Since its creation during the Cold War, the Internet, together with the World Wide Web, personal computers, tablets, and smartphones, has ushered in the Digital Revolution, one of the greatest shifts in society since the Industrial Revolution. There are many positive ways in which the Internet has contributed to the world, but as a society we are less aware of the Internet’s deeply negative effects. In 2007, Andrew Keen, a longtime Silicon Valley–based observer of the digital world and a serial Internet entrepreneur, published one of the first Internet-sceptic books, The Cult of the Amateur, which asked how quality content can be created in an online environment that demands everything for free.
In Keen’s new book, The Internet Is Not the Answer, he offers a comprehensive look at what the Internet is doing to our lives. The book traces the technological and economic history of the Internet, from its founding in the 1960s to the creation of the World Wide Web in 1989, through the waves of start-ups and the rise of the big data companies to the increasing attempts to monetize almost every human activity. Successful Internet companies have produced astronomical returns on investment, and venture capital and the profit motive have become the primary drivers of innovation. In this sharp, witty narrative, informed by the work of other writers, reporters, and recent academic studies as well as his own research and interviews, Keen shows us the tech world, warts and all—from hoodie-wearing misfit millionaires, to the NSA’s all-encompassing online surveillance, to the impact of the Internet on unemployment and economic inequality. The Internet Is Not the Answer is a big-picture look at what the Internet is doing to our society and an investigation into what we can do to try to make sure that the decisions we are making about the reconfiguring of our world do not lead to unpleasant, unforeseen aftershocks.