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Book review: To Save Everything, Click Here: Technology, Solutionism, and the Urge to Fix Problems that Don’t Exist by Evgeny Morozov

The question is, does technology make for a better society? Is it good for us or does it remove dissent and innovation? Most things can be monitored, and this has many uses, but does it also invade privacy?

The internet has replaced large chunks of the world. For example, the Encyclopaedia Britannica no longer exists in paper form. It is hard to imagine the world without the internet. There is no regulation or control on the internet; Google is now a major force and has changed from being open and public to caring about market competition – by removing some services and charging for others.

There is always the question as to whether more information can help or do damage, for example, mapping the details of those who donated towards the campaign for same-sex marriage in California led to the donors then being targeted with abuse.

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The pros and cons of transparency are discussed – transparency is removed if attempts are made to influence and balance information. If the effects of more accessible information are known, this can affect behaviour. For example, if more crime is reported, an area is then labelled, property prices decrease and insurance premiums increase.

One result of ‘big data’ is the use of algorithms, with no human intervention, to identify traits. This inevitably leads to anomalies, even more so if the algorithms are biased, for example, police trying to identify crime focusing on poor and racially diverse areas. There are benefits, but if the information is used, for example, to stop a drunk driver from driving a self-drive car, it can fiddle the system, defeating the object and reducing cultivation for disposition for honesty.

More and more is known about you, your Facebook is used to identify your character without you realising the consequences – the information may be used to influence you or bar you from opportunities.

The book also speaks of ‘datasexuals’ (obsessive recording of personal life with the belief the data is sexy) and ‘lifeloggers’ (every part of life being recorded). There are discussions about ‘gamification’ (getting rewards for certain actions), ‘technopoly’ (a society in which culture seeks authorisation in technology, finds satisfaction in it and takes orders from it) and whether technology removes common misunderstandings and decreases world conflict.

Published by Allen Lane

Ann Dempster is managing director of Plum Software