Blowing up Morozov's "To Save Everything, Click Here"

Tim Wu has written an admirably economical and restrained review of Evgeny Morozov's new book, "To Save Everything, Click Here." I wrote a long critique of Morozov's first book in 2011, and back then, I found myself unable to restrain myself from enumerating the many, many flaws in the book and its fundamental dishonesty, pandering and laziness. Wu has more discipline than I do, and limits himself to a much shorter, sharper and better critique of Morozov's new one. It's a must-read:

“To Save Everything, Click Here” is rife with such bullying and unfair attacks that seem mainly designed to build Morozov’s particular brand of trollism; one suspects he aspires to be a Bill O’Reilly for intellectuals. How else to explain the savaging of thinkers whom you might think of as his natural allies? Consider Nicholas Carr, another critic of Silicon Valley, who wrote a book, “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” detailing the malicious effect of Web apps on our minds. He commits the unforgivable sin of discussing “the Internet” and is therefore guilty of what Morozov calls “McLuhanesque medium-centrism.” (Morozov is evidently licensed to use concepts, even if his targets are not). Similarly, although most of my work is an effort to put the Internet in historical or legal context, I, too, am an “Internet-centrist” (but at least I’m in good company).

Too much assault and battery creates a more serious problem: wrongful appropriation, as Morozov tends to borrow heavily, without attribution, from those he attacks. His critique of Google and other firms engaged in “algorithmic gatekeeping”is basically taken from Lessig’s first book, “Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace,” in which Lessig argued that technology is necessarily ideological and that choices embodied in code, unlike law, are dangerously insulated from political debate. Morozov presents these ideas as his own and, instead of crediting Lessig, bludgeons him repeatedly. Similarly, Morozov warns readers of the dangers of excessively perfect technologies as if Jonathan Zittrain hadn’t been saying the same thing for the past 10 years. His failure to credit his targets gives the misimpression that Morozov figured it all out himself and that everyone else is an idiot.

Does Morozov have an alternative vision of technology’s future? Generally, he decries the search for perfect, efficient solutions and admires an inefficient, organic chaos of the kind favored by Jane Jacobs in urban design. Funny, that’s exactly what the Internet’s protocols brought to communications, as a response to the big TV networks and AT&T’s “perfect” network. The ideology behind the Internet’s protocols accepts greater inefficiency to allow for the organic life and death of applications and firms. Hence, if you had to name one technology that best serves the principles Morozov believes in, it would be easy: It is called the Internet.

Apart from Morozov's tendency to ad hominem (he likes to call people he disagrees with "morons" and "idiots" in print) and his reliance on straw-men, Wu hits on the two critical flaws with Morozov's work:

1. He never offers a credible vision of what technology should be like in order to promote freedom and justice. Morozov gives the strong impression that activists should just give up on using or attempting to improve the Internet, a counsel of despair that would result in an unchecked march to total surveillance, control and censorship for just about everyone, with no hope of change. In his first book, Morozov asserts that the mass demonstrations following the Iranian elections would have taken place without the net, just through word of mouth -- as someone who spent about a decade helping with phone-trees, mass-mailouts and wheatpasted poster campaigns for demonstrations, I was dubious on this score.

2. He is fundamentally pandering to censors, surveillors, and repressors. All of the former are cheerful about their attempts to lock down and spy upon the net, because, they assert, nothing of much importance happens there (I wrote about this at length earlier). Morozov's biggest boosters are the copyright thugs, the spyware vendors, and the data retention snoops who argue that ripping up the Internet's fabric does no particular harm because the Internet isn't even a thing. "There is no such thing as the Internet" is the 21st century version of Maggie Thatcher's "There is no such thing as society" -- a dangerous, reductionist self-fulfilling prophecy.

Book review: ‘To Save Everything, Click Here’ by Evgeny Morozov


  1. “His failure to credit his targets gives the misimpression that Morozov figured it all out himself and that everyone else is an idiot.”
    I’m afraid this is the way we’re all headed – if everything becomes tl;dr as we have an overdose of input and of mostly useless content (ie, I didn’t click through because the next post, Beiber/Anne Frank, needed to be reviewed!) then even the intelligent ranters will have to bust through the ADD with generalizations and no citations, just to keep you looking. Who’s got time for footnotes?!

