I think the reality, though, is that we need to recognize that many of the skills that were essential in the industrial economy are not going to be essential now.
So I think one of the most important ways of dealing with the jobs crisis is through education. I have a chapter on education. I think we need to rethink education. We need to focus on the skills we can do where we’re not competing with machines, with thinking machines. The one thing computers will never be able to do which we can do is empathize. The one thing that computers will never be able to do is have what I say in the book is goals, agency, and so rather than focusing in education, I think, on teaching everyone coding, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I think we need to focus on teaching human beings what it means to be human in an age of smart machines. So in my book I ...
Creativity as opposed to ...
Right, so I spend some time in a Waldorf school, in a Montessori school. I have a section talking about the minimum guaranteed income, the referendum in Switzerland which was driven by an ex-Montessori teacher. I think it’s really important to connect education and the challenge of jobs and I think it’s important to talk about it. I think you’re absolutely right to put it probably central on the agenda.
Because it does lead to that because that’s where a lot of the populism is coming from and people always confuse it with racism here and everything else. I think it’s job related, almost. It’s fear of the future and fear of job loss.
Although I read that a lot of the Trump supporters, for example, don’t believe that machines are going to take away their jobs. I think they think it’s going to be China.
Yes, they do, but it’s job worry. I think everybody even in the most lizard of lizard brains understand something’s about to happen, very similar to when the farming went to manufacturing economy, that the industrial age is over and now we’re in the thinking machines age.
And that’s why we need again to go back historically. My book is quite historical. We need to remind ourselves that we’ve been through this before, in 1814.
But no memory.
Yeah, 95 percent of people worked on the land, but by the beginning or the middle of the twentieth century, 90 percent of those people were in cities. Now it wasn’t an idea and it wasn’t painless, but we’ve got to recognize we’ve been through this before. I think it’s too easy to take — and here I disagree with Musk and some of the other people who believe that we’re about to be enslaved by smart machines. I don’t believe that’s the case.
I mean, on the other hand, the reason I get some of these ideas around this is ... Marc Andreessen onstage at Code last year was talking about how it was all better once we went from farming to manufacturing and I don’t think he understood the economic displacement that happened and who’s responsible for that. I think, again, it’s that happy, shiny future and it will be okay someday and some people will benefit and others will not. And I think I said to him, I was like, “Well, what happened to the family of the blacksmith?” And he’s like, “Well, so what?” He almost was like ... he didn’t say “so what” ...
But Andreessen’s an odd case because he grew up on the land and he has a very sort of love-hate relationship with his family and the culture he’s from. And he suffers amnesia.
It was interesting that the economic displacement is the concern for me and he’s like, “It’ll get fixed.” And of course he’s right in the long term, but in the short term the pain that it’s causing is quite severe.
Well, it’s the old joke — and it’s not really very funny — about, you know, if your neighbor gets unemployed it’s a problem and if you get unemployed it’s a crisis.
And the idea of displacement is all very well to look at, but if it happens to you, if your whole world is taken away — and that’s exactly what’s happening in America, and that explains much of the political chaos and the problems and the way in which populists are taking advantage of this. But I do think that Silicon Valley ... I do think there are a lot of people in Silicon Valley who get this problem. I think they’re embracing guaranteed minimum income, which is a little problematic because I think the mentality in Silicon Valley is, “Well, there’s this long-term economic job crisis, well, we’ll create an app for that.”
Right, that everything has an app.
Everything has an app, everything has a solution, and I think the guaranteed minimum income is an interesting idea but it’s not the solution in itself, it’s not going to solve everything and today’s political climate in America it’s unimaginable. I mean, it’s possible in Switzerland, it’s possible in Finland.
It feels like communism.
It does. Every time they push it I’m like, it feels like welfare, which is a dirty word in this country.
And it will be certainly perceived in this country as welfare.
Absolutely, they have new names for it, but it feels like ...
Well, what is interesting is — and I interview some of the people in the book — there are some more responsible, this is for example like Albert Wenger from Union Square Ventures in New York. I mean, he gets it. And even some of the more kind of what you might think of as adolescent Silicon Valley types, they’re beginning to embrace the idea of guaranteed minimum income.
