A common topic of conversation with my Dad is how our ultimate destruction will be delivered by the Internet. And smart phones (note: Dad really hates smart phones). Even as I type this introduction into my computer, the vast network I’m linked into is sapping my ability to think and destroying our economy. Well, that’s my Dad’s theory anyway. And although it might edge into “crazy conspiracy” territory, what if there is some element of truth behind the point of view? Darby Pop founder Jeff Kline is back with some thoughts on Andrew Keen’s “The Internet Is Not The Answer.” Neither Jeff nor Andrew go full-blown “survivalist,” but they do ask a hard question: “In what ways is the Internet — and the way we use it — a damaging thing?”
Until next time,
Hey All –
Anyone who chats with me for more than a few minutes quickly realizes that I’m a card-carrying – and cranky – skeptic when it comes to the candy-colored wonders of the Digital Revolution.
Yes, it’s incredibly convenient to be able to order a Kate Bush CD at 2am, but the Internet’s “culture of free” has decimated the music industry overall.
Yes, smartphones, tablets, and personal computers have given us portable access to gobs of information, but they’ve also led employers to assume that employees are available to work 24/7.
Yes, Facebook and Instagram have made “keeping in touch” with a large number of friends and acquaintances easier, but users surrender their last shreds of personal privacy in exchange.
And, in a nutshell, I worry for my artistically-minded daughter’s future in a world where jobs become scarcer, economic stratification increases, and the “creative middle class” is decimated.
So, imagine my glee when I spied a book titled: The Internet Is Not The Answer by Andrew Keen (2015, Atlantic Monthly Press).
Then, imagine my depression when I’d finished reading it. And realized that things might be even more dire for the “creative class,” the “middle class,” and the “underclass” than I’d feared.
Since the Internet loves lists, I decided that – rather than writing a more traditional review – I’d simply pull together FIFTEEN QUOTES from the book itself. And let you decide if I’m being a Luddite by, at least, questioning the path we seem to be rather blindly walking – or sprinting.
Having grown up in the record business, having worked as a newspaper reporter, and having made my living in movies/tv/comics for the past 25+ years, you’ll most likely notice a certain “slant” to the passages I’ve chosen. Which is not to minimize the oncoming negative economic impact of the 3D printer and the “new industrial revolution”; the “Maker economy” is simply something I’m nowhere near as familiar with. (As a kid, I had a hard time getting even my Shaker Maker to work right!)
As always, very curious to hear your thoughts!
Founder – Darby Pop Publishing
- “According to the New York Times columnist David Brooks, this inequality represents capitalism’s ‘greatest moral crisis since the Great Depression.’ It’s a crisis, Brooks says, that can be captured in two statistics: the $19 billion Facebook acquisition of the fifty-five person instant messaging Internet app WhatsApp in February, 2014, which valued each employee at $345 million; and the equally disturbing fact that the slice of the economic pie for the middle 60 percent of earners in the U.S. economy has dropped from 53 percent to 45 percent since 1970. The Internet economy ‘produces very valuable companies with very few employees.'”
- “Upheavals from big-bang disruptors like Google, Uber, Facebook, and Instagram ‘don’t trigger dilemmas for innovators,’ Downes and Nunes warn, ‘they trigger disasters.’ And Kodak is the textbook example of this kind of disaster – a $31 billion company employing 145,000 people that, as they note, was bankrupted ‘gradually and then suddenly’ by the hurricane from Silicone Valley.”
- “Just as the Kodak tragedy decimated the economic heart of Rochester (NY), so the Internet is destroying our old industrial economy – transforming what was once a relatively egalitarian system into a winner-take-all economy. For all of Silicon’s Valley’s claims that the Internet has created more equal opportunity and distribution of wealth, the new economy actually resembles a donut – with a gaping hole in the middle where, in the old industrial system, millions of workers were once paid to manufacture valuable products.”
- “This economic inequality mirrors the feudal arrangement on Instagram in which Justin Bieber has 11 million followers and follows nobody at all.”
- “And it’s a very big catch indeed. ‘Digitalization doesn’t require a lot of workers; you can come up with an idea, write a piece of software and distribute it to hundreds of millions of people with ease,’ (James) Surowiecki explains. And even when they sold Intstagram to Facebook for a billion dollars in April 2012, Instagram still only had thirteen full-time employees.”
- “According to a 2011 report by the London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), an estimated 1.2 million European jobs would be destroyed by 2015 in the Continent’s recorded music, movie, publishing, and photography industries because of online piracy, adding up to $240 billion in lost revenues between 2008 and 2015.”
- “The carnage of job losses has been particularly bloody in the news industry, with full-time professional reporters’ and writers’ jobs at U.S. newspapers falling from 25,593 to 17,422 between 2003 and 2013, a drop of 31% in newsroom staffing to go alongside the 55% fall in advertising sales, 47% drop in weekday print circulation, 35% fall in aggregate revenue, and 37% drop in pretax profits. The same period also saw a drop of 27% in newspaper editorial jobs and a hideous 43% fall in positions for photographers and videographers.”
- “Web 2.0 was supposed to democratize media and empower those historically without a voice. So, yes, anyone can now post on Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest. And, yes, we can post our ideas on the “Huffington Post,” our videos on YouTube, our photos on Instagram, and our music on Facebook. But there’s no money in any of this for the vast majority of young writers, musicians, photographers, journalists, or filmmakers. It’s mostly a gift economy where the only profits are being made by a tiny group of increasingly monopolistic Internet companies.”
- “The more abundant the online content, the more dramatic the contrast between the massive success of a few hits and the utter obscurity of everything else. (Anita) Elberse notes, for example, that of the 8 million tracks in the iTunes store during 2011, 94% – that’s 7.5 million songs – sold fewer than a hundred units, with 32% selling just a single copy.”
- “In 2013, the top 1% of music artists accounted for 77% of all artist-recorded music income.”
- “But the most damaging discrimination is against paid work. Apart from a few highly-paid superstars and winner-take-all venture capital-backed websites like Buzzfeed and Vice, everybody else is participating in what “Guardian” columnist Suzanne Moore describes as a ‘kind of sophisticated X Factor,’ in which we all post our online content for free and hope it will be the next viral success story. On the Internet, most of us are perpetual interns.”
- “We heard it in Dougherty’s Web 2.0 revolution, too, when we were promised that everybody could become an online writer or musician. But, of course, rather than democracy and diversity, all we’ve got from the digital revolution so far is fewer jobs, an overabundance of content, an infestation of piracy, a coterie of Internet monopolies, and a radical narrowing of our economic and cultural elite.”
- “But there is one fundamental difference between the Internet of Things and Erich Mielke’s twentieth-century Big Brother surveillance state, one thing distinguishing today’s networked society from Orwell’s “1984.” Mielke wanted to create crystal man against our will; in today’s world of Google Glass and Facebook updates, however, we are choosing to live in a crystal republic where our networked cars, cell phones, refrigerators, and television watch us.”
- “Real failure is a $36 billion industry that in a decade shrank to $16 billion because libertarian badasses like Travis Kalanick invented products that destroyed its core value. Real failure is the $12.5 billion in annual sales, the more than 71,000 jobs, and the $2.7 billion in annual earnings estimated to have been lost just in the United States’ music industry because of ‘innovative’ products like Napster and Scour.”
- “The Internet gives power to the people? The Internet is the platform for equality? Both (of these twenty-year-olds with cash in hand) had recently graduated from Stanford. Both worked at big data startups with insatiable appetites for collecting other people’s private information. Both were engineers of an increasingly unequal future, in which ordinary people will experience a scarcity, rather than an abundance of economic, political, and cultural power.”