An entertaining and fierce debate between an internet critic and a tech journalist: Andrew Keen, director of FutureCast and Mike Butcher of TechCrunch sit down together. After only a few minutes, it becomes very clear: They are on two complete opposite sides of the opinion spectrum.
Keens just wrote a book called “The internet is not the answer” It’s central thesis is: „The internet is fantastic but there are too many negative effects that come with it right now“. According to him, this is because the internet industry has not grown up even after decades of existence. It does not take over any societal responsibilities and will not accept regulations like the offline economy: „We give the internet economy a free ride. Everyone is too positive about it. It is time, we stop looking at it so uncritically“, Keen says.
His favorite negative example is Uber – in his opinion a company that does not contribute anything to society while breaking the law and destroying jobs: „The old economy is not ideal but at least it works with regulations. The internet is not a joke anymore, it is very serious“.
Keen sees a parallel to the last economic revolution, being industrialization. Entrepreneurs were exploiting people and damaging the environment at first – until law restrained them. However, in the case of the internet revolution people do not ask for regulations: „This is not a marginal industry anymore. Data is the new pollution and we need to tackle this“.
Butcher counters; „What about the Arab Spring, that was positive right“? Keen does not agree: „Look at what happened. None of these developments really grew up. The Arab Spring has evolved into the Arab catastrophe. No political or societal change really comes from our selfie-economy“.
But doesn’t the internet help to archive knowledge, make things easier, people cleverer? Keen does not think so. „History is archived forever but that will not help people not to repeat it. Of course, more pictures are taken, more documents saved in a day than in decades before. But they are all selfies. The internet does not educate us“.
So what is your advice for the entrepreneurs at DLD, Butcher finally asks. Keen is quite clear on that: „Take responsibilities. If you break something, fix it. Stick to the law. Do not invest in nasty businesses like Amazon. Respect unions and finally, look critically at this new economy“.