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The Internet Is Not the Answer Hardcover – Jan 6 2015

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (Jan. 6 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802123139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802123138
  • Product Dimensions: 17.7 x 3 x 23.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 558 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #166,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Praise for "The Internet Is Not the Answer"
"The Internet Is Not the Answer" is the most compelling, persuasive, and passionately negative thing I ve yet read on this topic. It offers a scary picture of how the ultra-libertarian superstars of Silicon Valley are leading us inexorably into a future with the sort of social inequalities not seen in the West since the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Kazuo Ishiguro, "New Statesman" (Books of the Year)
Andrew Keen has written a very powerful and daring manifesto questioning whether the Internet lives up to its own espoused values. He is not an opponent of Internet culture, he is its conscience, and must be heard. Po Bronson
Andrew Keen is the Christopher Hitchens of the Internet. Neglect this book with peril. In an industry and world full of prosaic pabulum about the supposedly digitally divine, Keen s work is an important and sharp razor. Michael Fertik, CEO, Reputation.com
This is the best and most readable critique of Silicon Valley yet. Keen is no technophobe nor a stranger to The Valley and this is what makes his book especially devastating. On the other hand it allows him to carve out a small space for optimism. David Lowery, founder of Camper Van Beethoven and cofounder of Cracker
Keen is intent on exposing the greed, egotism and narcissism that fuels the tech world . . . Even if you don't agree with, say, his vitriolic takedowns of Uber and Airbnb, his sheer passion is likely to hold your interest. "Chicago Tribune"
"The Internet Is Not the Answer" claims that the only real best friend today s tech titans have is money, and until policymakers intervene, or until the digital elite adopt a more altruistic posture, the Internet will remain a winner-take-all marketplace that s widening a yawning gulf between society s haves and have-nots. . . . "The Internet Is Not the Answer" supports its convincing narrative with startling numbers and research cataloged over roughly forty pages worth of endnotes. "San Francisco Chronicle"
"The Internet Is Not the Answer" returns to arguments that Mr. Keen has made in previous books, expanding the case for worries about privacy in the wake of the revelations of Edward Snowden . . . it makes a strident economic argument. . . . Unbridled techno-Utopianism shows only the revolution s benefits, and is dangerously incomplete. It is handy, therefore, to have sceptics like Mr. Keen around. "Economist"
[Keen] can be a telling polemicist and has a sharp eye when it comes to skewering the pretensions and self-delusions of the new digital establishment. . . . Keen has a sharp ear for the sanctimonious of tech happy talk. "Financial Times"
[Keen is] the most famous British tech voice in the US. "GQ"
Keen s larger point stands: The tech world, like industrial capitalism before it, will not become sufficiently equitable unless we legislate it to be that way . . . So instead of waiting for technology to sort us out, Keen argues that it s time to interveneto manage digital developments in ways that increase rather than undermine human welfare. "Globe and Mail"
"The Internet Is Not the Answer" is the most frightening book I ve read in years (perhaps in my lifetime), as frightful as the conservative Supreme Court justices and the deniers of climate change. . . . Keen is unsparing of what he calls the libertarian elites who want to eliminate all oversight, all regulations, all concern for the safety of others. . . . I d call him a prophet. "CounterPunch"
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andrew Keen takes on the very institution that provides his living . . . Impassioned and insistent, this is a wake-up call worth considering. "Cleveland Plain Dealer"
Andrew Keen has again shown himself one of the sharpest critics of Silicon Valley hype, greed, egotism, and inequity. His tales are revealing, his analyses biting. Beneath the criticism is a moral commitment, too, a defense of humane societythe right to be left alone, a fair shot at success, access to the doings of the powerful, and other democratic ideals threatened by the Internet and its moguls. Mark Bauerlein, author of "The Dumbest Generation"
Keen provokes us in every sense of the wordat times maddening, more often thought-provoking, he lets just enough out of the Silicon Valley hot air balloon to start a real conversation about the full impact of digital technology. But will anyone accept the invitation? And, if they do, will anyone thank Andrew Keen for bursting our bubble? If so, maybe there s hope for the digital generation after all. Larry Downes, co-author of "Unleashing the Killer App"
A provocative title and an even more provocative book. Andrew Keen rightly challenges us to think about how the internet will shape society. I remain more optimistic, but hope I m right to be so. Mark Read, CEO, WPP Digital
