Over the past few decades there has been a revolution in terms of who controls knowledge and information. This rapid change has imperilled the way we think. Without pausing to consider the cost, the world has rushed to embrace the products and services of four titanic corporations. We shop with Amazon; socialise on Facebook; turn to Apple for entertainment; and rely on Google for information. These firms sell their efficiency and purport to make the world a better place, but what they have done instead is to enable an intoxicating level of daily convenience. As these companies have expanded, marketing themselves as champions of individuality and pluralism, their algorithms have pressed us into conformity and laid waste to privacy. They have produced an unstable and narrow culture of misinformation, and put us on a path to a world without private contemplation, autonomous thought, or solitary introspection – a world without mind. In order to restore our inner lives, we must avoid being co-opted by these gigantic companies, and understand the ideas that underpin their success.
Elegantly tracing the intellectual history of computer science – from the Descartes and the enlightenment to Alan Turing to Stuart Brand and the hippie origins of today's Silicon Valley – Foer exposes the dark underpinnings of our most idealistic dreams for technology. The corporate ambitions of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, he argues, are trampling longstanding liberal values, especially intellectual property and privacy. This is a nascent stage in the total automation and homogenization of social, political, and intellectual life. By reclaiming our private authority over how we intellectually engage with the world, we have the power to stem the tide.
At stake is nothing less than who we are, and what we will become. There have been monopolists in the past but today’s corporate giants have far more nefarious aims. They’re monopolists who want access to every facet of our identities and influence over every corner of our decision-making. Until now few have grasped the sheer scale of the threat. Foer explains not just the looming existential crisis but the imperative of resistance.
What in the world has the power to liberate women in Iran while provoking antagonism between Catholics and Protestants in Scotland, to lure Nigerians to the cold of the Ukraine while heating up class warfare in the US heartlands, and both profit local gangsters and create local - and international - celebrities?
Foer presents an unexpected, uniquely revealing tour of the politics and culture of football from Milan to Tehran. He examines the game's role in sustaining ancient hatreds and rivalries (Serbia's Red Star and Croatia's Dinamo); in supporting the migration of players and the rise of the football oligarchs (such as Silvio Berlusconi, President of AC Milan - and of Italy); and in defending the virtues and vices of old-fashioned nationalism. As Foer brilliantly illuminates, the Balkan War, anti-Semitism, Jewish identity, racism, social integration, media manipulation, and American patriotism have all been influenced by, as well as have had a dramatic effect on, football.
On his travels, Foer encounters a collection of fans that is stranger than fiction: from a British hooligan with a Jewish mother, a Nazi father and a career as a soldier of fortune, to a fan club in Serbia that turns into a brutal anti-Muslim paramilitary unit. The result is an unforgettable parade of uniquely memorable fans - each set into his - or her - unique political and cultural context.
Franklin Foer is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a fellow at the New America Foundation. For seven years, he edited The New Republic magazine.He is the author of How Football Explains the World, which has been translated into 27 languages and won a National Jewish Book Award. He has been called one of America’s ‘most influential liberal journalists’ by The Daily Beast. He lives in Washington, D.C.