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The People Vs Tech: How the Internet Is Killing Democracy (and How We Save It)
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The People Vs Tech: How the Internet Is Killing Democracy (and How We Save It)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  562 ratings  ·  81 reviews

The internet was meant to set us free.

Tech has radically changed the way we live our lives. But have we unwittingly handed too much away to shadowy powers behind a wall of code, all manipulated by a handful of Silicon Valley utopians, ad men, and venture capitalists? And, in light of recent data breach scandals around companies like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, what d

Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published April 5th 2018 by Ebury Digital
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4.03  · 
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 ·  562 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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Smart, concise, unbiased summary of the ways the internet and associated technology are affecting democracy, and how governments, companies and individuals might respond to and/or counter them. Read The People Vs Tech if you're concerned about the effect Twitter politics is having on elections, or how society will fare when robots and AIs are doing all the unskilled jobs, or how you can protect yourself from the endless amounts of personal data being collected by internet behemoths like Facebook ...more
Kester Ratcliff
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
A friend sent this to me because she knows I'm seriously interested in the topic. I'm only halfway through now but I'm finding it so frustrating I don't think I can finish it - it's technologically and philosophically so superficial, I think the only thing I've learned so far is I should read some McLuhan, he drags out simple points for pages of padding, there are some assumptions which are just plain false and actually contradict the evidence he collects later, but he didn't seem to notice, and ...more
Apar Gupta
May 09, 2018 rated it liked it
“the invention of ‘barbed wire’ meant that huge swathes of land could be enclosed. Roaming buffalo were doomed, which in turn destroyed the Native American way of life (understandably, they nicknamed barbed wire ‘the devil’s rope’)”

The self-help section in bookstores was one which though one of the most popular was also derided to an extent. It signified not only a sign of inadequacy in a reader, but quite often the writing was the subject of literary criticism. With direct and straightforward t
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
When I heard about the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, I didn't understand why it was so shocking to many people. Of course online "quizzes" are prompting us to cough up valuable personal data under the guise of entertainment, even if we don't consent or can't consent on behalf of other people — why not? Of course advertisers use this data to show us targeted ads, even political ads — why not? We may think it's unethical, but that it happens and that it is inevitable isn't surprising. Afte ...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-affairs
Bartlett is not too controversial in saying that tech and democracy are at odds with each other, but he sums up the challenges well, and gives a useful list of things we need to change.

Modern tech has empowered, but also undermines democratic principles by not being governed or being governable by individual jurisdictions.

Bartlett sees six fundamental pillars of democracy. These are:

+ An active citizinry.
+ A shared culture, which includes the spirit of compromise.
+ Free elections.
+ Stakeholder e
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
An article from The Hindu prompted me to check out this author. ( )
His designation as the Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos and a little research on his prior works pulled me further to this particular book. Dark Net & Radicals was equally tempting but I had my reservations about the book’s narration style. I put my questions on hold until I completed reading The Tech vs People before deciding to purchase his earlier work
11811 (Eleven)
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
The future was awesome in the 80's. Flying cars, robot maids. Pure utopia. Then they came out with this whole internet thing and the world got darker. Bartlett throws in some optimism near the end of this book but I'm not sold on that part. I'm still fixated on the pre-optimism analysis. The text begs for highlights. I'll stick with a single quote-

"Facebook’s first President, recently called the ‘like’ button ‘a social-validation feedback loop."

Please like my review and validate me.
Michael Huang
To function, democracy needs a few pillars: active participation of citizens (debating issues, weighing facts), engage in compromise, equality, free association, free elections, and authority to the elected government. The rise of powerful technologies (social media, big data, AI) is perhaps giving more power to some at the expense of others. The result can undermine democracy.

