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The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom Paperback – February 28, 2012
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Evgeny Morozov is wonderfully knowledgeable about the Internethe seems to have studied every use of it, or every political use, in every country in the world (and to have read all the posts). And he is wonderfully sophisticated and tough-minded about politics. This is a rare combination, and it makes for a powerful argument against the latest versions of technological romanticism. His book should be required reading for every political activist who hopes to change the world on the Internet.” Thomas P.M. Barnett, author, The Pentagon's New Map, and senior managing director, Enterra Solutions LLC
Evgeny Morozov has produced a rich survey of recent history that reminds us that everybody wants connectivity but also varying degrees of control over content, and that connectivity on its own is a very poor predictor of political pluralism . By doing so, he's gored any number of sacred cows, but he's likewise given us a far more realistic sense of what's possible in cyberspaceboth good and badin the years ahead. Morozov excels at this sort of counter-intuitive analysis, and he instantly recasts a number of foreign policy debates with this timely book.” Stephen M. Walt, Belfer Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University
Net Delusion is a brilliant book and a great read. Politicians and pundits have hailed the Internet as a revolutionary force that will empower the masses and consign authoritarian governments to the ash-heap of history, but Morozov explains why such naïve hopes are sadly misplaced. With a keen eye for detail and a probing, skeptical intelligence, he shows that the Web is as likely to distract as to empower, and that both dictators and dissidents can exploit its novel features. If you thought that Facebook, Twitter, and the World Wide Web would trigger a new wave of democratic transformations, read this book and think again.”
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1. New terms. Internet-centrism (don't try to reinterpret every single problem in terms of how it can be solved by the internet) and cyber-utopianism (don't imagine that the internet will lead to every single perfect outcome just because you think it will). Samizdat? (I'd never heard of that word before. But it is in the Oxford Dictionary.)
2. The use of the internet as a tool can go both ways. So, interest groups can learn to organize with it. But whatever government that happens to be in power in whatever place can also learn to use that tool in its own service.
3. McDonald's is a quintessentially American invention and it is everywhere. And no one sees it as such because the State Department of the US government does not make any connections or try to use it as a tool. The internet is the same way, and it was neutral at some point....but companies that provide internet services can be seen as an instrument of subversion if the State Department tries to enlist their services on its behalf. (Ever wondered why Twitter and Youtube are blocked in China? You don't need to wonder anymore after reading the first chapter of this book.)
4. The Iranian "Revolution" was completely fictional. Or, the presentation of it was the composite of a lot of wishful thinking.
There is a lot of what we (this reader) already knew:
1. There are a lot of unintended consequences to any policy. And this could be deduced from the unintended consequences of a lot of things that have already gone down (that the author detailed) and that we might expect (because no two countries are quite the same);
2. Most of the policymakers in the United States ("The West") don't really know what they are doing and are very likely guilty of over optimism.
3. Basically policymakers don't know what they are doing and act on flawed models. One of the concepts that he introduced was the difference between "wicked" and "tame" problems. But I feel that the issue of decision making was covered much better in Thomas Sowell's Knowledge And Decisions
4. It is not appropriate to treat political problems (with political constraints and incentives) as internet problems. We already knew that.
There is some subtle discussion of the epistemic perspectives on populaces under authoritarian government. What Morozov gives is a Huxley-Orwell axis. On one end, the population is strangled by consumerism and popular goods. And on the other, it is strangled by an invasive bureaucracy that is reading mail and tapping phone calls. Our writers shows that this is likely to be a false dichotomy and that some elements of both can be mixed. A regime can keep people so busy watching TV that they don't have time to know what is going on (and I have witnessed this) but then censor the internet and block blogs that might distract them from watching TV.
I'd say that this book could be taken out in about 3 afternoons (100 pages each). Or, for a more leisurely pace it should not take more than 6 afternoons of reading time. There are quite a few concepts in here, and the way that the author organized them needed some help. On one hand, some of the concepts were organized in bite sized pieces that took about 15 minutes to read. But on the other hand, he kept repeating the same overarching concepts AGAIN AND AGAIN within the sub-chapters. The chapters averaged about 35 pages each.
Verdict: If the book was 225 pages, I could say that it would have been worth the reading time. But this author just waffled on way too long repeating the same things OVER AND OVER.