Synopses & Reviews
Franklin Foer reveals the existential threat posed by big tech, and in his brilliant polemic gives us the toolkit to fight their pervasive influence.
Over the past few decades there has been a revolution in terms of who controls knowledge and information. This rapid change has imperiled the way we think. Without pausing to consider the cost, the world has rushed to embrace the products and services of four titanic corporations. We shop with Amazon; socialize on Facebook; turn to Apple for entertainment; and rely on Google for information. These firms sell their efficiency and purport to make the world a better place, but what they have done instead is to enable an intoxicating level of daily convenience. As these companies have expanded, marketing themselves as champions of individuality and pluralism, their algorithms have pressed us into conformity and laid waste to privacy. They have produced an unstable and narrow culture of misinformation, and put us on a path to a world without private contemplation, autonomous thought, or solitary introspection — a world without mind. In order to restore our inner lives, we must avoid being coopted by these gigantic companies, and understand the ideas that underpin their success.
Elegantly tracing the intellectual history of computer science — from Descartes and the enlightenment to Alan Turing to Stuart Brand and the hippie origins of today’s Silicon Valley — Foer exposes the dark underpinnings of our most idealistic dreams for technology. The corporate ambitions of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, he argues, are trampling longstanding liberal values, especially intellectual property and privacy. This is a nascent stage in the total automation and homogenization of social, political, and intellectual life. By reclaiming our private authority over how we intellectually engage with the world, we have the power to stem the tide.
At stake is nothing less than who we are, and what we will become. There have been monopolists in the past but today’s corporate giants have far more nefarious aims. They’re monopolists who want access to every facet of our identities and influence over every corner of our decision-making. Until now few have grasped the sheer scale of the threat. Foer explains not just the looming existential crisis but the imperative of resistance.
"A provocative, enlightening, and above all, important book that is asking the most important question of our times. It is nothing less than an examination of the future of humanity and what we like to call 'free will.' It is also a good read — Foer writes with an engaging vibrancy that makes the book a page-turner." Tim Wu, author of The Attention Merchants and The Master Switch
"As the dust settles from the great tech upheavals of the early 21st century, it turns out that the titans of Silicon Valley have not ushered us into a utopia of peace and freedom. Instead, as Foer so convincingly shows, by monopolizing the means of distribution, they have systematically demonetized and degraded the written word. World without Mind makes a passionate, deeply informed case for the need to take back culture—knowledge, information, ideas — from the Facebooks and Amazons. Its message could not be more timely." William Deresiewicz, New York Times bestselling author of Excellent Sheep and A Jane Austen Education
"World Without Mind is an argument in the spirit of those brave democracy protestors who stand alone before tanks. Franklin Foer asks us to unplug and think. He asks us to recognize and challenge Silicon Valley’s monopoly power. His book is a vital response to digital utopianism at a time when we desperately need new ethics for social media." Steve Coll, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Ghost Wars and Private Empire
About the Author
Franklin Foer is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a fellow at the New America Foundation. He is the author of How Soccer Explains the World, which has been translated into 27 languages and a winner of a National Jewish Book Award. For seven years, he edited The New Republic magazine.