the new technology idiots


There is a thesis of sorts in Schmidt and Cohen’s book. It is that, while the “end of history” is still imminent, we need first to get fully interconnected, preferably with smartphones. “The best thing anyone can do to improve the quality of life around the world is to drive connectivity and technological opportunity.” Digitization is like a nicer, friendlier version of privatization: as the authors remind us, “when given the access, the people will do the rest.” “The rest,” presumably, means becoming secular, Westernized, and democratically minded. And, of course, more entrepreneurial: learning how to disrupt, to innovate, to strategize. (If you ever wondered what the gospel of modernization theory sounds like translated into Siliconese, this book is for you.) Connectivity, it seems, can cure all of modernity’s problems. Fearing neither globalization nor digitization, Schmidt and Cohen enthuse over the coming days when you “might retain a lawyer from one continent and use a Realtor from another.” Those worried about lost jobs and lower wages are simply in denial about “true” progress and innovation. “Globalization’s critics will decry this erosion of local monopolies,” they write, “but it should be embraced, because this is how our societies will move forward and continue to innovate.” Free trade has finally found two eloquent defenders. What exactly awaits us in the new digital age? Schmidt and Cohen admit that it is hard to tell. Thanks to technology, some things will turn out to be good: say, smart shoes that pinch us when we are running late. Other things will turn out to be bad: say, private drones.

more from Evgeny Morozov at TNR here.