Book summary Big Tech - Evgeny Morozov

Big Tech - Evgeny Morozov

Understand how the rise of data has become able to influence in areas such technological capitalism, citizenship, finance, and politics.

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You may have heard the expression data is the new oil, right?

Despite the undeniable evolution in human development provided by the rise of information, have you ever thought about all the ways it is impacting us?

The answer is that although data extraction is different from oil extraction, it, like oil in the 20th century, is revolutionizing the economy, democratic politics, security, and countless other ways, shaping and influencing 21st century society.

Evgeny Morozov, author of the book Big Tech, develops on the context and application of digital data collection today.

Reflecting on why terms like “Big Pharma”, “Big Food”, and “Big Oil”, (big pharmaceutical, food, and oil companies, respectively) are pejorative terms to describe the greed of these industries, the author asks why “Big Data” and “Big Tech” do not receive the same aversion.

In this summary you will understand that whoever dominates the most advanced technology is also capable of dominating the world. We are not talking about big evil plans as in cartoons, but about control and influence in social-political decisions.

You may be wondering at this point “what is Big Tech?”. Here you will find out that we are talking about big technology platforms and all their data and information structuring. Ready to meet it? We are going to tell you that it already knows you, right from the first click.

About the book “Big Tech”

Big Tech: A Ascensão dos Dados e a Morte da Política(“Big Tech: The Rise of Data and the Death of Politics”, in free translation) is a book composed of a compilation of the best and most relevant articles written by the author, Evgeny Morozov, on the influence of indiscriminate data collection through global technological development.

The book consists of 11 chapters divided among 196 pages, which develop, substantiate, and exemplify how worldwide digitization and excessive interconnectivity affect areas such as politics, technology, and finance.

Who is Evgeny Morozov?

Evgeny Morozov is a Belarusian author, born in 1984. He has degrees in Economics and Business Administration, and has a PhD in the History of Science from Harvard University.

He is also the author of other works on technology, innovation, Internet freedom, and its impact on the whole society, as well as developing academic articles and in major media publications such as The New York Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, etc.

Who should read “Big Tech”?

This book is dedicated to people interested in the advances and changes brought about by the growth and development of the data age. As well as for those who want to understand how our information can be collected and used to influence, persuade, analyze and monitor us..

Main ideas of the book “Big Tech"

  • Currently, the world is governed and controlled through the collection and production of data;
  • Digital data has made it possible to commoditize virtually anything, anywhere in the world and instantly;
  • The rise of data is able to positively or negatively influence the world's political development, it all depends on how it is applied;
  • If you don't pay for a product or service, the currency of exchange is your data;
  • The digital data market is monopolized by five major powers: Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon;
  • Despite the profound impact generated by Big Data, algorithms are not yet able to make critical decisions in the same way as humans.

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How does technological capitalism influence citizenship?

Uber, Airbnb, Google, Facebook, Amazon... The names are endless, and cover all areas of society, from health, education, security, economy and commerce, to the most “harmless” parts of our daily lives, such as art, culture, and leisure.

We know that technological development has enabled us to eliminate problems, facilitate our activities, and optimize tasks. Nevertheless, global technological platforms should not be seen as tools with the sole purpose of uncomplicating our lives in a transparent way.

With the diffusion of information, provided even through these very platforms, today we are aware that Big Tech is a powerful block.

What is the Power of Digital Platforms?

Monopolized by technological giants, with the power and influence necessary to collect our information at every new click and use it in the way that is most convenient, the also called Data Age is capable of simplifying our lives, at the price of our own freedom and informational privacy.

In this way, Big Tech is nothing more than a much more complex composition than applied science and IT, and, according to Evgeny Morozov, it is about:

A confusing tangle of geopolitics, global finance, rampant consumerism, and accelerated corporate takeover of our most intimate relationships.

Digital platforms ultimately profit from the promise of transforming hard-won public rights into efficient services offered by the private sector.

The right to free speech, to safety, to transportation, to access to culture and education: we can enjoy all of this within the reach of an application download or a website login, and, even though these are guaranteed rights, when we are forced to resort to the fruits of Silicon Valley, we become hostages of its structure.

Finally, Evgeny Morozov makes us reflect on the power that platforms exert over the functioning of the world, since they are fed back by the network effects produced by the obtaining of data and the operations of a service that becomes even more profitable as the amount of users increases.

In what ways can we be manipulated through our data?

Data collection in the Information Age is constant and indiscriminate. Today, our information is collected in all trackable areas of the internet, often even without our consent.

It's not just information like your full name or address, Big Tech, through the development of algorithms, based on deep learning, is able to analyze, connect and make decisions through virtually all of your actions on the web.

