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Too Much Magic: Pulling the Plug on the Cult of Tech [Paperback]

Jason Benlevi
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 28, 2011 1936790106 978-1936790104 First Edition
An Irreverent Cultural History of This Digital Life

Too Much Magic is the story of how venture capital, media moguls and marketeers use digital magic to distract us, invade our privacy, corrupt democracy, distort our human values, and sell us things that we don't need.

Authored by Silicon Valley marketing-communications guru Jason Benlevi, Too Much Magic looks at all aspects of our emerging digital lifestyle, how it is changing us, and who it is that really benefits.

We have a long love/hate relationship with technology. However, the problem is usually not technology itself, but rather the powers that are deciding its course. The conflict is apparent when we witness people standing in line overnight to buy the newest tech gadget, while at the same time every film about the future from Metropolis to Blade Runner to Avatar depicts a dystopia that has been enabled by technology.

Originally, the Mac and personal computing revolution were about self-empowerment, and the Internet was a utility for people to share knowledge. Now that revolution is in danger of being turned against us. Too Much Magic explains how the Cult of Tech, a convergence of business, media and academic interests, is infiltrating every aspect of our lives through clever marketing and digital convergence.

Too Much Magic examines what being digital really means. The book details historic changes in our entertainment, personal communications, play time, public affairs and social interactions. It also sounds an alarm on stealthy and escalating attacks upon our basic freedoms.

Benlevi tells readers what the powers-that-be don t want them to know about their increasingly digital lives. Prescriptively, Too Much Magic points out ways we can choose to delightfully disengage from technologies and exactly what we each can do to preserve our humanity, independence and creativity all of which could vanish through deceptive acts of digital magic.

Although the book s topic is serious, its tone is bright and irreverent, offering a refreshing contrarian viewpoint that comes from a deep understanding of technology, media, and culture. Too Much Magic is a unique blend of history, social criticism, and entertainment for the digital age.

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Too Much Magic: Pulling the Plug on the Cult of Tech + Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation
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Editorial Reviews


"Jason Benlevi has written a terrific book.
Too Much Magic
is a revealing look at the secrets of digital life in a work that all readers can enjoy. I couldn't put it down."
--- John F. Rothmann - KGO News Talk Radio - San Francisco

"It Starts The Discussion We Need to Be Having"
"Jason Benlevi gives critical warnings on how digital technology is magically entrancing us. Without realizing it, we are handing over our privacy, freedoms and way of life on a massive scale, without so much as a backwards glance."
---Adam Klugman Radio Host, Mad as Hell in America

An insider's perceptive look at how digital tech is consuming the consumer. In fast-moving text replete with engaging ad-like chapter headings, Benlevi traces the rise of digital technology and the manner in which it has been sold to the consumer. An entertaining, insightful book that a digitally dependent reader won't soon forget.
--- Kirkus Review

"Five Stars! Well-deserving of a large audience. There are many books about loss of privacy, civil rights, and the effects of video violence. This might just be the best of the lot... excellent examination on just what all those nifty, shiny little phones and tablets are actually doing behind their screens."
- The San Francisco Book Review

From the Author

Five Questions about Too Much Magic.

Q. There seem to be a lot of books lately raising alarms about the Internet, what's different about your book?

A. Well, really there are two things that are different. Firstly, the digitization of our lives is a much broader issue than just the Internet...and there is a tendency in most books to narrow the discussion down to just one issue, say privacy, or education. Too Much Magic is a much more holistic approach that shows how all these digital touch points connect into an ecosystem that is more pervasive, and actually invasive.

Secondly, most books on tech culture are really an inner dialog among academics, marketeers and the digerati class, and they are a set of debating points, the kind of stuff that makes the authors great candidates for industry conferences, but often is just academic. They really are not addressing the human experiences of digital life the way that the rest of us are living it. This book is very inclusive and intuitive for people to understand. When I read the book to people I see a lot of heads nodding.

Q. Given that you've been involved in this business for a while are you making enemies?

A. Let me be clear, I am a long-time lover of technology, I'm just not thrilled with the models that are evolving that are more focused on monetization for what are actually trivial applications of tech...or turning everything we do into just one more way to target people with advertising. We can do better.

Q. The Cult of Tech makes it sound rather conspiratorial. Isn't that a bit farfetched?

Not a conspiracy, but certainly an alignment of self-serving mutual interests. That's what the "cult of tech" is really about. Like the financial industry, it has become extremely self-serving and seeks to intimidate those that are not "in the know." Just as banks became "too big to fail" without our being able to challenge that consolidation, we now have network and media companies that are "too big to trust." And there are interlocking interests that purposely misguide people.