        1.  Given that my own attention span is about 3 pages (thanks Google!), I’d probably carry the book around for a few years extolling its in-depth sagacity before it dropped to the floor revealing the con.

    1. Of course, the claim is subjective, because it’s Wu who is attributing ideas as belonging to someone else, and I don’t know how far he’s stretching to fit.

      For example, some people like to call Unix open source, even though it’s decades older than open source, because of how it was shared freely. In relaity, Unix was shared because that’s how science, including computer science, works. You might as well call physics open source.

      1.  Kinda.  A little bit harder to “RTFM” with regard to physics, though.

        Thomas Kuhn argued that science works as well as it does because scientists are trained within a scientific culture that indoctrinates them with particular values and attitudes.  Given that this sort of education is actually quite expensive the practice of science isn’t quite as “open” as one might like.  And never has been since it was originally a past-time for the leisure class.

        I must say, though, I haven’t ever heard anyone describe unix itself as open-source — especially given the unix wars of the 80’s (?).  Linux was originally billed by Torvalds as an open-source implementation of Unix IIRC, a billing that would make very little sense if Unix was already regarded as open source.  And I’ve heard people describe FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD as open-source because, of course, they are. 

        Seems to me anyone calling Unix “open source” is simply mistaken and likely making a category error — Unix is really a family of operating systems at this point and not an operating system unto itself.  But it also seems likely that open-source implementations of Unix far outnumber proprietary implementations and so it might also be a time-saving simplification to say “Unix is open-source” rather than hash out the last 30 years of computing as a preface to any discussion on the subject.

        1. I don’t get your point about science and how it requires education. What doesn’t require education?

          I deliberately used the example of Unix, because the essay on Tim O’ Reilly that made a lot of people upset with Evgeny Morozov detailed the formers tendency to retroactively apply the label, “open source” to technology including Unix.

  2.  To counter his belief that the Iranian demonstrations would have taken place w/o the internet with your experience organizing in (I assume) the United States is an example. We know from history that people managed to organize w/o the Internet, it is not even an empiricial question as to whether they can or will or not. Further, the United States in the span you and I have been active, have not faced anywhere near the convulsions that Iran has — you and I are of an age, post Vietnam, and so we have likely been engaged in the same causes. They just did not attract the same level of commitment. 

    1. Organisation requires communication. The easier it is to communicate, the easier it is to organise. The Internet obviously did not invent communication (I suspect even our cave-dwelling ancestors could form ad-hoc mobs), but it has made communicating simpler by orders of magnitude.

    2. If it would have happened without the internet why didn’t it happen without the internet?

      Cory points out in the OP how difficult old-fashioned organizing is.  Making thousands of flyers for fewer than a dozen responses.  Phone trees that are inherently fragile, often resulting in half the org being in complete ignorance of what’s going on.  It took decades of activism for people to work out these tactics and now they’re obsolete because the internet makes this all easier.  Instead of the brittle phone-trees you can use twitter, facebook, or any of a dozen other broadcast/subscribe systems.  Instead of flyering you make a facebook page and let the “likes” flyer for you. 

      None of this stuff is impossible without the internet, it’s just much harder.  Which is a pretty good start as an answer to the question with which I started.

  3. Same guy who trashed Tim O’Reilly as a “huckster?” Good to know I can ignore anything I see with his name on it. Maybe a new reputation system: if he trashes it, it must be good. The anti-whuffie…the Morozov index.

    1. When I was in my teens, our local newspaper had a movie and theatre critic almost like that – his taste was exactly opposed to mine and my friends’.

      If a movie or play was obviously godawful or obviously transcendently brilliant, he tended to correctly identify that, but then you don’t usually need a review for that.  But as soon as some people thought it was good and some didn’t, his reviews were 100% reliable – if two camps existed, he would always be in the other one from us.

      It was really very useful, and much more amusing than having a reviewer you always agreed with, because after seeing something he hated, you could re-read his reviews for a laugh.

        1. I said that Stargate was the best movie I’d ever seen. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds may have been involved, not confirming or denying anything, but at that moment it was the bestest movie I’d ever seen.

          1. I thought that Stargate was a pretty perfect SF film. It gets in and out in two hours without a mess of blather attempting to elevate it to art status.

          2. As Lucy knows, the world is a fractal and even the most boring, quotidian bits of art contain manifold manifestations of creative genius dancing just below a veneer of banality.

