There are more brilliant paragraphs in Morozov’s recent set of reviews than there are in most books, but this one stuck out in particular:
Given TED’s disproportionate influence on a certain level of the global debate, it follows that the public at large also becomes more approving of technological solutions to problems that are not technological but political. Problems of climate change become problems of making production more efficient or finding ways to colonize other planets—not of reaching political agreement on how to limit production or consume in a more sustainable fashion. Problems of health care become problems of inadequate self-monitoring and data-sharing. Problems of ensuring one’s privacy—which might otherwise get solved by pushing for new laws—become problems of inadequate tools for defending one’s anonymity online or selling access to one’s own data. (The Khannas are not alone in believing that “individuals [must] gain control over the value of their time, skills, data, and resources. We must be ruthless in earning from those who want our attention.”)
It is in the developing world where the limitations of TED’s techno-humanitarian mentality are most pronounced. In TED world, problems of aid and development are no longer seen as problems of weak and corrupt institutions; they are recast as problems of inadequate connectivity or an insufficiency of gadgets. According to the Khannas, “centuries of colonialism and decades of aid haven’t lifted Africa’s fortunes the way technology can.” Hence the latest urge to bombard Africa with tablets and Kindles—even when an average African kid would find it impossible to repair a damaged Kindle. And the gadgets do drop from the sky—Nicholas Negroponte, having spectacularly failed in his One Laptop Per Child quest, now wants to drop his own tablets from helicopters, which would make it harder for the African savages to say “no” to MIT’s (and TED’s) civilization. This is la mission civilatrice 2.0.
This is how Silicon Valley is destroying us, and how it is destroying education as well. And my point of departure from just about everybody is that even in the Corporate/Open-source debate we are still submerged in the idea that the solution is technology and not governance or laws or additional funding, but if we all adopt the right technologies we can avoid messy messy politics. If Browser 1 is stealing your info and selling it to porn sites, your best personal option might be to go to Browser 2 or to buy additional software. Your best societal option is to make and enforce laws against stealing info. Getting those two things confused is a recipe for disaster, and it is what happens when a self-help culture collides with governance.