Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe Hardcover – 7 Feb 2019
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‘Very readable and hugely damaging … This is a dangerous book for Facebook because it will be widely read ― apart from Jaron Lanier’s work, it is the best anti-Big Tech book I’ve come across. Its real strength is that McNamee knows how these attention- and information-stealing systems work.’ The Sunday Times
‘A candid and highly entertaining explanation of how and why a man who spent decades picking tech winners and cheering his industry on has been carried to the shore of social activism.’ –The New York Times Book Review
‘[An] excellent new book . . . [McNamee] is one of the social network’s biggest critics. He’s a canny and persuasive one too. In “Zucked,” McNamee lays out an argument why it and other tech giants have grown into a monstrous threat to democracy. Better still he offers tangible solutions . . . What makes McNamee so credible is his status as a Silicon Valley insider. He also has a knack for distilling often complex or meandering TED Talks and Medium posts about the ills of social media into something comprehensible, not least for those inside the D.C. Beltway . . . McNamee doesn’t just scream fire, though. He also provides a reasonable framework for solving some of the issues . . . For anyone looking for a primer on what’s wrong with social media and what to do about it, the book is well worth the read.’ – Reuters
‘A timely reckoning with Facebook’s growth and data-obsessed culture. . . [Zucked] is the first narrative tale of Facebook’s unravelling over the past two years . . . McNamee excels at grounding Facebook in the historical context of the technology industry.’ – Financial Times
‘Regardless of where you stand on the issue, you'll want to see why one of Facebook's biggest champions became one of its fiercest critics.’ – Business Insider
‘A comprehensible primer on the political pitfalls of big tech.’ – Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Roger McNamee has been a Silicon Valley investor for 35 years. He co-founded successful funds in venture, crossover and private equity. His most recent fund, Elevation, included U2's Bono as a co-founder. He holds a BA from Yale University and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Roger plays bass and guitar in the bands Moonalice and Doobie Decibel System and is the author of The New Normal and The Moonalice Legend: Posters and Words, Volumes 1-9. He has served as a technical advisor for seasons two through five of HBO's "Silicon Valley" series and was also responsible for raising the money that created the Wikimedia Foundation. His essays have been published in the Guardian, The Washington Post, USA Today and Washington Monthly.
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In particular I found the early chapters fascinating, as he takes the reader from the post-war consensus to the Reagan construction of deregulation and 'government is the problem' and out-of-control selfishness; I've never read a clearer account of those trends in Western society. But don't take that to mean that the later chapters are dull - they're anything but dull, they're frightening. He writes so very clearly, he has such a wide range.
I was left with some self-examination. First, self-congratulatory: I signed on for Facebook (and MySpace - remember?) and then got an uncomfortable feeling that I'd be giving away information about myself that was nobody's business, so I didn't engage further; and I don't do apps on my phone. Happily, I can now congratulate myself for justified wariness rather than castigate myself as a Luddite. (At the moment, I'm being pestered by adverts for an online weight-loss program of dubious usefulness that would run on my phone - WTF? ). But I'd also confess that 20 years ago I designed an interactive computer program; it never went anywhere, but my tech-savvy partner enthused about the possibilities of 'personalisation' and I confess that I never saw the dangers implicit in trapping people inside a filter bubble. So I can understand the appeal - initially - of giving people what suits them; the author of this book is very clear about what happens when you give people only what suits them.
My old linguistics professor, seeking to make the point that all meaning boils down to a combination of evaluation, power, and activity, challenged me to think of a word that is as powerfully good as the word 'vicious' is bad. Not possible. It's been demonstrably difficult to imagine a candidate that's as powerfully a force for good as Trump is a force for the other; and of course in Brexit all the power, all the excitement, was with those who wanted to leave. This book shows these forces at work.
Also - and unusually for a book describing oncoming problems - he does have some seriously useful proposals to put forward; he has, after all, been working with policy-makers at State and Federal levels. For example, mandating that tech companies treat personal data in the same way as doctors or lawyers regard their clients' data; revising the definition of 'monopoly,' and so on.
In summary, required reading.
The author seriously wonders if the architecture of Facebook confers a big advantage on political campaigns based on anger, fear, and lies, over those based on reality and positive arguments. He wonders if the Leave campaign won because of false claims that huge savings would go into the NHS, and because of the, at times, overt fears, real and imagined, about inward migration .
This is an important book about power, trust and control. Facebook is not simply a platform for information it is a Leviathan, the fourth biggest by value, in America, a billion dollar business based on algorithms and an advertising model that can, and has caused much harm. A memo sent by the author to Zuckerberg in 2016 giving his deep concerns about the company is included here as an appendix.
A very impressive book that is deeply worrying. The evidence supporting the allegations in this account is growing at an alarming rate. As the author says we are in the middle of a worsening crisis. Why not try deactivateing your account.
The collection of data has been weaponised and used to make profit, influence elections, manipulate the masses and much worse. Facebook has taken great steps to monopolise the information market. As the saying says knowledge is power and Facebook wants all that power on us the people and the information collected on us is frequently misused.
Fortunately some Governments are starting to take action against facebook but nowhere near enough is being done. My advice would be not to use Facebook and if you do keep your personal world separate from your online world.
Thanks for reading my review.