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The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is

The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is

by Justin E. H. Smith

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Not What You Think

Many think of the internet as an unprecedented and overwhelmingly positive achievement of modern human technology. But is it? In The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is, Justin Smith offers an original deep history of the internet, from the ancient to the modern world—uncovering...

Yet, despite the internet’s continuing potential, Smith argues, the utopian hopes behind it have finally died today, killed by the harsh realities of social media, the global information economy, and the attention-destroying nature of networked technology. 

Ranging over centuries of the his...

He draws fascinating connections between internet user experience, artificial intelligence, the invention of the printing press, communication between trees, and the origins of computing in the machine-driven looms of the silk industry.

At the same time, he reveals how the internet’s organ...

Combining the sweep of intellectual history with the incisiveness of philosophy, The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is cuts through our daily digital lives to give a clear-sighted picture of what the internet is, where it came from, and where it might be taking us in the coming decades.

...

It’s a “reverse synecdoche, the larger containing term standing for the smaller contained term,” writes Smith by way of introduction to his central argument. These social media, he argues, are fundamentally enemies of human liberty.

Employing that reverse synecdoche, he shows how the inter...

We are bent by our technology, unable to concentrate on reading and no longer remembering anything without Google’s help. Of course, as Smith points out, this is a charge leveled against previous information technologies.

When Gutenberg printed the Bible, people could simply read it rather...

Leibniz imagined something whose workings, in modern terms, “can be performed without ‘strong AI,’ without any internal life or experience of all the calculative operation it performs.”

Leibniz further held that human thought is an instrument of excellence, whereas those who shape algorith...

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