Yeah, this is an interesting question. Okay, the next one.
Someone had to remind me of that.
I love that word.
Well, unfortunately it’s not mine, someone else came up with it, but surveillance capitalism, which is the product of the dominant business model in Silicon Valley which is give away the product and watch everyone and what they’re doing. Google and Facebook are the classic examples.
That’s what they do for a living.
So the way to challenge this I think is through innovation. I think much of your audience will be entrepreneurs. The real opportunity today is not a regulatory one, but an innovative one. I use the example of the car industry. In the 1950s, the American car industry dominated the world. They had enormous market share. Twenty years later, the American car industry collapsed because they produced cars which were death traps and Ralph Nader exposed this and you saw the rise of the German car industry, which was predicated on safety.
I think we’re at a similar time in the digital economy. I think consumers will and are coming round to the recognition that this business model is not in their interest, and what we need are entrepreneurs to come up with new ideas. I have some examples of companies trying to pioneer and it’s hard, but trying to pioneer new business models.
That aren’t dependent on the slot machine of attention.
Yeah, but also aren’t predicated on big data so that, you know, we’ll give you our stuff for free, you give us your data. We’ll know more and more about you. And your Facebook people would say, “Well it’s not really like that,” but it is really like that. When it comes down to it, that’s why these companies are so profitable. And I think surveillance capitalism is problematic on many different levels. It’s certainly problematic, obviously, in a political sense — Snowden exposed that — but commercially it doesn’t work. And I think in 30 or 40 years it will be obvious that it doesn’t work.
It’s always ... we always take everything for granted and then when it gets undermined it seems obvious to us that it didn’t work, but this model in my view doesn’t work and that’s why some of the larger companies are actually better positioned. I think Apple is better positioned than Google or Facebook and I think Mark Zuckerberg has been rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic with these latest reforms of Facebook. I would like to see him really acknowledge the problem and deal with it directly and come up with radical solutions.
Well, it’s interesting. They are slow as they roll all these things out. Facebook is always notorious. You know that, every crisis there they have a slow roll.
Yeah, they boast about, you know, moving fast and breaking things — as long as they’re breaking other people’s things. They need to break their own stuff.
That’s what I said. I actually was ... Yeah I used the thing like “move fast and break things,” they’ve broken enough things, they need to fix them now, and you’re right they should break their own things. I suggested they closed down when they had that issue around anti-Semitic [content] and being able to search. Just close down the system for a week as a symbolic closure. “We’re going to close it down and come up and hack our way into a solution tomorrow.”
And that’s why I’m not convinced ... I don’t know if you said it in this interview but I’ve heard some of your other conversations where 2018 is going to be the year where all that changes. I’m not sure if they still get quite the depth of the crisis.
Oh, I think they’re starting. They thought it was a PR crisis. I have been yelling at them both publicly and privately for a while now.
But we haven’t had ... When it comes to data we haven’t had ... we’ve barely had the Exxon Valdez, let alone Chernobyl.
Right, that’s a fair point. It was interesting because a year ago I had a conversation with a pretty prominent Facebook executive, not a name you would know, but he called me hysterical when I was talking about this.
You mean funny or paranoid?
No, paranoid. And of course I was like, “I don’t think so.” I think people are ... It’s problematic and I was more worried about the Russian stuff. I thought that would get more attention and of course it has, but on the other side you can’t blame them for everything. It’s citizens using these tools, by the way.
Yeah, and it’s consumers. Again, it’s part of the kind of great seduction. My first book was originally called “The Great Seduction” before “The Cult of the Amateur.” But it’s part of this great seduction that Silicon Valley, I think, has orchestrated on the world where you can have everything. You can have incredibly good products and they can be free and you can love them and we’re benefiting the world and we’re benefiting you. But the reality of course is none of those things are true. It’s true you can have great products and it’s true they can be free, but they’re not really free. Consumers have become the products and they need to wake up. We have a responsibility. We can’t just blame other people.
