World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech
The downside of convenience.
Information from the publisher
Franklin Foer reveals the existential threat posed by big tech, and in his brilliant polemic gives us the toolkit to fight their pervasive influence.
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 co-opted 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.
“Important and incredibly informative (and entertaining) new book…I can’t recommend this enough…I want everyone to go out and get World Without Mind.” - Hugh Hewitt
“But Foer’s writing is deft enough to make this a polemic in the best sense of the word, which is to say a relentless intellectual argument, executed in the tradition of George Orwell and Christopher Hitchens, which often eschews nuance in favor of wit and aggression.” - Washington Post
“Foer conjures concise, insightful psychological profiles of each mover-and-shaker, detailing how they’ve mixed utopianism and monopolism into an insidious whole. He also offers compelling mini-bios of everyone from Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew and the father of modern propaganda, to Stewart Brand, publisher of The Whole Earth Catalog and a massive influence on Silicon Valley . . . . World Without Mind is a searing take, a polemic packed with urgency and desperation that, for all its erudition and eloquence, is not afraid to roll up its sleeves and make things personal.” - NPR.org