            We watched Yellow Submarine one time.  Cliche as anything but in that moment it contained the most profound truths.  Blue meanies, man, always trying to harsh the buzz.  It was, like, metaphysical, man.

    2. You could build a whole publishing empire on that theory of contrarianism, and call it “Slate”. Where to find another coprolite gem like Mickey Kaus though?

    3. O’ Reilly the publisher makes great books, O’ Reilly the speaker peddles what I consider to be bullshit. From Web 2.0 to Big Data, he has added utter nonsense to conversations around technology. If I ever strangle a kitten in a meeting with a client, it will be because somebody has repeated some of  O’Reilly’s more vacuous words back to me as a valid opinion.

  4. Lol, the progressive lamestream techno-utopians are finally starting to sit up and notice the (populist fringes of) the reactionary movement. This is only going to get uglier.

    (For the record, I believe in Morozov’s gist – the Internet will be the death of us all, *just like everything else*)

    1. If you think Stephen`s story is nice…, 2 weeks ago my cousin’s step-mum also earnt $9078 grafting a sixteen hour week at home and their friend’s step-sister`s neighbour has been doing this for 3 months and earnt more than $9078 part-time from their computer. apply the steps available at this link…….. …… ZOO80.ℂom

  5. And did anyone notice that Google has captcha now for their URL shortener? No thanks. like I want to decipher code and type just to use their tool [instead of a half dozen other options.]

      1. I think I can prove in a court of law that captcha discriminates against old people with bad eyes, like me. 

        As I am American, it’s my duty to sue at least 75 people per year for frivolous purposes. That’s our New World version of “social contract.”

  6. So for Cory, “Morozov’s biggest boosters are the copyright thugs, the spyware vendors, and the data retention snoops”, while Wu tells us Morozov’s only audience will be “tech-hating intellectuals”.  What an interesting reaction to public skepticism.  Not terribly unlike the “they hate our freedoms”/”you’re either with us or against us” discourse that followed another recent and famous episode of public skepticism.  Similarly, the aim was to close a debate before it began.  The reactionary “fan boy” mentality of the tech community cultural elite has been telling of how uncomfortable they are with outside criticism.  Cory and Tim’s stated desire for more tech criticism should come with the warning “but only if you’re nice and you agree to play by the rules of our game”.  Morozov is a fan of Latour to understand technology, but to understand this controversy one should look to Bourdieu…     

      1. Actually,
        no, I’m not Morozov.  Although I do agree
        that everyone enjoys sockpuppets.  If you
        made me a set of sockpuppets in the likeness of Cory, Tim and Evgeny, you’d
        have my dollar for sure. 

      1. You
        can fire away at Morozov all you want, that’s what he signed up for.  He’s not infallible.  I’m only pointing to the pre-emptive tone in
        the responses of Tim, Cory and several other intellectual ‘stars’ in this
        community.  I think there are multiple
        conflicting agendas here that need to be laid out.  Cory has built a reputable activist career in
        adopting a quasi-superhero discourse (“internet freedom”, “copyfighter”,
        “digital rights” “internet fabric”) that remains necessarily vague and
        underspecified – Morozov is dangerous precisely because he wants to decompose
        those terms and find out if they actually mean anything, as supposedly we are to be fighting for these things.  Tim is a target of a critique in Morozov’s
        book, which is drawn from Paul Starr, and points at some fundamental methodological
        weaknesses in Tim’s The Master Switch – a book that is supposed to empirically
        support the ideology of “open”.  These
        are guys with territory they want to protect and debates they’d like to keep
        shut (as Tim tells it “constant deliberation” is an “intellectual
        fallacy”).  In neither of Cory and Tim’s
        reviews, were these points addressed. 
        Instead, Tim suggests Evgeny’s audience are merely tech haters, while,
        for Cory, Evgeny is associated with Doctorow’s very own ‘axis of evil’.  These types of moral dichotomies allow Tim
        and Cory to sidestep important and reasonable questions about their political
        agenda.  As someone sympathetic to many
        of Tim and Cory’s activist causes, but also concerned with some of the
        implications, I find that Morozov has highlighted important questions that
        we should be discussing.

        1.  Your comment is right on the money.  And speaking of money, I’ve got five bucks that says it (your comment) winds up getting deleted by a Mod…

          Probably mine, too :(

        2. Okay, since you’ve gone so far as to Fox-Godwinize these guys a couple of times, can you tell me what they are not addressing specifically enough about these accusations of vagueness, which thus far have been pretty, well… vague?

