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‘The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is’ Review: Warning! This Site Isn’t Safe

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Most people assume they know what the Internet is. But when asked to explain its power, reach, or history, most of us fall into a simple metaphor. To name a few common terms, we call it the “web,” “virtual public square,” or “cloud.”

Justin EH Smith, a professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of Paris, asks in “The Internet is not what you think” how the use of such metaphors can help in understanding and misunderstanding the Internet. increase. He also challenges the history we have built about it, especially the Silicon Valley-approved story of a progressive march of humans towards a frictionless future for digital. In other words, the Internet is not the historical and morally neutral invention we are thinking of.

Justin EH Smith


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Smith begins by outlining some of the familiar modern transformations that the Internet has brought about, such as the fact that “the world’s largest industry is literally a hot industry today.” He states that the industry is “driven by information extracted from us, not what we are doing.” For most people, he sees how everyday experience is poured through a single technology portal, the smartphone, and the activities through these screens are different from previous ones like books. Explains how it created a new reality. can “Read those readers In order. ”

Skeptics of modern technology have “human life” in ways that the Internet is “addictive and therefore incompatible with our freedom” and that the Internet can lead to a “distorted and poor” lifestyle. I appreciate his explanation of how to “form algorithmically”. And he states that the Internet often works in an “actively undemocratic” way, as “there is little or no democratic oversight of how social media works.”

“The responsibility here is that the Internet contributes to the limitation of freedom in all of these ways,” Smith wrote. “That’s why the Internet is anti-human. If we could bring it to justice, the crime would be a crime against humanity.” He said the social media platform was a political debate on Twitter. Instead of comparing it to a “personally owned point scoring video game,” it challenges the idea that it can function as a new public place for deliberation.

However, Smith does not believe that all flattened charges for the Internet are fair. He is more optimist than pessimist and describes his purpose as “engaging in clear criticism while avoiding the pitfalls of pessimism and credible ridicule.”

The internet is not what you think: history, philosophy, warnings

Justin EH Smith


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He accepts, for example, the basic idea of ​​allowing robots to take care of the elderly and says little about their morality. Similarly, his brief agnosticism about the moral implications of our gadget-dependent world: people have opinions about whether gadgets enhance, distort, or alter activity, and to what extent they are confusing. It is divided. Such a bad gadget. ” everytime? Uighurs, who are constantly monitored by the Chinese government with technology developed in Silicon Valley, cannot afford to be so optimistic. And while Smith blames “bigots and trolls” like “Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Victor Orban” in the book, it’s worth noting that Xi Jinping isn’t included. increase.

But overall, Smith looks at past and present technology for that possibility, and thus his philosophy is a useful remedy for the often desperate tone of many technology criticisms.

The second half of this book is non-linear and eclectic throughout the early history of technology, requiring readers to succumb to Smith’s often controversial writing style. He has a bold heart and countless interests, but he has always succeeded in trying to draw a clear line in the meaning of the modern Internet, for example, from the claims of 19th century scammers about telepathic snails. It does not mean. His enthusiastic claim on behalf of the early modern German philosopher Leibniz states, “He is more than any other modern thinker, the spirit of the Internet, the ideals that led the first period of its development, and perhaps its ultimate. Represents the highest hope for the future. ”— Develop credibility.

But Mr Smith’s indictment on how we understand the Internet is not wrong. We are rushing to see the history of technology as a story of ever-improving progress, largely separated from the natural world, and we miss what we have been longing for. insight. In particular, his argument that modern research on artificial intelligence will benefit from a better foundation in the complex history of technology deserves greater amplification.

Smith ends with a weaving metaphor and encourages readers to think of the Internet as both machines and processes, as well as looms with history and future. “It helps us understand the nature and importance of the Internet,” he writes. “To see the Internet as just the latest chapter in a much longer and much deeper history.” The way of speaking is the way of construction. This is a necessary counter-argument to Google’s “don’t be evil” humility and Facebook’s “fast move, break things” indifferent nonsense.

If our techniques are an extension of ourselves, we need a more subtle understanding of how those techniques handled technological changes in the previous era. And, as Smith shows, how we think and talk about our machines has a history in itself. It requires deeper excavation. “History, Philosophy, Warning” announces the subtitle of the book. Smith gave the reader a fresh interpretation of the history of technology. The creative and sometimes mysterious philosophy of the internet. And a keen sense that you don’t always know what the internet is doing to us.

Rosen is a senior writer for commentary and a fellow at the Institute for Cultural Studies, University of Virginia.

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