* Social media can expose people to constant public scrutiny, encouraging self-censorship.
* Big data/AI driven apps are
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Completely terrifying.
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The internet is great right? It empowers us with instantaneously information, allows us to communicate instantly with anyone anywhere, makes sure we do not become lost in another city, recommends us restaurants and doctors, and allows us to make friends with people who share our esoteric interests or opinions. But according to Bartlett it is also destroying democracy. Bartlett is a journalist and author of books about technology.

1. We are providing so much data to tech firms, they understand us
Rahul Holani
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great non biased read providing us with an insight how as an whole the concept of democracy and nations could change and come to an end. The world becoming Utopian or Dystopian in future it all depends on how technology is used and where its ownership reside and whether benefits are transferred to masses or only to the few.
Aivaras Žukauskas
Simple and concise, which at points is to the book's own detriment, but it is hard to deny that this reading is a must to every techno-optimist, or to anyone thinking about the effect recent technological developments may have on politics and societies.
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had a chance to listen to Jamie's talk on ethics in technology at one of Real Time Club's dinners where I got this book. I read it the next day. It's an interesting read for anyone who is curious about how a modern system of government is challenged by personalised ads, tribalism, algorithms and apps which know better who you should vote for.
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great little book.
It puts some uncomfortable topics on the table, such as our growing dependency on technology, on the amount of data we are willingly providing to a handful of companies that in turn use it on not so gallant or noble purposes, the effect that technology and big data are having in the political field and how politicians or aspiring politicians are leveraging on it to get ahead on polls, the monopolies in the tech industry and the growing inequality and the toll it will have on ou
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Technology is moving fast and democracy needs to keep up. Bartlett spells out – with considerable urgency – exactly what big data, smart machines and tech monopolies are doing with our personal data and why we should all be paying a lot more attention. Basically, liberty is great – but look around you. If this carries on, will we be able to trust that our elections are free and fair?

Bartlett argues that there are six key pillars of democracy, including alert, independent-minded citizens who are
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bartlett contends that three specific aspects of modern technology — social media platforms, artificial intelligence, and large-scale data collection — threaten the six pillars of democracy and left unchecked could destroy governments as we know them. He also explains how these factors manipulate our thinking and our daily lives and what individuals and governments can and should do to prevent a dystopian future. He stresses the importance of critical thinking skills, listening to perspectives a ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
An eyeopener on what tech can find out about you by processing just the everyday facts you share in social media (see Cambridge Analytics). And how the profile that is thus created of you gives third parties the chance to target your opinions with biased information.
One of the advises Bartlett gives is to avoid the 'free when you share it all with us' companies and instead use the smaller providers, the ones you'll probably have to pay for. Considering how much we like free/cheap it will take a
Sean Flynn
The things you'd expect to hear, election pr teams reducing humanity to data points, Russian hackers, self driving trucks, the full-steam-ahead attitude if silicon valley, the Luddite versus techie feud, and how blockchain is the holy grail. More of the same, journalistic style, left-bias, but came away with some good points. Quite a journey to get to those points though. I get it, you have to put in a few anecdotal parts to get people interested. But there were far too many divergences from the ...more
Sue Cartwright
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, culture
If you ever stop to wonder at the continuous and exponential growth of technology, social media and the internet - as I hope we all do as curious and concerned citizens - you may sometimes feel quite overwhelmed.

For me, in particular, increasingly rapid developments in global networking and online publishing, data collection and targeted advertising, artificial intelligence and driverless transportation, cyber currency and block chain, are increasingly hard to keep up with.

This is why I believe
Alan Newton
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tech and democracy are locked in a bitter conflict because they come from two different eras and have fundamentally different rules and principles of governance. But, do they have fundamentally different value systems?