    1. The solution to perceived tribalism is… more obnoxious tribalism!

      Seriously, can someone explain to me the 34 “likes” on the above post? Do you appreciate the George Bush analogy, or his calling people fanboys, or are you just big fans of the name-dropped French intellectuals?

    2. Seems to me that besides the ad hominem posturing to which you refer (and to which Morozov is clearly no stranger either) both Wu and Doctorow have made specific rebuttals to Morozov’s arguments.  Do you have any comments on those rebuttals or are you just here to vent spleen?

  7. Cory shouldn’t even reference this guy. Don’t feed trolls. Direct all trolls towards Reddit and let nature takes its course. 

    1.  Reddit has enough trolls (and racists, and sexists, and pretty much every other thing that crawls out of the depths of the “anonymous” web), we don’t need any more.

  8. Am I the only one who read this post and still doesn’t know what the book is about? Sure I could go read the review but shouldn’t this post give me some idea of what the book is about?

    1. Was curious too… Here is a portion of the summary shameless cribbed from amazon’s site for the book.

      “The temptation of the digital age is to fix everything—from crime to corruption to pollution to obesity—by digitally quantifying, tracking, or gamifying behavior. But when we change the motivations for our moral, ethical, and civic behavior we may also change the very nature of that behavior. Technology, Evgeny Morozov proposes, can be a force for improvement—but only if we keep solutionism in check and learn to appreciate the imperfections of liberal democracy. Some of those imperfections are not accidental but by design. Arguing that we badly need a new, post-Internet way to debate the moral consequences of digital technologies, ‘To Save Everything, Click Here’ warns against a world of seamless efficiency, where everyone is forced to wear Silicon Valley’s digital straitjacket.”

  9. For a minute, I thought that he was criticizing Pavlik Morozov.  That’s never a safe thing to do.

  10. “He never offers a credible vision of what technology should be like in order to promote freedom and justice. ” 

    I wonder about that. It’s not really the purpose of critique to offer immediate alternative solutions without breaking down the problems thoroughly. One cannot solve problems without knowing their parameters. Reminds me a little of the criticism that Occupy and other dissenters have gotten for not having a comprehensive list of demands and a full on action plan ready to go. I also don’t get that he is all about hand wringing and abandoning all hope upon entering the tech kingdom. We need to think about what we’re doing in the broadest possible perspective. Irrational exuberance over everything technological needs to be tempered with that broader perspective. If anyone is not a fan of the surveillance state and all that implies Morozov is one name that immediately comes to mind for me. That’s not to say that Morozov’s viewpoint is necessarily the ultimate perspective but it does provide a counterpoint in a field where those are not often heard (or publicized or even welcomed). That he’s not part of the clique is a point in his favor in that regard. 

    I don’t care for Morozov’s style personally, but he makes enough valuable points not to be dismissed outright. 

    1. Criticism without a solution can only get response of “well, that’s nice… so I guess we are just going to keep on doing what we are doing?” or more succinctly  “cool story bro”.

      I loath to drag Occupy into this, but Occupy is just so perfect an example.  They pointed to flaws, captured attention, maybe even changed the discourse for a few moments… and then promptly died.  Yeah, corporatist capitalism sucks.  People waited for an answer, didn’t get one, and the steam the movement built up promptly died once people realize that no one had anything better.

      You can contrast this with gay rights in the US.  It wasn’t just “this is wrong”.  It is “this is wrong, and this is how it should be, and here is the path we take”.  They came with a comprehensive list of demands.  It worked.  It worked fantastically.  Small demands built upon large demands.  Now we are on the cusp, with people rallying behind marriage equality.  The drive to achieve the larger and larger demands has done far more than bring marriage equality to a number of state.  It has swayed large swaths of the population that maybe gay folks, are, well, folks and we should treat them as humans, not just “tolerating” them.  In less than a decade the fight is going to be over except for a handful of bigoted hold outs.

      Lazy critics who point out that the system sucks without being able to articulate what they want in its place are just wasting our time.  Having to sleep every night sucks.  Having to eat every day sucks.  No one cares because there is no solution.

      So Morozov thinks that the parts of technology that don’t work suck?  Cool story bro.  Why don’t you run along and go have some discourse with sociologist?