Andrew Keen has done it again. With great authority he places modern Silicon Valley into a historical context, comparing its structure to the feudal system, which produced a wealthy elite from the efforts of myriad serfs. If you have read "The Circle," this is your next read. Like me, you may find much to disagree with. But you won t be able to put it down. This is a book that demands a reaction. The Valley will never be the same. Keith Teare, co-founder of TechCrunch, Easynet and RealNames
Keen makes a deeply important argument and offers a constructive caution that there is no Moore s Law for human progress, that technological determinism is not a good in itself, and that until we fuse technology with humanity the real power in the technology that connects will in many ways be to disconnect us from what matters. Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN and author of "How"
"For the past two decades, as we listened to a chorus of pundits tell us the Internet would generate more democracy and opportunity, the real world seems to grow more oppressive and unequal by the day. Drawing on his formidable knowledge of this New Economy, Andrew Keen explains why Uber could make billions destroying taxi unions, to cite just one example - and why some people still see this as progress. If you've ever wondered why the New Economy looks suspiciously like the Old Economyonly with even more for the winners and less for everyone elseput down your shiny new phablet and read this book."Robert Levine, author of "Free Ride"
The argument travels between a beach in Mexico where the photo-sharing app Instagram was invented on a laptop and the boarded-up buildings in Rochester, N.Y., that memorialize the bankruptcy of Kodak. . . . [Keen] knows the digital world inside and outboth as an entrepreneur and as a journalistic commentator. "Christian Science Monitor"
Keen goes among the Silicon Valley hipstersthose who truly believe they are on the verge of joining the one percent who own half the winner-takes-all economyand he is not impressed. "New Scientist"
Keen, himself a veteran of the tech industry, reveals the behind-the-scenes workings of the Internet . . . His best message, however, is that with consideration and the application of care we can still shape a future society that utilizes the strengths of the internet while not allowing it to overwhelm us and turn us into robotic servants of the very technology that was designed to help us gain freedom and growth as human beings. The Daily News Online
If you re stuck like a fly in the World Wide Web and your life is largely lived online, then "The Internet Is Not the Answer" is a book you won t be able to put down. "Journal Record"
Should be applauded for rowing against the tide of veneration for technological innovation. "Daily Telegraph"
A punchy manifesto on the internet age. . . . [Keen] guides us through the history and excess of the net, from its arrival in 1991, though the birth of Instagram in 2010 and onwards, to the specter of privacy concerns and big data that loom over us today. . . . The book is dazzling in scope. . . . This book is a must-read for anyone remotely concerned about their lives on the net. "Independent"
Andrew Keen s pleasingly incisive study argues that, far from being a democratizing force in society, the internet has only amplified global inequities. . . . [Keen] wants to persuade us to transcend our childlike fascination with the baubles of cyberspace so that we can take a long hard look at the weird, dysfunctional, inegalitarian, comprehensively surveilled world that we have been building with digital tools. . . . Keen challenges the dominant narrative about the internetthat it s a technology that liberates, informs and empowers people. "Guardian"
The most devastating book I ve read in a long while. Keen describes an Internet that s not as virtuous, open and egalitarian as was promised by those who developed it . . . this is from someone who embraces the digital age and still sees its potential. "San Jose Mercury News"
Keen warns of [the] Internet s disastrous impact . . . [he] argues that the digital revolution has beenhis wordsan epic fail. . . . A harsh critique of the digital world. Voice of America
A devastating new book. "Daily Mail"
Given the increasing power of technology in our lives, it s worth spending some time with skeptics, people like Andrew Keen . . . "The Internet Is Not the Answer" is a polemic with a good dose of gratuitous tech bashing . . . Keen argues that the Internet s hidden costs outweigh its benefits. "Mercury News"
Keen wants you to know that the Internet has not lived up to its early promise. Rather than fostering an environment of intellectual and social democracy, it has spawned a rule-by-mob culture, promoted narcissism and voyeurism, encouraged intolerance and exclusivity, created global monopolies, increased unemployment, and decimated whole industries. "Booklist"
A damning indictment of the Internet and digital technology . . . A well-written, convincing critique of Silicon Valley, and a worthy read for anyone with an email account. "Publishers Weekly"
It is with an acerbic wit, perspective and profound dismay that Keen dismisses the Internet as the revolutionary vehicle for progressing human civilization that it started out to be. "Prague Post"
[A] brilliant, packed history . . . An outstanding polemic, not only for internet sceptics (below as well as above the age of sixty) but also for its credulous users. "Sydney Morning Herald""

