Last Sunday on The Monocle Weekly, me and Robert Bound interviewed Andrew Keen about his new book, The Internet Is Not The Answer. It’s a very good read. And he was a very good guest – so good indeed that we have now persuaded him to join us at the forthcoming Monocle Quality of Life conference in Lisbon in April. But back to the point.
Keen is a critic from within the pleased-with-itself world of Silicon Valley and his book is funny, punches with gusto and puts the spotlight on a rogues gallery of tech hypocrites. His accusations are many and all are backed up with a torrent of fine facts. He believes, for example, that the tech revolution – far from spreading wealth and opportunity – has created a new generation of white male industrial barons who don’t like to pay their taxes and flaunt their wealth with abandon.
He believes that words such as disruption mask the destruction of real jobs. He believes that online media is far crueller and more sexist than what went before. And he believes that we are dumb for so casually giving up our privacy.
Keen is no Luddite and he uses the internet like everyone else (hell, it’s allowing you to read this) but once you’ve devoured his book, you can’t quite look at the hullabaloo about all things digital in the same way.
Now you will have all noticed on monocle.com that we have a paywall and ask people to sign up to read our online content. This is because we value the hard work that goes into reporting a good story and want to pay fairly the writers and photographers who work for us. And as we are not owned by a well-endowed trust or, ironically, a gazillionaire who made their money from tech and is nonchalant about the notion of turning a profit, we cannot afford to give away our hard work for nothing.
Read Keen’s book and you will understand our position. He points out that the cult of free has led to a carnage of job losses in newsrooms and newspapers such as The Guardian (the third-most-visited newspaper website) losing some $100 million (€88m) since 2010.
And in their place have come news aggregators with no commitment to original content. And the voices heard are less diverse, less reflective of society with every click.
Look, you need to read the book. It’s rude, it’s fun and it may just make you pause before you click or perhaps ask a few more questions of the tech slayers revered as disruptive heroes.
Andrew Tuck is editor of Monocle