      1. Talking to sociologists is sometimes not a bad thing. Same with historians, philosophers and many others. 

        For example you mention gay rights. You realize the turning point that was the Stonewall riots took place in 1969. Gay people in the US still don’t have access to the legal and social benefits of marriage across the board after more than 40 years since then. Stonewall was a culmination of several previous decades of work. It doesn’t mean that 60+ years of criticism and dialogue have been worthless. Nobody but the most utopian thinkers in 1940s/50s/60s US put forward demands about marriage etc. The demands were “Stop killing and criminalizing us” [that still happens BTW] That’s a long way from the prospect of accepting marriage/adoption, etc. It took that long to sway the majority mindset. No one is going to write a book or two and immediately alter the social landscape. No one is going to create an app to solve world hunger. No one is going to write “the joke that kills” [Monty Python reference for you there]

        *You can’t propose solutions to problems that haven’t even been fully recognized.*  Foolish to even consider it a possibility. To immediately demonize and dismiss those who put forward their view of what some of the problems are only leads to blinkered thinking and ultimately failure of purpose. Silicon Valley, like law and medical schools, and politics generates as many cynics and dropouts as it does ideas and successes. Most of the cynics and dropouts become victims of their own insular idealism and fail to recognize larger contexts.  

        Social problems, of whatever variety, have to be drawn out, delineated and then solutions and their ramifications outlined, tested, modified, improved, enlarged, etc. [sort of like software development on a massive scale] That’s one of the things Morozov is pointing out with his criticism of “solutionism”. The idea that there is one solution to a problem [technology], a be-all-and-end-all to any problem that has myriad causes is magic thinking at it’s worst. And to think that solutions don’t bring further problems of their own is very short sighted. [Sure he could go at it differently, be a “nice guy” about it or whatever–that’s a different issue]
        The point of drawing out the problems is to generate further questions. Not just about how do we solve the problems but how do we solve them better. 

        The laziness you mention is not on the part of those who begin the conversation by pointing out problems but is on the part of those who do not wish to do the work to fully understand those problems, to face the possibility of flaws in their own utopian thinking and to ask the necessary questions before jumping to a premature partial answer as a conclusion. 

      2. That’s not a valid depiction of Occupy, who showed what was wrong – deregulated banking system gone rogue ala Great Depression – and how to fix it – start by reinstating the regulatory structure put in place after Great Depression, prosecute banksters, etc. The Bank of England validated it. And nothing changed.

        True – they did not come up with a solution to neo-liberalism, but that’s asking too much. In the UK, our solution is a more extreme version neo-liberalism. We call it hyper-Thatcherism. It’s core value is magic. It’s primary tactic is divide and rule. ( )  We are nostalgic. There is no alternative. 

        “There is no such thing as Thatcher.” –god


        Having to sleep every night sucks.  Having to eat every day sucks.  No one cares because there is no solution.

        I care and I’m working on it, OK?

  11. This strikes me as being what historians call presentist:

    Funny, that’s exactly what the Internet’s protocols brought to communications, as a response to the big TV networks and AT&T’s “perfect” network. The ideology behind the Internet’s protocols accepts greater inefficiency to allow for the organic life and death of applications and firms.

    Wasn’t the internet designed primarily to do one thing: route around damage? That is, damage from nuclear war. The internet’s layers-of-abstraction-, endpoints-without-a-middle-, reliable-and-unreliable-protocol- architecture all permit a fragmented communications network to function. Or maybe that’s just my hazy view of the past, as well.

    Nevertheless, I’m guessing that though events since the advent of the internet might have made Dr. Pangloss happy, or, conversely, have perfected Panopticon, stating that there was an “ideology” behind the internet strikes me as wishful thinking.

    1. Actually, no, it was primarily designed to do one thing: share resources.  Routing around damage was an important part of that, but so were discovering resources and routes to them and connecting to existing networks and using the end-to-end principle and lots of other things.

    Q:   OH, oh I’m sorry, but this is abuse.

    Just a nitpick, and I haven’t read Morozov’s rant, but insulting people doesn’t make something an “ad hominem”argument, which is sort of the reverse of an “appeal to authority” kind of argument.  Saying that “That idiot X takes that position, so it’s wrong” would be ad hominem; saying that “X is wrong about this, so he’s an idiot” is just an insult. 