The self-promotion is pretty shameless. Such as the game designer telling us that reality is broken and only game play can save us. Which is just an absurd notion given that the game industry has unleashed social dysfunction on an unprecedented scale...and the games are really unimaginative. Sure the graphics get better, but the gameplay is the same as it was 20 years ago. Shooting and driving. Braindead. And now our movies are starting to look like games.

Q. With most development these days focusing on social media, do you feel that it actually has any value?

A. I think it has huge value for people to maintain connections with friends and associates...the troubling thing is that companies like Facebook are more interested in mining your social life to target you with ads than in creating a good experience. Also, as in the dotcom days, the circus is in town, and there are newly minted social media "experts" who have never actually done any work other than promote themselves, their books and conferences via social media.

Q. You yourself continue to be involved in the Tech industry. Why?

A. It's all about change. Both good and bad. Originally the digital revolution was about Macs and PCs breaking us away from big computing...but the cloud is really a return to the bad old days of centralized services. Another bad change is how people feel that they need to be constantly connected or they have anxiety attacks.

Technology can solve a lot of problems, but the technologies often get too far out in front of the sociology. That said, I am still optimistic. If I wasn't I wouldn't have bothered writing the book.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Contrarian Books; First Edition edition (April 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936790106
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936790104
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,235,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jason Benlevi has spent the past decades as a marketing communications guru working with the leading technology companies in Silicon Valley and beyond. As a creative director, speechwriter and scriptwriter for companies including Apple, Microsoft, Sun, HP, Sony, Sega and Cisco he has helped to sell the dream of the digital life. Now he has taken a critical look at the sum of the parts that have been created and questions whether the digital dream is being created for all, or whether it is just a new package for the same-old powers-that-be to exploit the rest of us.

Born in Brooklyn, New York and transplanted against his will at a young age to Southern California, he found himself channeled into the sciences by the launch of Sputnik and the L.A. Unified School District. It was a trajectory that was enjoyable until intersecting with the twin evils of geometry class and the Vietnam War (which did unsavory things through science.)

From that point forward Benlevi was on a different course, one that ultimately won him the disaffection of the L.A. school system and an escape to the San Francisco Bay Area. Living a dual academic life in creative arts/film school and computer geekiness, Jason authored what was probably the first feature film about computer hackers, well in advance of anyone in Hollywood having the vaguest idea what he was talking about. This was years before War Games and Sneakers (which no one remembers anyway.)

Back in the Bay Area, he was engaged in numerous creative ventures, but kept tinkering with electronics and computers. Deciding that he couldn't live on art alone, or afford the electronics, Jason became involved in advertising, where creative ideas are sent to die, but at least the artists and writers get paid. The timing was fortuitous since he was among the few creative individuals who actually enjoyed talking to engineers and could translate what they were saying into language that any normal TV-watching, newspaper-reading individual could easily understand.

In past decades, while working at the will of the world's leading technology companies, he has blogged heavily under many aliases about politics, culture and technology. Now he has summoned the courage and recklessness to put a name to his work...and an end to his career.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars eye-opening and brilliantly written September 7, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I obtained this book on my iphone kindle. I so very much enjoyed this book from so many perspectives!

Not only did this content really open my eyes about how the World around us is changing as we become smartphone and social networking dependent (this statement comes from a DC area super-wired rocket scientist who jumped on the web with a 14.4 modem in 1994 and never looked back), its content also showed me that the motivations underlying and underpinning the portable digital age has far more implications than what one sees on the surface, a truly Titanic iceberg lurking below, that is important to be realized exists.

But great content is nothing if its not fun to read; I have tried to digest other books on this subject and couldnt get through them (and this comes from a Mechanical Engineer that reads Space System Failure books and physics texts for fun).

This author's writing style grabs you immediately and draws you along in a manner as if you were sitting in a San Francisco espresso house with him and simply drinking in his vast experience base. He conveys personal experiences and places them in a context of the focus of the book so seamlessly i find i cant flip my kindle pages quick enough. His style is like the best mystery writers of the day unfurling of the kernel of the meat of the story in a manner that gets his points across in the book in a way that one needs to keep reading further and further, his concise style also ensures one retains what the messages are he desires to convey.

Guaranteed, after reading this book (and one wont be able to put it down once you start), one will look at that benign little computer in our pocket in a different light.

Two (smartphone text callused) thumbs up!!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignorance is Bliss May 30, 2011
By Jon
Thirty years ago,I never thought twice about driving hundreds of miles without a phone. Today, if I get to the end of my driveway and realize my phone is still in the house, I go back and get it. To be without it is scary and unthinkable.

