To Save Everything, Click Here: Book review

To Save Everything, Click Here: Book review

Summary: In his latest book, the author of The Net Delusion examines the thinking that led to the widespread view of the internet as a democratising force, which he calls 'solutionism' and 'internet centrism'.

TOPICS: After Hours, Reviews

Every new technology has multiple cycles of hype and backlash. The hyperbole surrounding the advent of the internet was particularly extreme, for example, with some pundits claiming it was the most important invention since the discovery of fire. Some of the backlash has been just as extreme: the internet makes us stupid, trivial, alienated, addicted.


That technology is what users make of it was the point of Evgeny Morozov's first book, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. In it, he argued that despite the many claims for the internet as a democratising force, in reality oppressive governments are plenty smart enough to use it and related technologies to impose censorship, surveillance and other anti-democratic nasties on people they don't like — and even some they do. As for the oppressed citizens of those countries, they'd rather look at cute kittens than use the internet to engage in substantive political agitation.

In To Save Everything, Click Here: Technology, Utopianism, and the Urge to Fix Problems That Don't Exist, Morozov studies the twin trends 'solutionism' and 'internet-centrism' — the underlying styles of thinking that make the 'Net delusion' possible. Internet-centrism sees the internet as special and something to be protected — something with a 'grain', a nature, or even a soul. Solutionism is a kind of technological determinism: I create an app to count the steps I take each day; my phone nudges me to exercise and put down the doughnuts; my government stops funding public health services in this area because we can eat apps. In other words, the technological solutions available for minor problems (the itches that geeks want to scratch) lead us to shallow thinking, and our goals divert from understanding large, complex social problems into writing yet more apps. Worse, we start seeing only problems that can be solved by apps as problems worth solving. The result is suggestions that, for example, governments should work more like Wikipedia.

Arguing with Morozov is hard: he quotes all these books and authors, and you haven't read half of them. Among the more familiar names he picks on, however, are Lawrence Lessig, Jonathan Zittrain (The Future of the Internet - and How to Stop It), Steven Johnson, Don Tapscott (inventor of 'digital natives') and Clay Shirky. If you want to see Morozov arguing in action, try his recent back-and-forth with Steven Johnson at New Republic.

Now, Morozov thinks it's more important to unbundle the internet's technologies and understand what each one is good for. We need, he says, to think and ask questions.

All of these people are well-known commentators arguing for values such as free culture, open hardware standards, network neutrality, open data and so on. It's not clear to me that it's fair to pick any of them as representative of the views of Silicon Valley: Zittrain is a Harvard professor, for example, Shirky is based in New York and Tapscott is Canadian. To be sure, Google's Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg also come in for their fare share of criticism, but Morozov seems more interested in theorists than CEOs and activists. Even Lessig, founder of Creative Commons and Rootstrikers, sees himself as a scholar rather than an activist.

In part, this seems to be Morozov's own internal backlash. In concluding, he writes that briefly, between 2005 and 2007, he, too, was intoxicated by the thought of applying the lessons of flourishing internet phenomena like Wikipedia, peer-to-peer networking and Friendster (!) to everything else. Now, Morozov thinks it's more important to unbundle the internet's technologies and understand what each one is good for. We need, he says, to think and ask questions. Which is all fine, but asking questions is exactly what geeks do. To pretend otherwise is to ignore the rich history of internet politics and activism — every one of today's debates began with pioneers inventing the protocols. Morozov needs to get out more.

To Save Everything, Click Here: Technology, Utopianism, and the Urge to Fix Problems That Don't Exist 
By Evgeny Morozov
Allen Lane
413 pages
ISBN: 978-1-846-14548-3

Topics: After Hours, Reviews

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Not the First Time

    This is not the first time in history when a new technology is mistakenly seen as the ONE thing needed to make the world perfect and abolish war, poverty and injustice. When the telegraph line was first laid across the Atlantic, there were speculations that instantaneous communication across the oceans would lead to universal peace; in the 1850's, the decade leading up to America's deadliest war, between states that ALREADY HAD telegraph lines connecting them on land; not to mention the wars since then. And the telegraph became a weapon of war itself, enabling Lincoln to become the first President to manage a war from the White House.

    A few decades later, when Dr. Zamenhoff invented the "universal" artificial language Esperanto, he touted it as a means to promote worldwide understanding between nations (the name itself means "hopeful"), but in addition to the fact that it never caught on, it did not prevent war. Ironically, because Hitler apparently BELIEVED it would do so, and thus be a danger to his plans, he forbade Nazis to learn it, on penalty of death, which made it the language of choice for anti-Nazi resistance forces (Zamenhoff did make it EASY to learn, at least for speakers of European languages).

