Book Review: The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen

The new digital age - Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen - WebmindsetIt looks like a must-read for anyone who is interested in technology. The new digital age is written by two executives of Google, one of the most powerful corporates of the digital age. Both authors have magnificent titles: Eric Schmidt as executive chairman of Google and Jared Cohen as director of Google Ideas, Google’s think tank dedicated to understanding global challenges and applying technological solutions.

It’s always said that never judge a book by its cover. But you can’t overlook all the big names written on the cover: Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Walter Isaacson, Elon Musk and Madeleine Albright.

The book is arranged in seven chapters each one about future of something:

Chapter 1: Our Future Selves (Chapter Summary)

Chapter 2: The Future of Identity, Citizenship and Reporting (Chapter Summary: Part I)

Chapter 3: The Future of States (Chapter Excerpts / Stuxnet Case)

Chapter 4: The Future of Revolution

Chapter 5: The Future of Terrorism

Chapter 6: The Future of Conflict, Combat and Intervention

Chapter 7: The Future of Reconstruction

So at first glance, it seems that we are facing with facts from future! While some of the points are clear even for amateur readers, the others need more discussion and analysis.

Although the drawbacks of technology in different areas are not forgotten, the overall view of the book is overoptimistic about future of the technology as it is expected from directors of one of the technology giants.

Here you can find some central passages of the book:

Digital Empowerment

Digital empowerment will be, for some, the first experience of empowerment in their lives, enabling them to be heard, counted and taken seriously—all because of an inexpensive device they can carry in their pocket.

Decentralization of Power

On the world stage, the most significant impact of the spread of communication technologies will be the way they help reallocate the concentration of power away from states and institutions and transfer it to individuals.

Unfiltered access to the information

By 2025, the majority of the world’s population will, in one generation, have gone from having virtually no access to unfiltered information to accessing all of the world’s information through a device that fits in the palm of the hand.

Responsiveness is not equal to depth

The strength of open unregulated information-sharing platforms is their responsiveness, not their insight or depth.

Anarchy

The Internet is the largest experiment involving anarchy in history. The New Digital Age

Hundreds of millions of people are, each minute, creating and consuming an untold amount of digital content in an online world that is not truly bound by terrestrial laws.

Loss of privacy and rise of civil-society organizations seeking privacy protection

“The impact of this data revolution will be to strip citizens of much of their control over their personal information in virtual space, and that will have significant consequences in the physical world.”

“Since information wants to be free, don’t write anything down you don’t want read back to you in court or printed on the front page of a newspaper, as the saying goes. In the future this adage will broaden to include not just what you say and write, but the websites you visit, who you include in your online network, what you “like,” and what others who are connected to you do, say and share.”

“We think a wave of civil-society organizations will emerge in the next decade designed to shield connected citizens from their governments and from themselves. Powerful lobbying groups will advocate content and privacy laws. Rights organizations that document repressive surveillance tactics will call for better citizen protection.”

There are many other interesting and important points discussed in the book. However, to be honest it’s much easier to read a review than reading the book itself.

It’s full of facts and reports from many different political stories around the world. Actually you will face with a mosaic of useless news and stories glued together with some insightful and thought-provoking passages like the ones I quoted above.

Anyone with experience of writing an elaborate report can guess that the book is written by a large group of Googlers gathering information and evidence from every source (sure google search is one of them) as the text has not the expected continuity. I’d prefer to call the book as a collected report endorsed by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen. Although it’s still a valuable source to know the mindset of the google and other similar technical giants.

Sure there’s a chapter missing in the book: The role of global corporations like Google in the future world. Which is not logical to suppose that it’s forgotten or discarded because of the book volume.

The verge has published a review about the book with the following subheading:

In ‘The New Digital Age’ we learn what happens when Google stops being polite and starts getting real.

I should confess that from my point of view, it’s not far from reality. Not because of all the wills which could be substituted by woulds and couldsBut because of the clear message of the book which could be read between all the lines: The technology looks for a larger pie from the cake of power and politics.

P.S.: If your are interested in after effects of the technology and rise of the micro-media, you may find some time and read my review on the tribes book, written by Seth Godin.