Google, Amazon and Facebook

Foer’s Polemic describes the threat of tech giants

I am reading an interesting book by Franklin Foer right now.  It’s called, “World without Mind / the existential threat of big tech”. (Penguin Press, 2017)  The author was formerly the editor of The New Republic.

Mr. Foer’s thesis is that big tech companies (like Google, Amazon, and Facebook) are fundamentally changing the world, eroding democratic values, using stealth (via undisclosed algorithms) to influence everything from public opinion to our buying habits, all without any accountability.  It’s a very engaging read and Mr. Foer’s arguments are well considered.  At times I find his point of view to be somewhat alarmist, but I am likely ill-informed in these matters.  That said, I think he makes some excellent points.  For example, I did not know that Amazon uses its dominant position as a book seller, to play hard-ball with publishers.  When I read about that, I immediately went to Amazon to check to see if World Without Mind is available on their website.  Indeed it is – you can even get a Kindle edition of it.  Irony?

Of course, in my view, most of the material that is published these days is rubbish.  One or two press runs and I’m sure it’s finished.  Publishers will seemingly publish almost anything to make a quick buck.  Sad, because if you go to a large bookstore (Chapters, for example, not to mention any names) and try to find Sommerset Maughm, for example, you can’t.  The help tells you, “If we have it, it will be in ‘Literature'”.  Of course, it isn’t there.  I think it telling that a bookstore would distinguish the drivel they routinely sell (they call it ‘fiction’) from literature.  I suppose it’s a tacit acknowledgement of what is really happening in the publishing industry, though.

Not your everyday bestseller!

Of course, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that I have a vested interest, because I am a published author.  Alas, my work is not destined to be on anyone’s best seller list:  “Electronic Evidence in Canada”.  If you’re interested, you can check it out here:

I highly recommend it.  And, I recommend Mr. Foer’s work as well.  The world would be a better place if we were all more inclined to think critically and learn not to accept everything at face value.  As I have often said, the Internet is like a garbage dump.  There’s some good stuff out there, but there’s also an awful lot of trash.

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