Schmidt and Cohen sensibly recognize that "technology has nothing to do with whether an individual has the attributes to fill the role of statesman... Building a Facebook page does not constitute a plan; actual operational skills are what will carry a revolution to a successful conclusion." They admit the detrimental effects [this cultural shift toward certain technologies] will have on security and privacy, but can imagine no plausible or meaningful alternatives. Instead of looking for ways to reorient technological development, they give us rules for orienting ourselves to it: “Since information wants to be free, don’t write anything down you don’t want read back to you in court or printed on the front page of the newspaper.”

This type of individualistic focus acquiesces, regretfully, to a post-privacy future, rather than imagining how norms and laws could be instituted to protect us from it.

Schmidt and Cohen [seem] blind to the politics embedded in the very fabric of any given technology’s makeup... [They] spend far too little time scrutinizing and asking critical questions about the digital devices and connectivity they praise. “The central truth of the technology industry — that technology is neutral but people are not — will periodically be lost amid all the noise,” Schmidt and Cohen plainly state. “But our collective progress as citizens in the digital age will hinge on our not forgetting it.”

What this formulation misses is that... technologies are not impartial conduits through which users enact their wishes. There are indeed people who will seek to use digital tools for specific purposes not intended by their designers, but the technologies themselves also come with a suite of biases, politics, and values that are both consciously and unconsciously programmed into them... A technology is not good or evil, per se, but neither is it a neutral thing in the world. Technologies afford some activities and types of relationships more than they do others, and it’s crucial for those who design, manufacture, and market those technologies to understand those affordances.

from Jathan Sadowski's Los Angeles Review of Books review of Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s The New Digital Age
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