Bartlett’s work is well researched and he is clearly very well read, oft quoting various authors from different periods with specific and well thought out relevance to the subject. He outlines the 6 pillars that make a democracy work and is specific in his focus upon wester. ‘demo
Tom Davies
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, a must-read. I first saw Jamie Bartlett doing an explanatory VT on This Week during the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It was one of the best I’ve ever seen and all the guests on the show said the same. The book was in the same style - easy to understand, concise and illuminating. Distilled complicated but important information for rooky readers. The conclusion was one of the best non-fiction chapters I’ve read and paints a scary but foreseeable picture of ‘techno-authoritarianism’ ...more
Yaseen Jabbar
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bartlett knows his stuff. That's the first thing you need to know in this book. Nearly every paragraph has a source, and everything is well-reasoned. Unlike other books, Bartlett does not attempt to proselytise at you, but instead gives you his opinions and information in an accessible way that allows you to come to your own conclusion - although you probably would agree with him if you're the kind of person who would read this book anyway. His central premise is that the Big Five (Amazon, Googl ...more
Adil Hussain
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was a good book highlighting the dangers of current and future digital technology (e.g. social media applications, the internet of things) and the incredible power the makers of these technologies are beginning to wield. From social media applications designed to cause addiction to targeted advertising designed to sway our votes it's difficult not to feel a tinge of worry as you read. The author has done a good job of surveying the books and articles in this space and pooling them ...more
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
The People Vs Tech is a fascinating and accessible look at how digital technology is affecting modern politics and democracy. Bartlett focuses on certain pillars of democracy that he sees as under threat from technology and uses high-profile (Trump's election campaign, bitcoin) and lesser-known examples to illustrate this. Despite the tech focus, the book is not filled with jargon, and explains concepts whether they are technological, political, or otherwise.

This book is for people who want to e
Jake Goretzki
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Highly readable and bang-up-to-date account of the real threat unmarshalled tech presents. Think: data-ism, outsourced morality, echo chambers; surveillance, gig fragmentation, shrinking middle class, AI, etc. I'd never heard of crypto-anarchists. I'm guessing that's Gilfolyle in Mike Judge's glorious 'Silicon Valley'. Part lumberjack heroes, part Ayn Rand-reading assholes.

From a personal POV, great too to hear someone from Demos horrified by the tribalisation and culture-war setting that the U
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent read! Might be even my favorite read of the year (together with Alias Grace by M. Atwood). Why? Not only was the topic of big technology in moden westen societies itself an unexplored but relevant goldmine, the way it was contextualised (considering specifically democracy) was brilliant. This was the first book in a long time where I, not begin very familiar with all things technology, really had to put some work in to understand whar actually was being said. Very accessibb ...more
Marc Pressley
The short answer is to take on more individual responsibility as informed citizens. Which means we're probably doomed.

Bartlett paints a fairly bleak portrait of a world that may already be at the mercy of big data and the titans who control it. Although the book is a quick read, there is ample information of interest--especially regarding the role of data in the most recent national elections.

The book falls a little short in terms of offering practical solutions, but it offers enough insight to
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is an important contribution to the discussion on how technology changes society and democracy. Discussed are the obvious points such as e.g. how social media can influence political decision making but also how e.g. blockchain technology can undermine the law. While I don’t agree with some of Bartlett’s conclusions (and I think some of the solutions suggested at the end of the book aren’t realistic), I believe the book should be widely read.
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent primer on the issues, encapsulating many of the issues we've probably all thought about, and going a little deeper into the political and policy issues behind them. It has a few blindspots, like how to change consumer behaviour, or how Governments can be equipped to keep up with tech in a way that makes regulation helpful and not overly restrictive. But all in all, a good go-to.
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Jamie Bartlett is a journalist and tech blogger for The Telegraph and Director of The Centre for the Analysis of Social Media for Demos in conjunction with The University of Sussex.

In 2013, he covered the rise of Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement in Italy for Demos, chronicling the new political force's emergence and use of social media.

In 2014, he released The Dark Net, discussing the darknet and
“Google spent more than any other company on lobbying in Washington, DC in 2017 – around $18m” 0 likes
“we are often ‘alone, together’, especially when online,” 0 likes
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