The Blind Giant is Nick Harkaway's first non-fiction book and it is one of the most thought provoking books I have ever read. As its title suggests it deals with the impact of digital technology on humans, both as individuals and groups of all sizes, couples, families, communities, nations, and beyond. It also discusses the choices open to us and makes the point that we are not innocents adrift in a sea of technology, but that we are complicit in the negative consequences of everything we allow to happen. This includes wars in Africa where armed groups clash for control of the mines producing minerals that are essential for the production of virtually all the mobile devices we take for granted in our everyday lives.
But this is no cold treatise containing a lifeless analysis of the mechanics of how modern technology, specifically the Internet, affects us all. It is a hearth-side conversation, probably with a pint of ale to hand, ranging in subject matter from the immediacy of on-line shopping to the toppling of governments in the Middle East.
The book is very up-to-date with inclusion of the social issues surrounding the London riots of 2011 and the Arab Spring that swept away governments in the Middle East, and the role played by the Internet in facilitating both the initiation of these events and the subsequent recovery and stabilization.
Harkaway is inviting debate. In his conversational style he lays out his views and concerns on the disappearance of traditional work rolls and the unintentional consequences of the large, new corporations of the digital age that promote good intentions but, due to their size and reliance on old financial structures, end up doing damage they never intended.
A website has been provided [...] for readers to enter into a conversation on the subject matter of each chapter. This is an example of the new immediacy Harkaway demonstrates the Internet has enabled. It is an attempt to encourage debate on the decisions we need to make to minimise the unintentional consequences of not making conscious decisions on how we wish to use the new Internet technology.
This book's breadth of scope is vast and it deserves to be read, considered, and responded to. If you use the Internet, if you have a smart phone, if you buy things on-line, you have a duty to read this book and enter into the debate on how society should use our new toys so that they don't destroy the lives of those around us, and then our own.
A found this book a difficult one to finish, this wasn't because it was at times fascinating, but certainly could never be described as a page turner, if you are up to challenge this book packed full of interesting ideas.
Nick Harkaway was asked to write a book about how to be human in the digital age - this is it.
Harkaway's blog has this to say about the book - which in no way could I give a better précis
"It's a slice through a dozen things I think are going on, currents in the general mishmash of the world. There's a discussion of the London riots, the revolutions of the Arab Spring, the nature of deindividuation; there's some brief stuff about the publishing industry and how it's maybe a microcosm of UK politics. It's a huge canvass embracing any number of fields and disciplines of which I am not a master. It is speculative rather than safe, and I already know I've made mistakes. What I hope, though, is that people will embrace the attempt rather than find reasons to decry the inevitable screw-ups: I hope I'm wrong in interesting ways."
It really is very interesting and what's obvious is Nick Harkaway is a very intelligent man who has thought a lot about this stuff. Looking at future possibilities, bleeding edge stuff and technology that is available now and asking interesting questions and making incisive comments. Obviously having read and loved angelmaker and the gone away world I knew he could write fiction but he is just one of those people who knows how to put one word after another in such a way that creates hugely readable text.
After the excitement of Nick's appearance on Radio I bought the book and having got half way through am yet to find anything that is more than prattle. So little is based on fact, so much on hear say. I'm not sure if I have the energy to read it to the end :(
Listening to the author on BBC Radio 4's "Start the Week" I thought this book sounded fascinating and I'd like to read it - on my Kindle. But the ebook is more expensive than a hardback print copy! Why? Do the publishers want people to read this book or not? This is particularly strange when the book is about how the digital world fits in with our human lives and we're being encouraged to use 15th century technology to read the book. Publishers take note - you need to adjust to the real world and encourage people to read your publications in whatever medium they chose.