About the Author

Andrew Keen is an Internet entrepreneur who founded Audiocafe.com in 1995 and built it into a popular first generation Internet company. He is the currently the executive director of the Silicon Valley salon FutureCast, the host of a long-running Techcrunch chat show called Keen On", a columnist for CNN and a regular commentator for many other newspapers, radio and TV networks around the world. He is also an acclaimed speaker, regularly addressing the impact of digital technologies on 21st century business, education and society. He is the author of the international sensation Cult of the Amateur, which has been published in 17 different languages. His most recent book is Digital Vertigo. "


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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I'm tempted to give this a 4 star review, but I think too much of Keen's argument relies on an "internet destroys jobs" type of argument. There are a lot of counter-points to this that he doesn't acknowledge, and many extensions on this point that he doesn't explore. The other problem that I have with the book is that Keen's discussion at the start about the narrative problem is a useful one, but he ultimately seems to come to the conclusion that there is one valid narrative, his. IMO, there are many narratives to understanding our information age, which is why I would recommend this book - it describes an important perspective on silicon valley, a perspective that isn't always included in the many narratives out there.

A lot in this book is well explained and even a bit shocking - there's a sense that the people now running many of our public infrastructure projects are not only very out of touch with the everyman's real life, but are doing it without anyone's consent. Those who know the ins and outs of the dot com industry may find this book old news, I don't know.

There are several books and resources out there that are beginning to take a critical look at this culture, and this is a book that can add to that perspective.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was one of the few non-fiction books I've read all year that I simply couldn't put down. Extremely well researched and well written, Andrew clearly knows his stuff and is able to share the sometimes dry data and statistics about the impact of the internet in a way that anyone can grasp. It just begs the question 'how did we not see this coming?'. Drastic measures are needed to prevent even further erosion of our freedom, privacy and a healthy economy that works for everyone. Not just the technogeeks that started it all.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Andrew Keen is angry. He hates what the internet has done to us. His hatred is thoroughly developed, and morphs into a totally rational, historical conclusion: this internet age is no different than feudal society or the era of Trusts 150 years ago. The inequality, the fantasy worlds of wealth, the hubris, the arrogance, the selfish navel gazing – all repeating before our Google-Glassed eyes. It’s a dark truth he explores with seemingly thousands of aspects and examples. The pacing is consistent and blistering.

He spends a lot of time and effort mourning the passing of Kodak, which worked at perfecting film. Today we don’t care much about photo quality; we just post photos of next to nothing, in their billions. But Kodak is hardly a poster child. The same can be said for numerous other formerly precious legacy systems. In the sixties, it was all about sound quality. The measure of your household was in your stereo components. Today, we accept lousy mp3 quality over pathetic earplugs without a second thought. Our appreciation and priorities change, and the internet era is no different.

But Keen seems to live in an imaginary world that used to have full employment, where everyone was polite, civil and honest, and trolls hid in English woods. The truth is, the internet simply exposes more of our inherent, narcissistic, selfish, self-centered and shortsighted selves. Greed and theft are not proprietary to internet entrepreneurs. The whole basis for the American economy is smuggling and theft, as in my review of the superlative Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America. Apple hiding billions from the taxman is nothing new.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars 66 reviews
97 of 105 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Surveillance is the internet's main business" Jan. 1 2015
By David Wineberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Andrew Keen is angry. He hates what the internet has done to us. His hatred is thoroughly developed, and morphs into a totally rational, historical conclusion: this internet age is no different than feudal society or the era of Trusts 150 years ago. The inequality, the fantasy worlds of wealth, the hubris, the arrogance, the selfish navel gazing – all repeating before our Google-Glassed eyes. It’s a dark truth he explores with seemingly thousands of aspects and examples. The pacing is consistent and blistering.

He spends a lot of time and effort mourning the passing of Kodak, which worked at perfecting film. Today we don’t care much about photo quality; we just post photos of next to nothing, in their billions. But Kodak is hardly a poster child. The same can be said for numerous other formerly precious legacy systems. In the sixties, it was all about sound quality. The measure of your household was in your stereo components. Today, we accept lousy mp3 quality over pathetic earplugs without a second thought. Our appreciation and priorities change, and the internet era is no different.