    1. I don’t think I agree.  When you write for public consumption you are presumably trying to persuade readers.  As you point out, making a reasonable point and insulting someone are not mutually exclusive.  But when you do both it doesn’t feel to me that you are making and argument followed by an insult, it feels like you are doubling down on your persuasive attempt.

      You know there will be people out there who will respond to ad hominem attacks favourably, and probably suspect that these people are less likely to respond to a well reasoned critique.  So you offer both.  I’m not saying Morozov is actually that machiavellian, but more that it’s something that we learn to do over time.  Back up a good argument with a personal jab because in the past it has won us more support, believe that they actually deserve the personal jab because that’s what makes us sell it.  I think the accusation ad hominem is totally justified if the insults are there.

      That does not, of course, negate any good arguments being made.  But it makes it completely forgivable for someone to ignore them.  With ad hominem you win some support and you lose some.

    2. What Humbadella said.  Whether or not the use of such epithets is strictly an “ad hominem” argument, obviously they’re being used as a rhetorical device in order to prejudice the audience towards a certain conclusion.  It’s not a particularly scholarly tactic and I feel pretty good about ignoring anyone who makes their strongest arguments this way.

      Now if you write a book without calling your opponents “idiots” and then call your opponents “idiots” on your book’s blog that’s a little different and much more forgivable.  I would probably still take such a person seriously.

  13. Funny how Wu doesn’t mention that he himself is mentioned in the book. Actually, no, it’s unsurprising, but disappointing. Most tellingly, he does nothing to lessen the substance of Morozovs arguments, this is a matter of criticising someone’s style rather than what they’re saying, and could be likened to grammar nazism at the academic scale.

    As for Cory arguing that Morozov criticizes, but doesn’t present an alternative, that’s a moot point. Simply saying “this set of ideas is wrong, and we shouldn’t set much stock in it”, is valuable. In science, disproving a theory is itself an achievement, as it tells everyone not to rely on bad information, and to come up with something new. This, I believe should be valued and respected at all levels of discourse.

    However, the reason there’s so much butt-hurt online about his writing is that for many of his targets, this isn’t science, it’s PR and image-management. If Author X is proven to be full of shit, they no longer have a career, as in many cases, Author X doesn’t make anything valuable, or say anything important, and they only have a career for as long as people believe in them. Could this happen to Morozov himself? Well, first, you have to prove he’s full of shit, and nobody has been able to do that yet, all the arguments against his work I’ve read seem to be a reaction to his attitude, not his ideas.

    As for Doctorows second claim, that’s nonsense. Morozov is a citizen of Europe’s last dictatorship, Belarus, and has been involved first-hand in areas where activism has been unhappily married to technology. As for claiming that his biggest boosters are all sorts of baddies, well, prove it. I came to his work through left-leaning newspapers and technology writers, can’t speak for anyone else.

    I wonder how much of the vitriol Doctorow directs at Morozov is generated by the knowledge that if the digital liberation which the latter lambasts is indeed bullshit, the central premise of the fiction written by the former will appear to be of similar substance.

    1. tl,dr : Everyone gets angry when you interrupt their circle-jerk

      When I read Morozov’s Baffler article on Tim O’Reilly, I was struck by how his rhetorical style resembled that of a posturing Internet troll. Then I discovered that he is still in his twenties, and realized that he has never really known a world without the Internet, that he cut his adult teeth arguing with people over it, so it is perfectly understandable that it would influence how he frames his arguments (or, rather, his opponents).

      Now I see the “thought terminating cliches” popular on Reddit all over the Internet, and I weep for the future.


        Then I discovered that he is still in his twenties, and realized that he
        has never really known a world without the Internet, that he cut his
        adult teeth arguing with people over it

        That’s pretty funny, given his academic pedigree.

    2. “Similarly, although most of my work is an effort to put the Internet in historical or legal context, I, too, am an “Internet-centrist” (but at least I’m in good company).”

      While Wu isn’t specific, I certainly interpreted this as something from the book, so I’d say yes, he does note that he’s mentioned.  I guess you should be pleasantly surprised.

      1. This is a book review in a major publication. I think an explicit, direct reference, if not a distinct disclaimer at the start, is required for the sake of honesty and transparency.

        As it stands, it’s not unreasonable to claim a conflict of interests and lack of honesty on Wu’s part.