    So the internet has become the latest killer app (or should we say "savior app"?) to show that, while it can do much good, and has, it can work both ways.
  • But Is He Just Being Labelist?

    Maybe it is a good thing to solve problems, rather than suffer them.
  • Solutionism

    In identification with a conflicted mind, we seek solutions outside our self - as if the answer is something that makes the world fit our demand and support our dream. As with attacking the many headed Hydra we 'solve' problems which then rise up with seven more heads (in more complex disguises) - and become densely and unconsciously identified in reaction to 'denied self'. We seem to be becoming more powerful discoverers of the world but are drawn out into extending or dislocating our identity and power into things apparently outside our self. When each apparent new world, ideology, or solution turns out to re-enact the same conflict that we were seeking to escape, we find an intolerable sense of ourselves, our world in which we either invoke ingenuity to 'escape' or overcome - or arrive at the beginning with willingness to look with new eyes.

    Technology is an extension of the mind in its intent to shape and change its world - and this begins with conceptual thinking - our technology provides mappings, definitions and languages which we take as the world Itself rather than a conditioned adaptation of apparently competing/conflicting programs or purposes and interpreted results. But it is a virtual interface over an unconsciousness that is wilfully set.
    With the Internet of all things we are outsourcing our native intelligence at it lower levels to a series of programmed purposes. But we have not escaped the fundamental dilemma of a conflicted consciousness in which the wish to control alternates and seems to compete with the desire to trust. In the first is an experience of a world of action and reaction that is perfect justification for the assertion and imposition of control - for it is fearful and apparently unworthy of trust - for it reflects a fundamental dishonesty of our own denied mind. It reflects a willing lovelessness of intent. The latter also brings an experience that justifies its extension. It serves the undoing of fearful projection and the release of loveless intent. In trying to have both, the mind hangs or crashes - because they are mutually irreconcilable.
    If even a glimpse of such intuition is present, one can look at the world and see our reflection in ways that serve to illuminate and undo the obstructions to an honest perspective.
    To choose one is to let the other go. But fear can never be a whole choice because it is not the self-creator it pretends to be, but is wholly dependant on that which it seems to exist by reaction against.
    But trust allows the true nature of Mind to extend as what could be called the Original Internet of All Things. That what we seek to replicate - in order to control - already exists in the relinquishment of control, does not register with the 'orphaned' consciousness as meaningful or in any way desirable, but only as threat to its continued employment/existence - which it suggests is yours.
    All systems disintegrate if they are not expressing integrity. The presentation of integrity as a means for control is not an open honest communication and will not draw forth an honest open response.
    The time is ripe to see what we hold in our mind - for its creates the experience of the world as we see it, and the world is in a process of fundamental change. Our consciousness is in transformational transition.
    From a Mental view of the Universe, you will have what you perceive while you want it to be true for you, but the conscious experience of pervasive fear is intolerable to all except the warmonger and the determined ostrich. For these two are part and parcel of each other.
    To raise consciousness is not to become reactive but to identify and release reactivity. This allows what is running beneath it to surface; as wisdom, discernment, intuition, insight, and appreciation. These are not resources to plunder in designing yet another layer of self-illusion - but are our Natural Inheritance as Expressions of Existence.
    Our world can serve the purpose we hold in our heart if we stay true to our purpose, and this purpose is already inherent beneath the masks and strategies of fearful attempt to protect and control. We don't have to make it or prop it up or convince our self or others. We just have to embrace it wholly in our Now of Consciousness. It doesn't matter that the habit of fear recurs when the foundation is set. Just to relax allows a reconnection.
    Responsibility is not about blame - but about living choices. false choices keep us locked in limitation while true choice is a creative unfoldment.

    The shorter comment would have been: What if the problem is the answer unrecognized?
  • air max 1 billigt

    Som en "jobb Sök framgång" representeras av tennis--Nike Tennis Classic SB skor skateboard skor förvandladesair max 1 billigt till. Nyligen, gemensamma master air max 90 damhögsta, namnet gemensamt med Nike skor. För att belysa textur, sidor speciellt utvalda serpentine som överdelar material på båda, i tillägg till vilda svart och vitt, och det är val av fluorescerande grön och mörk blå.