But Keen seems to live in an imaginary world that used to have full employment, where everyone was polite, civil and honest, and trolls hid in English woods. The truth is, the internet simply exposes more of our inherent, narcissistic, selfish, self-centered and shortsighted selves. Greed and theft are not proprietary to internet entrepreneurs. The whole basis for the American economy is smuggling and theft, as in my review of the superlative Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America. Apple hiding billions from the taxman is nothing new. Keen comes to the same conclusion by the end of the book.

He is wrong about our knowledge of history too. Keen trots out the canard about millennials and history: how they don’t mix. Millennials live in the present only, and history as recent as the Berlin Wall is otherworldy if known at all. But it has always been this way. Keen says he is accused of elitism, and justifiably. He is better educated, more perceptive and analytical than the hoi polloi he defends. They have never put things in historical perspective, and claiming the internet has taken this away from them by keeping everything short and superficial is wrong.

He seems most concerned by the net unemployment from Kodak giving way to the minimalist Instagram and its ilk. But he ignores the massive crowdfunding that has helped create thousands of businesses, not just individual jobs. Same for ebay, amazon, etsy and alibaba. They have spawned literally millions of businesses that could not have existed before the web. Meanwhile, Kodak had to go, like the inkwell makers and whalebone corset companies before it.

The parallels with the robber barons, the monopolists and the lords of the past are apt and fit like a glove. Today’s internet giants are fiercely against unions, against government interference (unless there’s money available), above the law, and all for their own (unprecedented) wealth and power. The internet they wield is all about bottomless oceans of personal data that would make the Stasi jealous, but it’s just a byproduct they milk for profit. That people volunteer all this data, from social media to tracking devices like mobiles would move a spy to tears. That we have accepted this way of life is totally consistent with history. It’s the new opiate of the masses.

Keen is correct: the internet is not the answer. What we need is a new question.

David Wineberg
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book I've Read in 10 Years Feb. 16 2015
By C. P. Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I've always had some slight unease when it comes to the Internet. I always saw it, though, as having to do with individual psychology and the overall culture.

Keen, though, focuses on something a little different, something I never really thought about that much - economics. His argument is basically that all those incredible amounts of money that are being made are really the results of: free labor (everyone who posts on Facebook or Twitter), stealing (YouTube), and a complete lack of regulation (Uber, Airbnb).

He also focuses his spotlight on the flip side of all that money - the hollowing out of a number of industries like journalism, music, photography, and book stores. I liked, in particular, his focus on Rochester, former headquarters of Kodak, but now a ghost town. Contrast that with Whatsapp, a company of 55 employees - 55! - that sold for $22 billion.

He also makes a nice tie-in to the libertarian (basically Randian) philosophy driving a lot of this. Face it, these guys are basically robber barons, and there is a real, telling contrast between their actual behavior and what is essentially hype about individual empowerment, creativity, breaking rules, etc., etc. All of this is especially ironic when you consider that the Internet was basically a gift from the bad old gummint.

One final thing I thought was really valuable is how Keen shows that all that money is basically coming from advertising. It's just not the same old advertising, though, but advertising that can be micro-tailored to each consumer based on their "digital exhaust." You know, the old "You're not the customer - you're the product" thing. Just never had it shown to me so clearly before.

And all this is done with a wonderful, lucid, engaging writing style. Can't recommend it enough.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We have become voluntary dupes of the internet age Jan. 16 2015
By Jake Banner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Andrew Keen completely demolishes the naïve notion that the internet is spreading the wealth. Through a careful and well-supported critique, he helps the reader to wade through all of the self-serving diatribe promulgated by a coterie of elite insiders that serve more as gatekeepers than enthusiastic champions of a freer, more inclusive society. He goes further, however, in recounting the devastation of artistic and intellectual talent through a winner-take-all "disintermediation." The oligopolistic nature of the "in crowd" in Silicon Valley not only undermines intellectual artistic pursuits, it vacates jobs on a scale unimaginable in scope. In "The Internet is Not the Answer", Andrew Keen shines a bright light on the dark shadows sweeping over the technological landscape and presents a clarion call for action to slow down, impede or even reverse the direction in which we are headed before it is too late and we end up living in a dystopian future that we are, unknowingly, helping to create.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Keen is not keen on the internet April 20 2015
By Dave Kinnear - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Andrew Keen is not keen on where the Internet is taking us. Keen has taken on the conventional wisdom that the internet is a democratizing force lending power to the little guy and disrupting the old school “bad guys.” A strongly opinionated polemic, the passion of the converted believer is palpable in his writing.

