Inside the black limo

Back from the East Coast launch of CULT, where I spent most of my time in the back of a black limo whisked from one interview to the next. What a blast. I haven't had so much fun since 1981.

The news is that it's anything but quiet on the CULT front. Eric Auchard, Reuter's chief technology correspondent picked up the story and it ran everywhere from CNN to the Sydney Morning Herald. I appeared on MSNBC's On the Money show and Brian Lehrer's NYPR show. I debated Gooner Web 2.0 utopian Charlie Leadbeater on Newsnight, the BBC's leading evening news show which also selected CULT as it's book of the  week.  I bravely stepped into the Googleplex and got out not only alive but also charmed by the open-mindedness of my Google audience. I did online Q&A sessions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the London Financial Times. I engaged in furious debate at the Strand bookstore with Lev Grossman, Time magazine's YOU champion (see my own Against You manifesto). The non English press is enjoying the controversy too. See my interview with Nicola Bruno for Il Manifesto, the illustrious Italian leftist newspaper.

And it's not just the communist press that is finding meaning in my CULT. A.N. Wilson in England's conservative Daily Mail got a real kick (in the pants) out of CULT. Seems like a combination of Eric Schmidt and CULT convinced Wilson that the Internet is destroying the world as we know it:

Until recently, I would certainly have agreed with the web evangelists: Let Freedom Reign! Yes, there may be a lot of drivel out there, but, with judicious parental supervision, surely the world of the internet creates untold opportunities for everyone - including our children - to inform, entertain and delight themselves.

Yet two things have made me change my mind. The first was the speech given recently by Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, in which he outlined the company’s plans for the future.

Not content with becoming the world’s dominant internet search engine, he revealed that Google hoped to acquire a mass of personal information about each of its regular users, to the extent that it will one day be able to tell people how they should conduct almost every aspect of their lives.

"The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask questions such as 'What shall I do tomorrow?' and 'What job shall I take?'" said Mr Schmidt.

For anyone who cares about personal liberties and privacy, this is a truly terrifying prospect. But if you think that, then you should also read - as I did this week - a staggering new book with the title The Cult Of The Amateur by Andrew Keen.

He is an English-born digital media entrepreneur and Silicon Valley insider who really knows his stuff. And he writes with the passion of a man who can at last see the dangers he has helped unleash.

His book will come as a real shock to many. It certainly did to me.

Speaking of the Internet destroying the world, I'm now preparing for my debate with Jonathan Nelson, founder and Chairman of Organic, at Digital Hollywood next Tuesday evening  at 6.30 in Santa Monica's Merigot hotel. Moderated by Michael Laskoff of BAM, we'll not only be debating Web 2.0 but also the future of advertising and public relations in a flattened world. Please let me know if you can make it and I'll put your name on the guest list.

I'll be back in the Bay Area on Friday, where I'll be speaking at Yahoo's Sunnyvale campus at lunchtime and then doing a Cody's Books debate with Stanford prof Ori Brafman of Starfish and Spider fame at Berkeley's First Congregation Church at 7.30 pm. The East Bay's most illustrious new media moguless -- Dabble founder Mary Hodder -- will be moderating this one, so it should be particularly fun.