That’s exactly right.
That’s part also of a broader cultural crisis if we always blame everyone else. So we blame Wall Street, we blame Obama, we blame Trump, now we blame Silicon Valley. And that’s not the way out of this problem.
That’s a very good point. I think it’s hard for people that ... They feel like they’re acted upon a lot of the time, and sometimes I’m like, “You don’t have to use it.” Someone was complaining about Amazon ruining retail and I go, “And you use it all the time because it’s better.”
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s part of sort of the hysteria. This is maybe ain’t going to make me very popular with your listeners or with you, but I think this is also part of the hysteria around network neutrality. I’ve got a 16 year-old daughter. She told me that her school has only ever come out on strike twice: The first was when Trump was elected, which I understand, and the second was over network neutrality.
It’s this idea that somehow everyone has the right to free internet and if you take it away then there’s some sort of crisis. Now, of course, network neutrality isn’t really about taking it away, but it does reflect a sort of mentality that we ... And it comes back to your point about socialism. You know, America isn’t socialist until it is.
Yes, it’s a free play.
And so we have socialism when it comes to the internet, we have socialism when it comes to free shipping, but that’s about it.
Socialism free. I was at a dinner party the other day and a Comcast person ... And it was, you know, there was arguments about net neutrality, of course, it’s what happens at dinner parties in San Francisco, and the conversation got real exercised, like, “You know what? You can stream ‘The Crown’ right now from your phone and you’re still complaining — like, at a really low price.”
It was very funny. And I think that it was actually, they’d had it. Like it was very funny and there’s lots of sides to this and I think it’s, you know, they think of these major, major companies been built on the backs of this stuff and have benefited enormously from Netflix or YouTube to others.
But I do think that in 50 years we’re going to look back at this period just as we look back now in the middle of the 19th century and we saw terrible pollution and we saw 11-year-olds working in the factories and I think, “What were we doing? Why did we embrace an economy where we became the product?”
Right, that’s very true, which has been going on for a while.
And the real opportunity is with innovation. It’s not shutting this stuff down because there are kids out there probably listening to this who are going to come up with interesting new ways of creating business models around great digital products that will get beyond this. That’s the real danger of Google and Facebook. Innovators who think beyond them. Just as Google did it with Microsoft, so the same will happen in the next chapter.
Absolutely. All right, the next, the last one.
The last one is lack of civility.
Oh, good God.
Fake news. Let’s pick that one.
Well, I think it’s a mix of all these things. In the first examples we talked about the role of regulation, we talked about consumers, we talked about innovation and we talked about education. In my general argument in “How to Fix the Future,” I argue that there are five pillars which we’ve always used for fixing society. Regulation, innovation, consumer action, education and, finally and perhaps most importantly, citizen activism. And in fact I invent a new term. We all know on this show Moore’s Law or Gordon Moore’s Law. I come up with another Moore’s Law.
Not Roy Moore.
No, Thomas Moore, the author of “Utopia,” which reflects our need and responsibility to make the world a better place. So when it comes to cleaning up our culture, we all have a responsibility. There certainly is a role for regulation and innovation. Consumers have a role in making sure that the products are better. I use examples of other industries. The food industry, for example. In the industrial revolution, the kind of food that was being produced was disgusting and incredibly unhealthy and overpriced. Over the last hundred years, consumers have pushed back. Now we have Whole Foods.
Now of course Whole Foods is obviously owned by Amazon and that’s another story, but consumers have been much more demanding and I think we can have better-quality products, more civil products, but we all have a responsibility to behave ourselves. And one of the chapters I go to and I have two kind of middle chapters in the book, one in Estonia and one in Singapore, and both these countries, which have very different political cultures and histories, they have much more civil cultures, people are behaving themselves much more.
That’s partly because they think you no longer have anonymity online and it’s partly because people feel more responsible, but I think we need to look at other countries. One of the challenges I think — and I argue in the book — is not to look inwards. Silicon Valley needs to look at other examples of other cultures, Singapore and Estonia in particular, which are beginning to develop more civil digital societies.
