Synopses & Reviews
Too Much Magic
is the story of how venture capital, media moguls and marketeers use digital magic to distract us, invade our privacy, corrupt democracy, distort our human values and sell us things that we don't need.
Authored by Silicon Valley marketing communications guru Jason Benlevi, Too Much Magic looks at all aspects of our emerging digital lifestyle, how it is changing us, and who really is benefiting.
We have a long love/hate relationship with technology. However, the problem is usually not technology itself, but rather the powers that are deciding its course. The conflict is apparent as we witness people standing in line overnight, eagerly waiting to buy the newest tech gadget, while at the same time every film about the future from Metropolis to Blade Runner to Avatar depicts a dystopia that is entirely built upon technology.
Originally, the Mac and personal computing revolution were about self-empowerment, and the Internet was a utility for people to share knowledge. Now that revolution is in danger of being turned against us. Too Much Magic explains how the Cult of Tech, a convergence of business, media and academic interests, is infiltrating every aspect of our lives through clever marketing and "digital convergence."
Too Much Magic examines what "being digital" really means. The book details historic changes in our entertainment, personal communications, play time, public affairs and social interactions. It also sounds an alarm on the escalating yet stealthy attacks upon our basic freedoms.
Too Much Magic tells readers what powerful interests don't want them to know about the their increasingly digital lives. Prescriptively, author Benlevi points out ways we can choose to disengage from technology delightfully and exactly what we each can do to preserve our humanity, independence and creativity, all of which could vanish through deceptive acts of digital magic.
Although the topic is serious, the tone is entertaining and irreverent, offering a refreshing contrarian take that comes from a deep understanding of technology and correlated cultural knowledge. It is a unique blend of skepticism and enthusiasm for the digital age.
"Jason Benlevi has written a terrific book. Too Much Magic is a revealing look at the secrets of digital life in a work that all readers can enjoy. I couldn't put it down." John F. Rothmann, Host of the John Rothmann Show on KGO News Talk Radio, San Francisco
"Too Much Magic
combines the best of two worlds: it is written with both passion and journalistic objectivity, in equal measures. That is a tougher path to navigate than it might seem. When an author's passion for his subject overwhelms his objectivity, the reader quite rightly treats any conclusions reached with suspicion. Objectivity without passion is just dull. Jason Benlevi gets the balance just right.
Benlevi, who has worked in the computer industry as a marketing-communications specialist since personal computing first emerged, clearly knows the nuts and bolts of his subject — the often subversive effects technology has enacted on our lives. This leads to a wide range of sub-topics. You may not immediately know what the relationship is between your ability to share music you've bought and paid for and basmati rice, however Benlevi carefully makes the connections (hint: it's copyright law, patent law, and the U.S. Supreme Court).
There are many, many books published every year and equally as many articles published every day about loss of privacy, the withering of civil rights, and the numbing effects of video violence. These are some of the key issues of our time. Having read many of those many books and articles Too Much Magic might just be the best of the lot. Written in a calm, yet urgent, voice Benlevi gives the reader an indispensable primer, an excellent examination on just what all those nifty, shiny little phones and tablets are actually doing behind their screens. This book is well-deserving of a large audience." — San Francisco Book Review
"An insider's perceptive look at how digital technology is consuming the consumer.
It's striking when someone with more than two decades of experience promoting and launching tech products sets out to write a book that is essentially a warning to society about the nasty nature of technology. In fast-moving text replete with engaging ad-like chapter headings, Benlevi traces the rise of digital technology and the manner in which it has been sold to the consumer. The book's premise can be summed up in the author's stinging observation that "[t]he core properties of commonality and connectivity that make digital life seem so appealing are exactly the same ones that make it so destructive, invasive, and subject to abuse." Indeed, Benlevi spends the majority of the book exploring this notion. He demonstrates how entertainment — primarily video, music and games — is the economic driver of the digital world. Benlevi suggests media labs, the "digerati," venture capitalists, Internet service providers and "marketeers" comprise an insidious "Cult of Tech" that is first and foremost focused on profit. In case after case, the author depicts the potentially dangerous downside of a digital life. He discusses, for example, how video gamers become alienated from society, why cell phones can act like "digital cocoons," how YouTube has turned everyone into a video producer and why social media is fast becoming just another channel to market brands. He adopts the contrarian view that the widely acclaimed iPad is effectively "a vending machine for digital media" — a device designed to feed more entertainment options to the consumer rather than promote creativity. He makes the intriguing claim that the 2008 economic meltdown "was entirely facilitated by digital technology and computerized models that were either wrong, fraudulent, or both." This is not entirely new territory; other books have pointed to society's over-reliance on technology. But Benlevi is especially passionate about the topic, which makes for a good read. In the end, Benlevi offers a compelling case for taking control of one's digital life, rather than having it control you.
An entertaining, insightful book that a digitally dependent reader won't soon forget." — Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Jason Benlevi has spent the past decades as a marketing communications guru working with the leading technology companies in Silicon Valley and beyond selling the dream of a digital life. Now he has taken a critical look at the sum of the parts that have been created and questions whether the dream has been created for all, or whether it is just a new package for the same-old powers-that-be to exploit the rest of us.
Jason found himself channeled into the sciences by the launch of Sputnik — until intersecting with the twin evils of geometry class and the Vietnam War. From that point forward Benlevi was on a different course, one that ultimately won him the disaffection of the L.A. school system and an escape to the San Francisco Bay Area. Living a dual academic life in film school and computer labs, Jason authored what was probably the first feature film about computer hackers, well in advance of anyone in Hollywood having the vaguest idea what he was talking about. This was years before War Games and Sneakers (which no one remembers anyway.)
Deciding that he couldn't live on art alone, or afford the gadgets he desired, Jason became involved in advertising, where creative ideas are sent to die, but at least the artists and writers get paid. The timing was fortuitous since he was among the few creative individuals who actually enjoyed talking to computer engineers and could translate what their talk into language that any normal TV-watching, newspaper-reading individual could understand. While working at the will of the world's leading technology companies, he blogged under many aliases about politics, culture and technology. Now he has summoned the courage and recklessness to put a name to his work...and an end to his career.