Elliott Bay Book Company Capitol Hill
Wed., Sept. 27, 7 p.m. 2017
Recommended by Rich Smith
Wide-eyed ideologues run giant tech companies that threaten to reduce adult citizens to toddlers and to undermine the country's democratic institutions. The galling part of these companies' pursuits, according to Franklin Foer's unapologetically tweedy and yet completely accessible World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech, is their blatant but unacknowledged hypocrisy. Foer surprisingly but convincingly argues that these companies find their ideological roots not in the strain of techno-libertarianism that animates the minds of Silicon Valley's successful "thought leaders," but rather in the utopian communalism of the late 1960s, which was preached by early tech evangelists like Stewart Brand, and which is carried on today by futurists such as Ray Kurzweil. Foer was the editor of the venerable but volatile New Republic when Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes bought the magazine and set out to transform it into a profit making "vertically integrated digital media company." It's no surprise that Foer's sentences find most of their fire when he's describing the ways big tech has devalued the profession of writing. These sections, as well as the sections on big tech's monopolistic aims, should be required reading.