Talking to Andrew Keen (podcast)

Keen-Internet book jacket

Andrew Keen’s new book, The Internet is Not the Answer (Atlantic Monthly Press), goes on sale today.  This is the third book Keen has written about the Internet and digital-age culture. A native of London, Keen first became an Internet entrepreneur in the US with the founding of in 1995, and this new book cites his own personal conversion from early evangelist of techno-utopian ideas to an observer with a more critical view of how and why the evolution of the Web is failing to fulfill many of its founding ideals.  Through first-hand accounts and solid research, Keen describes how some of the most influential technology leaders abandoned the egalitarian and democratizing goals of the Internet in favor of business strategies that have produced, and will continue to produce, a winner-take-all-economy that only serves to exacerbate wealth stratification throughout the market.   While economics are the central theme of this new book, Keen also discusses culture, sociology, and in particular privacy, saying that we are voluntarily creating a surveillance state that would be the envy of the East German Stasi.

Keen believes, as I do, that government must play a role — that if we naively think the Internet obviates the role of regulation and law enforcement through representative government, that we are only empowering an oligarchy and not ourselves.  The Internet is Not the Answer is an approachable read for anyone with no prior knowledge of digital-age issues, and for all its seriousness and dire warnings, Keen’s writing is lighthearted, personal, at times very funny, and is ultimately optimistic.

For more information about Andrew, visit

The Internet is Not the Answer is reviewed here by Michael Harris for The Washington Post.

© 2015, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

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  • What do the big tech companies provide that people can not live without? Nothing. They continue to grow because most people are content with having a singular, and familiar source for the goods and services they buy. More regulation of the internet might be a necessary evil at some point, but the simplest way to curb the power of big tech companies is to provide smaller more focused alternatives that serve the actual needs of the average consumer.

    Too many people trying to be the next Google or Apple, etc. We need more people providing high quality service on a much smaller scale.

    • That sounds great. All you have to do is figure out how to solve the reality that the Internet breeds natural monopolies. People don’t stick with Google or Amazon because they’re lazy. They do it because nobody actually needs more than one search engine or more than one online store that is now so big they can beat almost any alternative on price. If there were a preferred alternative to Facebook, people would migrate there, and Facebook would be MySpace and the new thing would have all the marketshare. And the other reality is that smaller companies providing something new and valuable have a hard time resisting the money when Google comes to buy them — that is if that being acquired wasn’t the goal to begin with.

      • There is nothing to solve. We don’t need more than one search index. We just need an unbiased one. We don’t need more than one cell phone, we just need a fully functional one. The idea of consumer choice is great for goods and services where competition creates clear differences between one porduct/service and another.

        But when something becomes ubiquitous, it is far better for the consumer in the long run to have uniformity. Or limited choice based on clear requirements.

        Imagine if gas stations operated like cell phone companies. Now imagine if cell phone service was like getting gas.

      • Just like religion and political opinion.

  • The internet started as a military installation, and I don’t see it as any different today. The big internet companies (Facebook, Google, Twitter,etc) are little more than government subcontractors working for the NSA to keep the people under absolute surveillance.
    “keep the internet free” is the ultimate Orwellian delusion..

  • “good for consumers” isn’t always good for everyone.

    Let’s face it, we are facing a serious problem here. THis is not like other examples of automation where jobs were replaced. Lots of jobs are going away, period. And yes, google is a big part of it.

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