Published on March 27th, 20130
To Save Everything, Click Here by Evgeny Morozov
The temptation of the digital age is to fix everything – from crime to corruption to pollution to obesity – by digitally quantifying, tracking, or gamifiying behaviour. Yet when we change the motivations for our moral, ethical and civic behaviour, do we also change the very nature of that behaviour? Technology, Morozov proposes, can be a force for improvement — but only if we abandon the idea that it is necessarily revolutionary and instead genuinely interrogate why and how we are using it. From urging us to drop outdated ideas of the internet to showing how to design more humane and democratic technological solutions, To Save Everything, Click Here is about why we should always question the way we use technology.
The Financial Times
“Morozov is a fine polemical essayist: glossy TED conferences, for example, are easily batted away as a “Woodstock of the intellectually effete” … At times, he wears his learning much too heavily — so many philosophers and recent academic papers are tossed in that the result often looks like some fashionable collage of other people’s thoughts. But he is sharp on the “hoarding urge” that fuels much of our enthusiasm for big data, as if we could insulate ourselves against the future by squirrelling away the recent past.”
“… one of our most penetrating and brilliantly sardonic critics of techno-utopianism … We must, Morozov argues forcefully, place today’s arguments in a broader context. “To talk about gamification” — the management-theory fad that seeks to apply videogame-style motivations and rewards to real-world practices — “without also discussing BF Skinner’s behaviourism,” he writes, is “misguided”. Here the Belarus-born author also justifiably plays an autobiographical trump card: “As someone who grew up in the final years of the Soviet Union, even I remember the penchant that Soviet managers had for gamification: students were shipped to the fields to harvest wheat or potatoes, and since the motivation was lacking, they too were assigned points and badges.”"
“To Save Everything, Click Here is a corrective to all those who assume that the internet age is revolutionary, or believe that all that occurs on the web has valuable lessons for the rest of us. Morozov cautions us to think about what we do with machines, rather than be sucked into believing that machines have a mind of their own.”
The Sunday Times
“Morozov’s great strength is his range. He sees the world-transforming dreams of the valley for what they are — a new version of the scientistic, technocratic, utopian fantasies that have periodically surfaced over the past few centuries … I find [Jaron] Lanier a touch more convincing, perhaps because he knows in detail how the machines are connected, but Morozov’s intellectual onslaught is essential to the anti-valley cause.”
Times Higher Education
“To borrow a cliché from music reviewers, this book is “a grower”. It improves as it progresses, and the postscript is a corker. The arguments are clear. There is a wide and disturbing gulf between the internet and “the internet”. A technological system is being stuffed with ideologies, tropes and mantras of progress, revolution and transformation. Actually, it is just the internet. The problem with the first half of the book is that Morozov becomes fixated with crushing the villainous and rather inflated “internet gurus”. But when this demolition derby of digital divas ends, a clear argument emerges about the necessity for a “post-internet”.”
The Literary Review
“He admits, ‘Thinking that you are living through a revolution and hold the key to how it will unfold is, I confess, rather intoxicating … I remember the thrill [between 2005 and 2007] from thinking that the lessons of Wikipedia or peer-to-peer networking or Friendster or Skype could and should be applied absolutely everywhere.’ Wikipedia was supposed to be a frictionless, transformative organisation, with a bureaucracy ‘so small as to be invisible’. It was the holy grail of all who sought to escape the surly bounds of human society, proving that knowledge could spontaneously emerge from data. What Morozov eventually realised, however, was that Wikipedia only works because of an enormous bureaucracy.”
The Sunday Telegraph
“He reads like Nicholas Nassim Taleb or John Gray: cocky, aggressive, always seemingly on the verge of saying, “What the simple-minded Einstein failed to realise about gravity was…” All of which is a shame, because under the surface self-aggrandisement and anger, this book is a wonderfully sensible, small-c conservative look at the dangers that we forget in our rush to technological improvement.”