    3. I’m saving a local copy of these comments to see if they look anything like this at the end of the day …

      It seems that part of the risk that BoingBoing has taken is that it is not just a design site.  One of the very concerning points made in the Morozov Baffler article was that O’Reilly carries heavy influence and waxes philosophical on all sorts of topics for the “TED elites”.  This is problematic for me, given TED’s recent treatment of Rupert Sheldrake, in particular.  Sheldrake’s Science Set Free lecture makes an incredibly important point that the philosophical basis for modern science’s origins — the mechanistic worldview — is something which we should rightly and systematically question, using the methodology of science.  Rather than pretending as though we already know the answers to the questions that Sheldrake asks, scientists should not fear using science to question the dominant paradigms in science.

      What we are getting instead from this mysterious board of TED advisors is the monolithic, positivist worldview which Joseph Novak warns of in his own works on science education.  It’s the view that there is only enough room for one worldview in science — That’s Science with a capital S.  Needless to say, our public education system is already switching to a less authoritarian, more constructivist system of science education, where people are permitted to hold their own views on controversial topics within science.  In constructivism, creating thought-provoking dialogue is actually oftentimes the point, and the process of formulating meaning in science is situated within the learner’s head.  The constructivist view is a more Kuhn-friendly view of science as a society with evolving concepts and models.  The positivist view tends to be pre-Kuhnian, viewing science more as an objective methodology than subjective society.

      Are the public’s future beliefs simply dictated to us through the subtle language which is used to have the conversations?  It’s a DAMN GOOD interdisciplinary question which Morozov helps us to ask.  Anybody who truly loves science should fear the rise of the debunking culture of science, for progress in this endeavor can indeed be stalled by sticking to outdated worldviews.  After all, the worldviews act as part of the basis for our questions in science, and the elaboration of new models in science is in fact a very delicate process which can be undermined very easily by powerful media empires like O’Reilly’s.  The lack of transparency associated with the “TED elites” raises many reasonable questions which lurk in the minds of BoingBoing’s more open-minded readers.

      I personally think it’s actually kind of silly how people of power tend to respond to critique on the Internet.  Complaining about being critiqued on the Internet is kind of similar to moving next door to a nightclub, and then complaining about the noise.  This is the game.  It’s why many of us are here, to begin with.  If the Internet was more authoritarian than it already is — on par with television — many of us would simply turn it off.

      I’ve also personally noticed that there is a big problem at the heart of Silicon Valley’s worldview.  Oddly enough, the software and hardware engineers rarely receive a proper education in what exactly a scientific model is (I speak from personal experience, as a hardware engineer, and as somebody who has read enough about science education to see that this is actually a widespread public problem).  Many engineers can get by quite fine without ever having to question the models they learn in the textbooks, and this has left the Silicon Valley crowd with a very skewed conception of what science is, and the role that simulations play in the more speculative sciences (which Silicon Valley types rarely go to any lengths to differentiate).  The simulations and models are oftentimes treated as real (rather than speculative) things.  The fact that they are dressed in mathematics acts as a form of ideational security, and the names of the models are even changed (“global warming” to “climate change”, for instance) in order to influence the power they possess to mediate more direct experience with them (which few citizens ever actually experience, btw).  The reason why this matters is that I am greatly concerned about organizations like TED, and even BoingBoing, deciding for us all what is good and bad science.  But, it seems that is oftentimes the theme of this design site.

      That’s fine.  I get it.  You guys have an opinion just like everybody else. But, realize that some of us greatly differ on some very fundamental points in regards to your reporting on some issues, and Morozov’s claims on how O’Reilly anchors concepts has very, very deep epistemological implications.  We should be talking about the implications of all of this stuff MORE — not less.

      1.  This is all very interesting. I’m an unusual position because I spend half my time in a computer science environment, and half my time dealing with new web businesses, many of who deem themselves startups.

        In the lab, buzzwords are openly laughed at. Big Data, nebulously defined as it is, would not be used as a term. An idea that can’t pass close scrutiny is dropped, and nothing is sacrosanct. Opinions are changed in light of evidence.

        In the “startup” scene, things are different. Almost every enterprise I encounter is a solution looking for a problem. Teams of people join up to build some clever technology to solve a problem which they have identified. The identification is sometimes real, often subjective. Sustainability is something for your hypothetical investors to worry about.