The younger generation can't find a book in the library or go a day without sending a thousand text messages. The business generation can't go to lunch without access to email. Even those at retirement age have forgotten how to read a map. They rely on their GPS unit in the car to show them the way.

The number of devices strewn about my house is astonishing, but I never thought about it. It's just "normal" to have thirty different types of electronics within reach, and some of them are duplicates. Sometimes you really can't see the forest through the trees until someone points out the obvious to you.

Too Much Magic does exactly that, and in layman's terms. Jason Benlevi explains what it is that we are doing, and why in such a way that anyone can understand it. Even hardcore technophiles will be amazed at the wealth of knowledge presented.

I feel I've gained incredible knowledge from this book. I also feel I've been tricked for years by the people behind the technology. I once felt empowered by the electronics in my possession. Now I am a little leery of some of them.

Too Much Magic is a fantastic read from beginning to end. It's not often that a non-fiction book feels like a cliff-hanger thriller. This one does.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enlightening and entertaining book June 5, 2011
Whether you embrace technology, fear it, or struggle to adapt to it, Too Much Magic will enlighten you on the brains and money behind the latest electronic devices and services. Mr. Benlevi is a Silicon Valley insider who has spent his career assisting tech companies with their product rollout campaigns, so he is well-qualified to provide a first hand account of the origin of these devices and services. We also learn about the dark marketing side of marketing, loss of privacy and social ramifications of people hooked on the latest gadget to the detriment of personal interaction. Mr. Benlevi's witty writing style is entertaining as well as illuminating. It makes you think about your electronic dependencies and those of the people around you. You come away thinking that you need to control how much you will allow the latest technologies to invade your life. It will make you think twice the next time you see a couple out to dinner focused on their cell phones instead of each other.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom Can Be an Illusion February 20, 2012
People have embraced the use of technology in their daily lives from the obvious to the subtle. All for the promise of greater freedom, greater access to information, goods and services. Few stop to consider the implications of that technology - few can even conceive of the possibilities for misuse of technology. All they care about is that it works.

There is a potentially terrible price for the use of technology. Freedom and privacy are basic human rights and are being threatened as you sit on your computer and read this. Jason's book brings light to the darkness. It will fascinate you, scare you and, hopefully, move you to action.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never Too Much of Too Much Magic July 16, 2011
Sheepishly I admit that the last thing I see at night and the first thing I see in the morning is my PDD - primary digital device. Am actually reading Jason Benlevi's book on it with my Kindle app. And before I am even finished with the book, I am moved to plug it and its writer. Mr. Benlevi produces his own architecture; a veritable motherboard of connections that reveal the politics of marketing and what it's doing FOR us and what it's doing TO us.

Besides being a fascinating read, I feel that Too Much Magic primes and prepares us for the coming of Generation C (communicators, connectors and clickers), and adds a layer of awareness and realness to a world that is otherwise ethereal and invisible.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Insights Cutting Through Hype
Pulls together a great range of subtle insights on technology's double-edged sword as it does things for us but also does things to us, rendering us more and more helpless,... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Jeff
5.0 out of 5 stars Guidebook for policy makers
Jason Benlevi's treatise on contemporary technology, provides honest documentation of the ways the human race has been affected by recent 'advances. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Net Neu-Strategist
5.0 out of 5 stars Be Aware!
I believe everyone should be aware of the issues discussed in this book. For some this book will be a revelation, for others a confirmation. Read more
Published 21 months ago by anubis
5.0 out of 5 stars a voice in the ewildlerness
This book falls under the heading of a voice of reason crying in the wllderness. Benlevi expresses ideas that have been percolating in my poor brain since I realized my habits had... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Dechen Paldron
4.0 out of 5 stars Taking off the blinders....
"Too Much Magic: Pulling the Plug on the Cult of Tech" by Jason Benlevi was written to warn us about the loss of privacy we citizens are losing every day. Read more
Published on July 5, 2012 by HeatherMS
5.0 out of 5 stars pretty much the whole digital deal,
corralled, detailed, codified, defined, cross-referenced and concluded upon. Definitely a worthwhile read about the possible endgame lurking beneath the happy waves of us... Read more
Published on February 26, 2012 by Verry Slick
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a luddite screed!
Jason Benlevi's "Too Much Magic" is not merely a history of our technological thicket, and much more than a list of disappointments and complaints about a world gone mad. Read more
Published on August 16, 2011 by herzigdp
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