To Save Everything, Click Here

Monday, March 04, 2013

laptop computers (Klein Photography/flickr)

Evgeny Morozov looks at the moral consequences of solving social problems with digital technologies. In To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism he writes about how technologies and “big data” will allow us to make large-scale and sophisticated interventions in politics, culture, and everyday life, allowing us to solve problems in highly original ways. But how will such “solutionism” affect our society, once deeply political, moral, and irresolvable dilemmas are recast as uncontroversial and easily manageable matters of technological efficiency?


Evgeny Morozov

Comments [21]

Noach (Independent, Anti-Corporate Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

A follow-up to my earlier comment, dated Mar. 04 2013 01:58 PM:

Having just listened to the segment again, I realized that I mistook "solutionism" for "socialism".

Mar. 05 2013 02:28 AM
Astoriagrrrl from Astoria

I like this guy—he's amusing and he's made lot of valid points. We need to maintain key institutions and rely on certain specialists within those institutions to get certain jobs done (e.g., coding, medical care) and avoid "solutionism." I don't want to monitor the sh*t out of everything any more than I want to constantly photograph everything I observe or "share" moments in my life. It's all about being selective and letting go of most of it. Right on Evgeny!

Mar. 04 2013 05:16 PM
Noach (Independent, Anti-Corporate Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

I had wanted to post a quote I distinctly recall hearing from Slavoj Zizek that seemed quite apropros to this segment but I couldn't find it. I have found one that, if not exactly the same, is very similar, making the same point. This is from a transcript of a speech Zizek delivered at Occupy Wall Street. I found the transcript via Google at

"What do we perceive today as possible? Just follow the media. On the one hand, in technology and sexuality, everything seems to be possible. You can travel to the moon, you can become immortal by biogenetics, you can have sex with animals or whatever, but look at the field of society and economy. There, almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes by little bit for the rich. They tell you it’s impossible. We lose competitivity. You want more money for health care, they tell you, "Impossible, this means totalitarian state." There’s something wrong in the world, where you are promised to be immortal but cannot spend a little bit more for healthcare. Maybe we need to set our priorities straight here. We don’t want higher standard of living. We want a better standard of living. The only sense in which we are Communists is that we care for the commons. The commons of nature. The commons of privatized by intellectual property. The commons of biogenetics. For this, and only for this, we should fight."

Would have really liked to have heard the guest comment on this.

Mar. 04 2013 03:32 PM
Noach (Independent, Anti-Corporate Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

@ "rp", 1:59 p.m.:

"public"?! "common"?! Railing against the venerable, virtuous "job creators" that are the very engine of our economy?!

How 'collectivist' of you! What are you, some kind of Socialist or Communist or something?!

Perhaps needless to say, I found your comment remarkably incisive and germane.

Mar. 04 2013 03:15 PM
Noach (Independent, Anti-Corporate Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

@Rich K from Union City, 1:41 p.m.:

"There used to be an init file for Mac OS 7 that had Oscar the Grouch pop out of the Trash Can and sing every time you deleted files. Add a two-year old to whom a mouse was a second hand" [...]

Ha! My first point-and-click experience was a Mac, back in high-school. (When, if I recall correctly, Macs were still _the_ cutting-edge PC; I don't think the IBM(-compatible) era had taken off yet). Haven't used a Mac since, so I wasn't aware of the Oscar the Grouch feature in OS 7 you described but it reminded me of "Puppy Linux", an ultra-light and thin GNU/Linux distro named for an actual canine companion of Aussie developer Barry Kauler. "Puppy" has a similar feature: A signature "woof, woof!" barking sound that plays whenever the trash bin is emptied! I found it adorable.
"Henry from md", 1:43 p.m., wrote:

"So what does he suggest in their place to save the world racing for the rat hole?"

You really believe that's still possible? You must be quite an optimist.

(I never believed that the world would end on 12-20-12....I'm too much a pessimist... That's the kind of line I so easily imagined Bob Grant making.)
@ John A, 1:45 p.m.:
"Big problem of the Internet is no physical meetings between people."

That certainly creates a number of challenges and problems.

Which ones did you mean?
@ antonio from baySide

"I was awful at Math. And with the tuts available, coding is totally accesible!"