Although you have to wonder if it’s ... There is an article in the New York Times about India now eating fast food. France eating ... We infect everything versus the other way around.
The U.S. infects things, so the incivility could go worldwide just because we’re so good at it.
Well, I don’t know if Americans invented incivility.
No, of course not. The British did.
I mean, I’m from England. We are proud of being lack ...
Let’s just ... I would say the British.
Yeah, and sometimes the French.
We have ... My brand is ...
The French, really, and the British.
Yeah, the French and the British, in different ways.
All you Europeans. You insulting Europeans with your duels and things like that.
I think it’s a mistake to think America always is infecting the world and that everything begins in America. I think what you’re seeing with digital society or at least what I argue in the book is new models for new social contracts, new ways of organizing the data relationship between government and citizens is actually being developed elsewhere. Even India now in some ways is pioneering stuff which America isn’t doing. I mean, America is so stuck because of its political paralysis, because of the dysfunctionality of its political system.
But again, we also do have a president who engages ... is absolutely the poster child for this behavior and is benefiting from it, presumably. Of course he’s not, but he is.
But he’s more of an effect than a cause.
When you think of the general crisis.
I think he’s taken tools that were created and using them in the worst possible way well. You know what I mean? You cannot deny the impact. He’s created distraction, persistent lying works, you know he’s just doubling down on the negative parts of all these tools.
And I think it’s also important to understand, and I try and make this argument in the book that we have a new kind of international system germinating. In the 20th century, the Cold War was premised on democracy versus authoritarian or totalitarian government. In the digital 21st century, we have this increasing chasm between supposed free societies and then a country like Russia which has become a troll state, which is using trollery and investing in trolls, buildings full of trolls, to undermine its enemies.
And the appearance — which I think is most worrying of all — of a kind of digital Big Brother in China, a true dystopian state. So the digital revolution is pioneering a new kind of ideological division in the world, which is very challenging, interesting and worrying all in the same time.
Right, but these tools have certainly been much abused, I think, or are easily abusable. And I think a lot of the people who created it didn’t ... either they didn’t anticipate fully how they might be used or they didn’t care.
But I think it’s also important to remember that America still has the potential to build a digital democracy and America still is a positive model when compared both with China and Russia.
Yeah, but that’s sort of a low bar. “Well, we’re better than China.”
Well, what’s your model? Whenever you travel around the world, what have you seen that works?
I think that people have lost their minds in this country at this point.
But outside of America, where should America look for models for fixing this stuff?
It’s hard to say because I think there’s a natural human instinct to ... Probably Europe in many ways.
Well, they’re all so nice in Denmark. I think it’s hard because it’s a very compelling ... fear and hate is very compelling for a lot of people and it’s a way to blow your steam off. It has elements of addictiveness to it, too, so you know, people notice this about me. I don’t drink or smoke or anything else, but I got to say I feel addicted to the news cycle in a way that I imagine what it feels like.
But I’m not sure that addiction in itself is a bad thing as long as you keep up with it. It’s a problem when the addiction becomes ...
It’s the hair-trigger anger.
Narcissistic, where you live in an echo chamber and you believe all the lies that your own side puts out and you’re not open to any kind of discussion.
Right, but I think there’s something about it that’s dangerously addictive, all of them, you can feel it. You’re like something’s gone real wrong. And I was just actually talking to someone, like how do you turn it back once you’ve ...
Then we had McCarthyism and then we didn’t, right?
But to be fair — and I’m the last person, really, who should be defending the digital revolution — but to be fair, television has been as much responsible ...
As doing for the internet. MSNBC and Fox are as responsible.
It’s twitchy reactiveness that I think is the problem everywhere, twitchy reactiveness almost everywhere. And I think social media has only made that ... You don’t consider things. Like you move from books and newspapers to twitchy ...
And that’s why the Facebook reform, I think, is so problematic, because they’re actually burrowing further and further into their hole. If all we do is see what our friends say and think and the links they give, then what becomes of the middleman? What becomes of some sort of objective version of the world? We just hear what we want to hear and that’s the really troubling thing.