I come at this book with three “given” premises: (a) There is no human work endeavor that cannot be done by a machine – either already or relatively soon; (b) There is no way to stop technological advance – if it can be done, someone will do it and the rest will have to keep up; (c) Technology is now advancing on the steep part of the exponential curve. So while I may well agree with Keen’s observations and conclusions about the way things are right now, I judge that his diatribe is helpful only in that it may serve to ignite conversation about where we are going. That is a goal I can get behind.

Keen segmented the book well. Along with other topics, he separately addressed the network, money, and the Silicon Valley culture of celebrating failure. But it did not take long before I was bored with the same theme being repeated in each segment. So I was looking forward to getting to the chapter titled “Conclusion.” Sadly, I still had to slog through more demonstrations of who is lined up on his side of the argument and why. I was looking for a definitive answer, or at least strong suggestions of viable alternatives, and found none.

"It’s a conversation that needs to take place in Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, and the other centers of digital power in our networked world. The time is now ripe for this."

The above quotation is a conclusion which I and the many folks with whom I’ve been discussing this topic have already drawn. I’m thankful for the support, yet we haven’t moved the conversation forward with this book. To be fair, there were some “mild” suggestions including taking regular holidays from technology, refusing to shop on-line and other individual actions. Yet those suggestions tend to back-up the three premises rather than give us a viable way forward.

There is some hope for things not progressing too fast down the road to dystopia. Recent articles indicate there may be a move toward having my on-line purchases delivered to brick-and-mortar facilities. It seems that several “pure play” on-line stores are building out physical stores. That may be a welcomed compromise, but we will not stop the evolution and adoption of technology. Consumer convenience will definitely win.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of flaws but absolutely worth reading! Dec 27 2015
By Alex - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a "millennial" who has grown weary of pervasive connectivity, I looked forward to reading a book that would investigate the ways on which the internet has affected our culture and our economy. The popular narrative tells us that the internet is practically like the Second Coming, so I was excited to read counter arguments that would tell a more honest story.

While there were many good chapters, and some excellent quotes throughout the book that I will remember, I was a bit disappointed with the direction the author took in the last act of the book.

Ironically, as a critic of Silicon Valley, he himself is too embedded in that world to offer an impartial perspective. It's that typical "California is the center of the universe" mentality that seems to plague supporters and, apparently, detractors of Silicon Valley alike.

He spent many pages droning on about the Battery building, and how it was an exclusive club only fit for rich techies. My response was: who cares? It's one building in one city, and is hardly representative of the problems the internet has created on a global scale.

Not all of us live in California or care about Silicon Valley politics, but all of us have an internet connection and can see what harm it has done to our relationships with one another, local business, education, etc.

So instead of discussing those issues, he takes the opportunity to bash the Uber founder (who even cares about that guy?), and even manages to bring up Ayn Rand and then promptly bash her too. These rants felt way out of place and detracted from the message of the book. It made it feel like he had an agenda in bashing tech CEO's more than he did about exposing the dark side of the internet.

Lastly, in his conclusion, he offers very little in the way of answers. I was expecting some sort of big call to action, or advice for how we as individuals could fight the power and find balance in the realm of ever-present internet companies. But instead, we are given half-hearted calls for more government regulation on the internet (which made me say "huh?") and a few more snarky attacks on libertarian tech entrepreneurs because they are libertarian.

All that said, I read through this book feverishly and substantially faster than I normally read because I was so enthralled by the subject matter.

The book certainly has many faults, but I'm glad I read it. Except for the bizarre ad hominem attacks on CEO's who everyone outside San Francisco has never heard of, I quite enjoyed the book and hope the author will continue to explore this subject matter.

The chapters on privacy were eye-opening, and the number of jobs lost because of the internet are also staggering. To his credit, Keen has done a tremendous amount of research for this book and his distaste for the internet is fully supported by hundreds of footnotes.

After reading this book, I will absolutely change my behavior online. Writing reviews is something I'll likely stop doing; I never considered that doing so was helping a company (like Amazon) make money off of my free labor. Why should they benefit from the work I've done? Hmmm.

We as a society certainly need people to question the popular narrative and to ask questions about how the internet is affecting our culture and our progress, so I hope the author will continue to do work in this field, and I will for sure read books he puts out in the future.


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