Top Intellectuals Guide!

Back in the Era of Apollo, a rich critique of technology said it functioned as an opiate for intellectuals. A half century later, we’re dulled, lulled, and the technology of anesthetized by today intellectuals. Twitter spats, Facebook feuds, and dueling op eds between these pundits – many self- anointed and created – amuse us while lining their pockets.
In the Autumn 2013 issue of Democracy, Farrell released an amazing criticism of cyber-pundits called “The Tech Intellectuals.” The name captured my attention; the thoughts kept me reading.
The amounts Farrell excoriates are “professional argument-crafters.” Unlike the public intellectuals of the 1950s who struggled despite modest crowds and little pay, now’s technology intellectuals, their reach expanded by You Twitter and Pipe, reach millions. Nearly all are guys. Dull conformist political views that extol the value of small government and free markets are expressed by virtually all. Their political certainties, such as they’re, “represent their experiences and their self interest.”
Nevertheless, a view is offered by technology intellectuals from Sand Hill Road, not 9th Ave.
Farrell’s post wo n’t be summarized by me – it is well worth a read on its own. But me affected. We frequently learn about the “marketplace of ideas.” But the technology intellectuals have taken to the bank. More focus, fabricated via dueling op eds and Twitter laughing at, creates money-making book contracts, and more Internet traffic, high loudspeaker fees. These folks aren’t some 21st century variant of Lewis Mumford; they’re the technology-knowledgeable dopplegangers of Dominick Dunne. As Farrell noted in an e-mail, such are “the subtle motivators of the intellectual market. If you would like to get onto the TED circuit, you’re best advised not to be overly hostile to company.”
Evgeny Morozov is a particularly egregious instance. I appreciated some of his bits and have agreed with. (I positively mentioned his criticism of “solutionism” in an earlier post). But his thought processes were cast by a recent profile of him in The New York Times in a brand new light. The post described him as a profound thinker about technology, a voice countering the cyber-utopians. OK, great. Ok, let the blooming bloom. History’s house has many rooms.
But the kicker in this bit of puffery (comprised in the NYT’s Artwork section, not the technology-significant Business) involved Morozov’s future strategies.
NO ONE begins graduate school with their dissertation nicely developed its decisions understood, such that one seeks a publication contract. It is not what actual public intellectuals do. Explanations? Maybe the publisher, enthusiastic to make the most of Morozov’s market value as a technology intellectual, desired first dibs. Perhaps a graduate degree is merely additional polish on Morozov’s public radiance as a (occasionally) profound thinker about the digital universe, and technology, the Internet. Whatever the case, a Harvard patina – assuming the ( concludes – will no doubt lecture fees, and add to his prominence, Twitter followers.

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