All right, we’re here with Andrew Keen. We’re talking about his book, his latest book out, which is about the internet, it follows a number of other books. It’s called “How to Fix the Future” and it’s talking about solutions to problems caused by the digital revolution. When we get back, I want some predictions from Andrew about a range of things.
We’re here with Andrew Keen. He’s written a new book about how to solve problems that the internet has created. It seems like 2017 was the year we didn’t love the internet so much. Andrew’s got a new book out where he’s proposing solutions and one of his first books was called “The Internet Is Not the Answer.” This new one is “How to Fix the Future.”
Let’s talk about the future. Where do you imagine it going? We just talked a little bit about some of the issues you brought up, but let’s talk about where you imagine the future, the short-term future, the middle-term and the long-term.
That’s a big question.
I know that, but Andrew, you’re a big thinker. You can handle it.
The future is not like a road.
What happens this year with all these companies that keep trooping up to Capitol Hill. There’s issues in Europe. There’s all kinds of regulatory this and that. Do you imagine any regulatory actions anywhere? I don’t. I think the U.S. government’s going to punt on it, myself.
I think that some of the stuff going on in Europe will begin to have some relevance. I think, for example, the general Data Protection Act that is starting this year will make it very clear that the kind of surveillance capitalist economy that we’ve taken for granted for the last 25 years doesn’t work and is — at least in terms of this new law — illegal.
I think that the growing calls for antitrust regulation or at least investigation and conversation in the U.S. will grow more and more, and I think you’ve already got people like Jonathan Taplin, who are very credible, Hollywood, music people, you got Franklin Foer, who just came out with an important book about this. So Noam Cohen, the ex-New York Times reporter I know has been on your show. So whether it’s the old cliche in Silicon Valley, we always assume that the immediate future is ... What’s the quote? The immediate future is going to happen and we always overestimate the short-term.
Short-term, right, over the long-term.
And underestimate the long-term, so I’m not going to sit here and make a fool of myself or make predictions about 2018 because I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but what I would predict that in the next two or three years the kind of trends that we’re talking about are going to manifest themselves. And I think Steve Case was right in his “Third Wave” book.
Yes, he did it a little while ago. He really did anticipate this.
I think what he understood is that we’re in a new stage, the political stage.
Right, they need the government’s cooperation.
Where you don’t have, you know, Eric Schmidt basically running the White House. You have a situation where it’s a challenge, where there are other voices, where ...
There are disagreements.
Where Silicon Valley now is no longer the sort of apple in most American citizens’ eye. And they’re going to have to work hard — like Wall Street and like any other industry — to get what they want. And increasingly I think politicians will discover — and I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing, I’m certainly wary of this — but I think they’ll discover Silicon Valley as a punching bag. You’re going to see people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders suddenly wake up to the recognition.
Cory Booker already has.
Right, the five largest companies and the wealthiest companies in the world, none of them are banks, none of them are from Wall Street, they’re all tech companies, and the incredible wealth here and the incredible disparities and the impact on the local economy, you’re already seeing it with Gavin Newsom. There’s no one in Silicon Valley, no one in the Bay Area who has historically been more in — excusing the pun here — more in bed with tech than Gavin, but even he now is beginning to distance himself. And he made a famous speech at UC Berkeley graduate engineering school last year saying you’ve got to take responsibility, you’ve got to be accountable. So the political atmosphere is changing sharply, and you have people like Roger McNamee and Tristan Harris, and more and more Silicon Valley insiders are waking up to this and realizing that they need to be much more vocal and responsible.
And what is the impact? Because initially the reaction could be because they’re of course stubborn people, is like, “We’ll PR our way out of this.” I think there is an inclination of them to say ... I mean, I’ve gotten calls recently like, “Hey, you got to calm down on this stuff.” I’m like, “No, I don’t think so. I think I’m not going to calm down.”
And it’s more complicated and, you know, you want to be a reasonable person, like you don’t want to be like as you said a Luddite, but at some level it’s even like walking ... You know when you walk around San Francisco and this is a visual thing and you see the extreme homelessness next to the extreme wealth, you cannot help but say something’s amiss, like the people living on the street and then you get the ...
