Morozov in Chapter 10 provides many examples of how, in his view, cyber-utopianism is yet another iteration of human tendency to read world-fixing fantasies into new technologies. He begins with the telegraph, and discusses how optimists and futurists saw that, then radio, then television, as bringers of revolutionary, and positive change.
Morozov believes that this utopianism forestalls careful policy planning around new technologies, and without understanding this history, we are doomed to repeat many of the mistakes of the past. By adopting what Morozov terms a “deterministic stance” toward the Internet, we stop asking questions about how we might subject it to serious ethical consideration. And it we stop thinking of problems in terms of their social and political contexts, and rather think of them solely in terms of technological problems, with technological fixes.
Clearly, things seldom turn out as these futurists expect (or, perhaps, hope). The idea that television would bring us together (because neighborhoods would gather around the few sets in a given neighborhood) did not anticipate multiple TV households, let alone the proliferation of cable and satellite channels, or digital video recording.
Questions for discussion:
1) Is the Internet in fact an “entirely new beast,” fundamentally different than past technologies Morozov mentions? If so, how?
2) Morozov says “The fact that we cannot yet calculate all the costs of a given technology – whether financial, moral, or environmental ones – does not mean that it comes free.” As an example, he notes the massive amounts of energy required to run the countless servers that are the lifeblood of the Internet. Are we indeed overlooking some of the true costs of the Internet in our rush to integrate it into every aspect of contemporary life?
3) Morozov criticizes the idea that “technology is neutral” – that it merely is a tool that can be used for good or for evil – saying that such a stance allows policy makers to absolve themselves of the responsibility to pay attention to the technologies themselves. Some may indeed be more democracy-enhancing than others, he says. What are some new technologies, and Web 2.0 tools in particular, that are in fact harmful to democracy, and what (if anything) should policy makers do to counter or minimize these?
Chapter 1 – The Google Doctrine
Chapter 2 – Texting Like It’s 1989
Chapter 3 – Orwell’s Favorite Lolcat
Chapter 4 – Censors and Sensibilities
Chapter 5 – Hugo Chavez Would Like to Welcome You to the Spinternet
Chapter 6 – Why the KGB Wants You to Join Facebook
Chapter 7 – Why Kierkegaard Hates Slacktivism
Chapter 8 – Open Networks, Narrow Minds
Chapter 9 – Internet Freedoms and Their Consequences
Chapter 10 – Making History (More Than a Browser Menu)
Chapter 11 – The Wicked Fix