They Made Him a Moron


Evgeny Morozov offers a masterpiece of an a**-spanking in the form of a review of Alec Ross's The Industries of the Future in The Baffler:

At times, the book reads like an extended college admissions essay, with the student, prompted to reflect on his most memorable experience, desperately trying to relate something very trivial he did last summer to lofty questions of globalization and democracy. Ross reflects, for example, on his time working as a janitor after his freshman year in college, linking it to his experiences as an innovation adviser to the Secretary of State. On another level, The Industries of the Future can be read as an extended effort to prove to the world that Ross does belong in the very center of that bizarre Venn diagram—right at the intersection of technology, foreign policy, and the Democratic Party—that had secured him his original job at the State Department.

Such books are normally written before a person is appointed to a high-level advisory position within the government; they are meant to attest to one’s intellectual credentials and articulate a grand strategic vision of the future, which can then guide the person’s advisory work. Ross, however, got his career backwards: he got his advisory position based on his campaign work for Obama, though he had few academic or intellectual credentials to his name. Then, after he left the State Department in 2013, he pursued the well-trodden path of aspiring pundits-cum-lobbyists: a fellowship at an Ivy League school (Columbia), seats on half a dozen corporate boards (FiscalNote, Kudelski Group, Leeds Equity Partners, Telerivet, AnchorFree, 2U), and now, finally, a book.

Given Ross’s career trajectory—from a supposed “big thinker” without any big thoughts to a power broker between industry and government—this book appears eight years too late. While his publisher blurbs him as a “leading innovation expert” whose book “belongs on the shelf alongside works by Tom Friedman and Fareed Zakaria” (pretty faint praise, this), The Industries of the Future reads more like a love letter to a few more unexplored corporate boards, preferably in industries that will last longer than Alec Ross’s career as the next Tom Friedman.

More here.