Evgeny Morozov vs. The Internet

CJR's Michael Mayer profiles Evgeny Morozov, who "wants to convince us that digital technology can’t save the world" but has instead kinda picked up a reputation as an axe-grinding polemicist.

Many of Morozov’s opponents dismiss him as a spoiled child, someone who sits in the corner refusing, as Tim O’Reilly once said, to be “useful,” shouting insults at the adults as they roll up their sleeves and solve the world’s problems. Reviewing Morozov’s second book in The Washington Post, Columbia law professor Tim Wu spoke of Morozov’s “promise” as a thinker before lamenting, “One suspects he aspires to be a Bill O’Reilly for intellectuals.” Morozov faces similar criticism even among his supporters. He once defended his style by saying, “We’ve got too many priests and not enough jesters,” an explanation Joshua Cohen, the Stanford professor who brought Morozov to Palo Alto on a fellowship and published some of his earliest long-form work in Boston Review, told me is “bullshit. There’s a vast open field between priests and jesters.”

This is why Morozov is so good at making trouble for these guys. Since no-one in this business has the slightest sense of humor, neither he nor his critics can even tell he's not a jester.

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  1. samsa says:

    Morozov seems to get maligned for what seem like wildly reasonable views: as examples mentioned in the CJR piece, Google's primary goal being to monetize information to make it inaccessible & profitable, his criticism of TED (thank you Evgeny), and his thoughts that the biometric fitness applications could (and probably will) be abused by insurers. This is all fantastic stuff, and needs to be discussed. Add the icing that is Morozov's flair, and he's a pretty "useful" guy after all.

  2. It takes serious guts for the silicon valley self-satisfaction brigade to accuse somebody else of being a spoiled child...

    It doesn't quite reach the truly epic, history-making, heights of David Brooks offering a course in 'Humility' based mostly on his own writings; but we cannot all be true masters of the art.

  3. I've never read anything by Morozov. But I think The Internet is the most dangerous thing ever created in human history. In less than one generation, it has changed the way people think, interact with one another, and react to one another. And not in a positive way. It has changed (for the worse) our ideas about humor, compassion, justice. It has coarsened our sensibilities. In bringing us (figuratively) together, it has made us (literally) less human, less humane. The Internet is anethema to what it is to BE human. Think of the promise of the home computer in the late 70s to late 80s, how fun it was to be on a BBS. Now see what it has become: an outlet for gossip, contant bitching, salacious outrageous "me me me"ness, contant finger-pointing, constant hyperbole. As far as I can tell, things really started getting bad sometime around 2002-2004. Maybe it was Facebook. Maybe it was YouTube, or blogs, or the self-centeredness and self-infatuation that The Internet encourages. But there's a bigger picture. The Internet, combined with video games, laptops, cellphones and The Media that all goes with it...it's all just sucking away our humanity. Watch how many commercials are about tech nowadays. Every other commercial is the newest smart phone, or laptop, or video game or meme or thing "trending." Our slang is all the same. We're all using the same argot (if that's the right term?): old men on commercials fist-bumping, old women talking in leet-speak, or acting like wannabe-BettyWhites. We're being blended into a bland, gray palatable and trendy pudding. We Are All Poochie. I'm no Luddite. It just seems to me that it's all just not worth it. There's plenty of "good" there. But the bad that comes with it is probably gonna do us in, before it's all said and done.

  4. As a wise fish once said, '90% of everything is crap'.

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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