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by Evgeny Morozov
Since his first book, The Net Delusion, Evgeny Morozov has become a penetrating and sardonic critic of techno-utopianism.
He certainly has some colourful adversaries. Among targets are Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, LinkedIn supremo Reid Hoffman, Google's Eric Schmidt, and Microsoft engineer Gordon Bell.
Morozov interrogates the intellectual foundations of the cybertheorists, and finds that, often, they have cherry-picked ideas from scholarly literature that are controversial in their own fields.
We must, Morozov argues, 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 B.F. Skinner's behaviourism", he writes, is "misguided". Here the Belarus-born author 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."
The cyberhustlers are constantly demanding that society be reformed according to the demands of the internet. But their understanding of the institutions they dream of seeing torn down - politics, the media, and now even university education - is superficial, as is their understanding of the internet itself, whose secretive, privately owned corporations are nothing like as "open" as their cheerleaders insist everything else must henceforth be.
The purpose of Morozov's book is to argue "that there are good reasons not to run our politics as a start-up … to value subjective but high-quality criticism, even if it doesn't stem from the 'wisdom of crowds' … [and] that numbers often tell us less than we think and quantification as such might actually thwart reforms".
Guardian News & Media