World Without Mind by Franklin Foer review – the turn against Big Tech
It’s open season on Silicon Valley, for obvious reasons. But we can have both Twitter and Turgenev, and this book fails to see the new forms of collectivity created by the internet
Once upon a time, everybody loved the internet. It would make us freer, richer, smarter. It would make us better citizens, better consumers, better humans. This gospel of digital optimism first arrived in the 1990s, when the dotcom boom made it something of a religion. And somehow it persisted, long after the rest of the decade’s delusions washed away.
It’s only relatively recently that this faith has begun to unravel. Later historians will pinpoint the precise moment, but two obvious traumas stand out: the revelations of Edward Snowden and the election of Donald Trump. The first demonstrated how much the companies who own the internet know about you, and how easily that knowledge can be acquired by government agencies. The second illustrated how deeply the tech industry shapes the public sphere, and how little it cares about basic civic norms.