        This is what brings me to the importance of people like Morozov. An idea is not just an idea. When a billionaire stands on stage and tells people what happens next, many people believe them. Why is the billionaire standing on stage? To raise their profile, to grow their business.  Why are they saying what they’re saying? Well, they have to say something, and they might as well be positive, all these people who have spent hundreds on their conference tickets want to be told relentlessly upbeat things.

        Opinions become axioms. Flip. Pivot. Fail fast. Users are an asset, not a cost. People believe this stuff. Effort and money are being squandered on untested ideas. We get told that the people who would test these ideas don’t live in the real world. Billionaire graduates tell kids not to go to college. The two hotttest tech companies sell ads for a living, and we’re all told to emulate them.

        As for “tech solutionism”, in my opinion it’s two things. The first is people who want us all to keep focusing on the tech sector. The second is just people who want to help the world, but don’t want to make the necessary sacrifice to do any of the traditional things it requires. I can write great code, why would I want to volunteer, teach, fund existing efforts, or pay taxes? Code is the answer!

        I wasn’t around for the first internet crash, but there’s serious exposure here. When people like Morozov say, “The Emperor has no clothes”, people like Doctorow say “Unless you can suggest better clothes, you’re not really entitled to an opinion. Are you even a tailor?”

      2. Sheldrake doesn’t care about science.  If he did he wouldn’t vociferously criticize scientists who try to replicate his work with tighter protocols and get *gasp* negative results.

        He just wants to be Galileo. He ain’t.

        Interestingly, though, Sheldrake’s worldview is as mechanistic as any philosophical materialist except that it’s dualistic. Instead of matter doing the “mechanizing” it’s “psi” or whatever the hell he’s calling it these days. As usual the guys saying we should throw out the proven track-record of skepticism and be more open-minded are actually advocating for ancient, discredited, and ultimately boring ideas.

        Quantum mechanics is much more interesting than “psi” and requires a much more open mind to understand and to accept; it’s also fundamentally non-mechanistic. And yet somehow, all these “closed-minded, mechanistic” scientists accept quantum mechanics and reject “psi”. Maybe there are better reasons for this than Sheldrake will admit.

      3. I’m saving a local copy of these comments to see if they look anything like this at the end of the day …

        How sad.

    4.  Actually, most of the quotation in the OP has to do with Morozov’s substance, not his style.  If you can’t acknowledge that I’m not sure why I should take your perspective seriously — it very much seems to fly in the face of the facts.

      If you want to talk about why Wu’s arguments are wrong that’s fine but don’t tell me those arguments aren’t being made when I can see them right in front of my face.

      1. I mean the only arguments that stick are those about style.

        His technical arguments are pretty crappy. “Morozov wants an imperfect system, the Internet is an imperfect system, so he wants the Internet, so he’s wrong”. Ridiculously subjective.

        For the whole article he doesn’t quote the book once, just sets up his interpretation and says it’s wrong. Anyone can do that. That’s not how to argue, certainly not in a book review.

  14. I guess the young Evegeny never got a Lego set for his birthday. “I took it out of the box, and it didn’t do anything!” seems to be his main insight.

    That, and “Somebody else did something with it, and I didn’t like it!”  Well, that’s the first ten minutes of the first lecture in the first term of sociology of Technology 101.

    When Morozov has enough of a grasp of his topic to debate with Carlota Perez, or Donald Mackenzie, or Paul Duguid, I’ll listen. But I’m not going to waste my time now.

  15. I personally found Morozov’s critique in the Baffler article of O’Reilly’s usage of concept anchoring to be incredibly enlightening.  The technique of creating a new concept, and then linking all other related concepts to it as if this new concept is a superordinate one, would be a technique that’s actually supported by David Ausubel’s assimilation theory.  The reason it’s dangerous is because during meaningful learning, assimilation is a destructive process: In the process of instantiating this new concept, older concepts are irreversibly modified within the mind.  Morozov’s poignant critique of O’Reilly’s usage of this technique as intended to keep the new concepts ambiguous (so that O’Reilly can then define these new terms as he sees fit) and only loosely confined to their original context brings us to an incredibly important conversation that needs to be had more widely.  O’Reilly’s apparent usage of this knowledge for how concepts are learned would seem to be arguably questionable.  After all, we could use this knowledge to simply create something more positive — like better science education.  But, what O’Reilly has chosen to do is to use it as a methodology for making money.

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