You've piqued my interest. Math was always my weakest, most difficult subject. Not that long ago, someone marvelled at my ability to recall nearly word-for-word things he had said from conversations we had well over ten years ago. He then went-on to suggest that such a memory made me well-suited to learn code, and suggested, if I recall correctly, the web site of a "Kahn Academy".
@ Zach from Hamilton Heights, 1:54 p.m.:

Excellent comment.

Mar. 04 2013 02:52 PM

He is so right. So much that was once recognized as a matter for civic or public or common or the responsibility of business is being dumped on individuals at great profit to private corporations. A very simplistic example, but one which makes the same point: self-service everything. Why is this better? We are providing free labor, eliminating jobs and only increasing profits. "Savings" from this model are mostly not passed on to the consumer. Your time and labor are uncompensated. It's "outsourcing" and it's sold to us as a great advance.

Mar. 04 2013 01:59 PM
john from office

This assumes that people will use tech for high purposes. Go on the subway, you see all the "intellectual" uses of the internet and tech. Music and games!

Mar. 04 2013 01:58 PM
henry from office

excellent response to Leonard's medical science question. One of the rare situations where the ignorance behind Leonard's question led to a very productive response rather than a distraction from the guest's point.

Mar. 04 2013 01:58 PM
Noach (Independent, Anti-Corporate Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

Did Mr. Morozov just say, "There is no shortage of socialist impulses"?!

What did he mean that?

I hope its not more of the all too familiar demagogic invocation of the dreaded bogeyman of "socialism"!

Mar. 04 2013 01:58 PM
Zach from Hamilton Heights

The guest comment the DIY culture has the potential of under-cutting social support institutions and services by putting more responsibility on the individual. In in off itself, this concern does not strike me as luddite-ish, but rather completely valid, and to me, hereunto unheard. I hope he would elaborate on the notion that the increased capability of the individual will not be match by companies or institutions in the future purposefully in order to reduce service to those customers.

Mar. 04 2013 01:54 PM
Noach (Independent, Anti-Corporate Traditionalist) from Brooklyn

I was glad to hear Mr. Morozov mention the problem of not being on social media being used against people. I've heard the issue raised by others and it is quite concerning.

Mar. 04 2013 01:54 PM
Michael from Passaic

A great segment. Could your guest say more about the different kinds of assumptions and philosophies are undergirding the production of some of these new technologies?

Mar. 04 2013 01:52 PM
antonio from baySide

Have to disagree. I was awful at Math. And with the tuts available, coding is totally accesible!
It's so amazing that I am now able to understand logic! Leonard was totally on point, learning a language is the same as learning code. Hate to say this, but learning to code makes the "ownership society" true!
Check out codecademy, its soooo fun!!

Mar. 04 2013 01:52 PM

Phone in the cover of a re-cycling bin ...

How is this Green?

manufacture phone in China, ship to US, keep battery charged, uses phone tower resources ... I bet it uses a LOT more resources than the recycling it encourages.

Might be a good learning tool for kids, otherwise ... not so green!

Mar. 04 2013 01:51 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

You know, de Russians inWented smart phones.

Mar. 04 2013 01:47 PM
John A

Big problem of the Internet is no physical meetings between people. This may have been solved in your previous segment by mention of the AlphaOne Hackerspace, which was news to me.

Mar. 04 2013 01:45 PM
James from nyc

Sounds like your guest has to be against KGB agent aka Facebook.

Mar. 04 2013 01:44 PM
Henry from md

So what does he suggest in their place to save the world racing for the rat hole?

Mar. 04 2013 01:43 PM

Wow... Evgeny is pulling accusations about Google Glass (not Glasses, Glass) out of thin air. I can agree with some of what he is saying, but lets at least base our problems in facts and reality. The questions raised by The Verge recent story about Glass is a great question - why do we need a technological solution to make us more present in a physical world?

Mar. 04 2013 01:42 PM
Rich K from Union City NJ

Unintended consequences abound. There used to be an init file for Mac OS 7 that had Oscar the Grouch pop out of the Trash Can and sing every time you deleted files. Add a two-year old to whom a mouse was a second hand, and you guessed it, suddenly dozens of needed files were being deleted, because they meant nothing to her, and Oscar meant everything. Add unrelated rewards for good behavior, and watch out.

Mar. 04 2013 01:41 PM
john from office

I don't want to live it that world. Sounds facist.

Mar. 04 2013 01:40 PM

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