Yeah, and it’s only going to get, if you want to make predictions about the future, I wouldn’t make this about 2018, but certainly in the next five years, and Scott Galloway is saying big tech is ready for fall. I think big tech is ready for a PR fall. They’re ready for a fall in terms of their reputation, but we’re only at the beginning of this thing. AI, Internet of Things, self-driving cars.
Everything is about to change. I still think we’re in the very earlier stages of the technological revolution.
So the idea that big tech is about to take a fall I think is a profound mistake.
No, I think ...
And the idea that somehow big tech will be put back in its cage and the old show will carry on is absolute nonsense. The world is dramatically changing.
One hundred percent, but I think the stuff they’re addressing now does run in, as you said, to people that don’t agree with them and don’t think they ...
Well, I think your point about PR is an interesting one. I think PR people in the Valley — and again, you know this better than I do — I mean, they’re incredibly annoying and they think they control the world and they’ve had it very easy for 25 years, they’ve had nothing to deal with. They’ve been basically given softballs for 25 years. Now they’re going to have to grow up. Now they’re going to have to realize they’re going to have to learn from the PR people of banks and car manufacturers.
And oil companies and big pharma companies and understand that they’re no different from them and actually they’re more powerful, and increasingly in the public eye they’re seen as the problem, not the solution.
Well, interestingly, it’s such an interesting disconnect of how they view themselves. I remember when I took a communications class, one is how you perceive yourself, how others perceive you, how you perceive others perceive you, and how you really are, like there’s different layers. I think they perceive themselves still as change-makers and world-changers and helpful. They perceive that’s their ... They look in the mirror and that’s what they see.
Well, I have to admit, you asked me about my career and you didn’t ask me the question that sometimes people ask me, why did you change your mind? Why did you go from being an entrepreneur, very pro tech, to being a critic, and I think one of the reasons was I just got so sick of all the PR shit. You know, this sort of nonsense, this touchy-feely, good-feeling stuff that is completely wrong.
Right, except I think you missed one thing. It’s not PR. They believe it.
I know. The PR people don’t believe it, do you think?
For a long time, yes. It’s a very true-believer cult, because I think like when you’re talking to a Wall Street person you know they know what they are, you know what I mean? Like you have a what are they calling ...
What about that woman at Apple, the one who ran the show there on the job, what was her name?
Yeah, did she know it?
She was ... You know, one time she said to me — and I really did appreciate it. I thought she was ... You know, different people had different opinions about Katie, but she says, “I’m just here to sell cellphones, that’s my job.” And I was like ...
But she never said that publicly, right?
No, but I think she kind of did. Like, I think she kind of did. She was sort of like we’re not here ... We’re here to sell cellphones.
What about Elliot? Was Elliot ...
Why are you laughing?
Oh, he’s just Elliot.
What does that mean?
Well, you know, he’s political.
Does he get it?
I think they understand the challenge. I do think he understands the challenge I just don’t think he likes some of the discord against them. They’re sort of shocked by people who disagree with them and it’s not the same thing as dealing with people who are ... They’re actually almost visibly personally hurt. It’s a very different kind of encounter than you would get with someone from Hollywood. They get it. They get what that fight is, you know what I mean, and they get the ...
But I think they’re different. I mean you know these people better than I do.
But someone like Larry Page, I would think, is a believer, whereas someone like Sergey, he’s a much more worldly character. He actually understands the problems.
Absolutely. I think some of them, the penny is dropping for sure, but I think they start off ... What I always think about is the people who ... We’re dealing with founders and therefore they’re more religious, you know, versus like, if you remember, if you go back and read about sort of Tesla and Edison, it was a religious war between them, right?
And that’s why my ...
They’re founders because ...
Let’s again, Kara, be historical. I know you want to talk about the future, but to talk about the future you have to talk about the past.
And in my book on morality and getting these people to grow up I again bring up the example of 19th century industrialists who were incredibly rich and often rather cruel in their business lives who reinvented themselves, so a Carnegie whose business career certainly wasn’t exemplary in any moral sense.