Today, we have our location and health data monitored by smartwatches, our diet tracked by apps, our preferences described based on what we interact with on social media, and our desires and curiosities registered by search engine queries..

Maybe this information separately doesn't tell us much about ourselves, but when cross-referenced, shared and studied by artificial intelligence organisms, it can influence us in several actions and decision making, even if, for us, this happens in an imperceptible way.

Personalized ads are already a well-known strategy. Who has never searched for a product on the internet and then started receiving much more related content? This is not magic, it is just Big Tech at work.

The case is that data is not only used to influence us with purchases and personalized marketing, it can become political, social and even military means, so that certain situations are benefited and influenced to the detriment of others.

This is the case of fake news, for example, capable of impacting politically and socially on important decisions, such as elections and other governmental deliberations.

In the data era, the analyzed factor is the engagement, even if it is from lies and hate speech. According to the author, “hate, unfortunately, sells far more than solidarity”.

Why is Solutionism a fairy tale?

One of the aspects highlighted by the author of Big Tech, is that, nowadays, all problems seem to be solved by a Silicon Valley startup, and that, socially, our difficulties are considered just a lack of information.

An example of this is the development of platforms for financial control and psychological or dietary support. They provide information about relevant issues, and offer support to combat related problems.

The main issue is that a person often knows that they should save money, that meditation reduces stress levels, or that eating fast food is not the best choice.

Despite this, many are unable to save money when they receive the minimum to survive, have such exhausting working hours that they cannot find time to take care of their mental health, or know that buying a frozen hamburger is cheaper than going to the market.

In this way, Evgeny Morozov reflects on the need to debate deeply on the problems faced in society in order to solve them from the data, providing a real advance for humanity.

While human needs make noise, we should eradicate sound, instead of producing smart earplugs.

Digital mediation of everything: politics, technology, and finance

Even if we don't know it, we have a history of actions recorded through our data, and with the digitization of everything and more and more intelligent mechanisms, this expands exponentially.

Social interactions, banking operations, health data, political activities, contracted services, purchases, etc. The ways in which we are analyzed are endless. Big Tech is the center of global political, financial, and social actions, where every important decision, transaction, and activity is tracked by it.

Despite this, we cannot claim that the implementation of data-driven digital technology is just a monster to be faced. In fact, intelligent algorithms are also responsible for providing opportunities and development.

Here we talk about access to content, information, education, and connection for free or at a much more affordable price. We also mention the creation of new opportunities and informational help for those who have not had access.

Finally, we don't want to scare you about technology, development, and innovation. We are aware that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has provided and continues to provide unimaginable, very rapid and arguably important advances for our society.

Evgeny Morozov only brings us reflections on the functioning and impact of data collection, production, and analysis in the digital environment, so that we have the awareness and critical sense to enjoy all its benefits, without becoming manipulated by them.

Despite the profound impact generated by Big Tech and its greater capacity to store and process information, only human reasoning is capable of observing and analyzing a fact based on a historical and ideological point of view, necessary for making fair decisions.

Other books about Data and Digital Transformation

Larissa Kakizaki de Alcantara, author of “Big Data e Internet das Coisas” (Big Data and the Internet of Things) discusses the use of IoT, the gathering of data on the Internet, and the main challenges faced in ensuring that such information remains secure and secret.

In “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, Klaus Schwab talks about the development brought about by the homonym revolution to the book, how these constant innovations affect us, and how we can deal with them.

Finally, in the book “The Rise of The Network Society”, by Manuel Castells, we understand the impacts of the Digital Transformation in several areas of society around the world, as well as the impacts caused by technological development in the Information Age.

Okay, so how not to be negatively influenced by Big Tech?

  • Know your rights regarding digital data protection and privacy;
  • Always read the terms and conditions of use of platforms, applications, websites and electronic equipment that may collect your data;
  • Although, usually, it is inevitable that your data will be collected and analyzed, work your critical sense so that obtaining your data and the actions provided based on it will not be able to manipulate you;
  • Get to know product and service alternatives other than those provided by the world's technological powers. An example of this is DuckDuckGo, Google's adversarial search engine, which works with open source code and stands out for its information security and privacy;
  • Remember that despite the deep learning of algorithms, they are incapable of making critical decisions, so have analytical perception so that machines don't think for you.

Rate this summary of the book “Big Tech”!

Did you have any idea about the amount of data that can be processed and stored, even based on our simpler and daily activities?

What do you think about Big Tech’s influences in world society, economy and politics?

From now on, we hope that you reflect before accepting to share your data, and analyze which way it can be used.

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Book Big Tech - Evgeny Morozov