He was crude. Right.
But then he spent the second half of his life investing in infrastructure and libraries. And I think the guy who is the most interesting ...
Well, I think Gates is a bit of a stereotype, but I think the one who — and I hope he’s listening to this, although I’m sure he’s too busy — is Bezos, because I think he’s a mensch. He’s a grown up, he’s incredibly smart.
He’s always been. He was an adult when he started.
Yeah, but he’s not a geek. He’s not like Page. He understands it. He’s the richest man in the world and I think — and I’m wary of throwing around phrases like a moral responsibility. If anyone has a responsibility it’s him because he has the resources, the vision, the intelligence, and I don’t believe he’s drunk the Kool-Aid and his company is different from the others. It’s certainly not ideal in their labor practices, but someone has to lead. You know, Benioff has done an interesting job, but I don’t think he has the profile of a Bezos.
And Bezos knows now that he has to become a philanthropist. He made that famous tweet asking people how he should give his money away, but he knows. He didn’t tweet at the beginning of Amazon and saying should I have you know, Amazon Web Services, should I have e-commerce. He knows this. He has to take responsibility.
I would agree. The difference is Bezos was always an adult. He started as an adult and so a lot of these ...
But that’s a good thing.
So it shows there are adults.
I was just talking to someone and I think I was talking about Apple and I go, “One of the pleasurable things is, they’re adults, like you’re talking to adults. They know what they’re responsible for.”
But Jobs wasn’t an adult.
I think he knew what he was doing. I agree they do all kinds, all of them, every single one of these guys does all kinds of ...
But if Jobs was around now I don’t think he would’ve ... He was completely uninterested in any philanthropy.
No, not at all, but I think that he would have changed. I do.
Yes, I do. I think he was changing. He was becoming different, I think, understanding the weight of history.
I’m waiting for someone to lead.
Bezos, I would agree.
And the person who is best positioned and who has the ability, and I really admire what he’s done with the Washington Post.
Right, that was an interesting move.
I’m trying to get someone to buy the New York Times.
Oh, you are? Who could buy it?
I think Laurene Jobs would be amazing owner of it.
She’s got the commitment to social justice and all kinds of things and certainly has the money.
So the Sulzbergers don’t have the resources?
Think about this. I suggest this onstage, like what if it was just a billion dollar investment for a certain part of it. I asked Dean Baquet this, what would you do with a billion dollars, and he’s like, “I can think of a lot of things I’d do,” but it would certainly relieve pressure on that company financially. He’s not a charity.
Yeah, but on the other hand, you wouldn’t want to transform the New York Times into the Guardian, where they don’t have a business model.
No, but it’s not a charity. It’s the idea of what’s wrong with investing in this. Like, think of it as don’t just give up, that it’s a lost cause as a business.
So Laurene Jobs you think has the vision to do it?
I think she’d be a good owner. I was trying to think. There was a point couple years ago, many years ago, where I think Eric Schmidt did look at the New York Times when they were having all those financial troubles. She’s a very interesting person. I think she’s just recently been investing in media. She bought the Atlantic. She’s invested in a whole bunch of media properties. She’s obviously interested in the space and she understands that it’s ...
What about Peter Thiel, shouldn’t he buy it?
Oh, that would be interesting. I don’t think so.
That was a joke.
But I think it’s someone who’s, you know, it’s got to be in the political arena of the Sulzburgers and something, it should interesting. It would be interesting, not maybe a billion dollars, but what would you do with a half a billion dollars, and again it’s not in a charitable way, because I think Bezos is doing ... At least I don’t think it’s going to be a big, big business, but it certainly could be a viable business that has enormous impact, I guess.
Well, I’m more and more influenced. I have to admit that I spend much more time on the Post site now than the New York Times, so I think the Post is becoming more global. The problem with the New York Times is it’s always been very provincial, very news-y.
I want them all to survive. I worked at the Washington Post for a long time, I don’t know if you know that, back in the day.
I do know that.
Yeah, back in the day. I love what they’re doing. Someone was making fun of their “Democracy dies in darkness,” but I love it. It’s like flashy and fun and ...
And what about the Journal, how do you think they’re doing?
Oh, awful. It’s awful. I don’t think they have vision. I don’t think they have a vision. I think they jump from ... I don’t think they have a vision under Rupert Murdoch, not at all. I can’t see what it is for sure. They’ve always been a great newspaper, but I don’t think they’re as great as they were and they certainly ... You know, the leadership has problems, although recently they’ve been trying to be ...
Although, to be fair to the Journal, I think they have been certainly more vocal in their critique of Silicon Valley than the Times or the Post. Historically.
Sort of. Yes, sort of.
I mean, maybe it reflects Murdoch’s own problem with the business model.
Yeah, he just wants to buy Yahoo. Or he was using it as a cudgel, like I want to get this and I want to ... To me, it’s not a well-thought-out theoretical thing, it’s more like ... I just don’t think it’s as smart as it was, I just don’t. Like, we had some issues with them, but I used to think of the journalism as much more thoughtful. I thought Paul who ran it for years was fantastic, I’m not as enamored with the new editors. I think they’re very transactional and I find I think they have a great opportunity to really do some ... And believe me, there’s so many great journalists there so I don’t want to insult all of them. I do think that the Post certainly has become emboldened and in a good way under two things, a leader like Marty Baron who runs it and then an owner who really thinks ...
Yeah, and some people say, “Well, it didn’t cost much for Bezos.”
For Bezos it’s not money, it’s attention.
No, it’s attention.
It’s opportunity, he could do anything he wants. He can spend his money in any way.
But he’s not abusing it.
And he chose to invest in the Post. My last book was incredibly critical of Amazon and had about five pages where my publisher was like terrorized, and you really should write this and I did. And the best review I got was in the Post.
Interesting. I think it’s an interesting time. The editor, I couldn’t ... He’s become ... It’s giving him the fuel he needs to do a really good job and I think they’re being very careful. I think they’re doing great journalism, that’s all, and that’s all you need. And they have an owner who’s also adding to innovative business stuff and giving new ideas and fresh ideas, but in a way that is helpful versus, “Hey, let’s digitize everything!” You know what I mean?
Well, I challenge all these serious newspapers is, it’s coming down to earth after Trump.
Right, right. Yeah, what happens and it’s still an interesting time. I think it’s invigorated. Trump is certainly, for all the attacks ...
Trump has definitely been good for the business model of the Times.
All of them. And it’s also invigorated the staff, so I think at some point they’re getting exhausted by the whole thing at this point. I think every journalist who I know who is a political journalist is exhausted, because it’s like literally a week ago it was Bannon, right, a week ago, a week ago, and now are we talking about that book, no we weren’t.
In any case, Andrew, this has been a fascinating discussion. How would you sort of ... So when we go to like the Ubers and everything that’s going to ... And AI and stuff like that, what’s your ... If you want to close on what your biggest worry would be.
My biggest worry.
Yeah, of all of the different things. I’m sorry you have to pick one, but I am going to make you.
My biggest worry of everything is that nothing is done. The biggest worry is that we drift into what Neil Postman called a technocracy, a dystopian world where these companies are bigger, more powerful, wealthier than governments, and they’re run by people who have drunk the Kool-Aid, who believe they’re correct, who live in our echo chamber culture and who confuse the public and the private good as I think somebody like Mark Zuckerberg does and believes that whatever is in their interest and the interest of their company is in the interests of the world.
So ultimately we have a world run for and by big tech, a tiny group of people maybe in Silicon Valley, maybe on the East Coast, maybe in India or China, maybe attached to the government, but who are creating what Huxley famously called a brave new world, one of sort of a dictatorship of technology which undermines democracy, undermines civilization, and ultimately may even endanger us as a species.
Wow. All right then, Andrew.
That was cheerful, wasn’t it? I thought I was supposed to be the cheerful guy.
The cheerful one. Anyway, it was great talking to you on this incredibly thoughtful show and thanks for coming.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.