The Control Revolution

J. R. Molloy (
Sun, 26 Sep 1999 07:36:33 -0700

The Control Revolution: How The Internet is Putting Individuals in Charge and Changing the World We Know
by Andrew L. Shapiro, Richard C. Leone

Where do you want to go today? This slogan/mantra is the centerpiece of a Microsoft advertising campaign and the central dilemma of our times, says technorealist Andrew L. Shapiro in The Control Revolution, a warning of the potentially dismal consequences of the uninhibited personalization afforded by the Internet. By putting individuals in charge of their own information gathering, Shapiro suggests that we might find ourselves imprisoned within our increasingly narrow choices or "oversteering" into a corporate-controlled Net environment not unlike network television. His aim is to alert us to the problems and help us steer a middle course to fully realize the benefits of worldwide networking. What will happen to encryption, copyright, and free speech in our brave new world? How can we seize the power of unrestricted choice without giving in to the temptation of ignoring diverse opinions? How will governmental and business authorities respond to these threats to their power? Shapiro addresses these questions and others forcefully and eloquently, offering prescriptions for thoughtful leaders such as limiting certain intellectual property rights to free the market for new operating systems and creating incentives for virtual "public squares" where everyone can have their 15 nanominutes of fame. Thoughtful, entertaining, and substantial, The Control Revolution is essential reading for those charged with creating the future. --Rob Lightner

Book Description
Early in 1998, a new school of thought called technorealism was launched by a "digital dream team" (Wired) of our "brightest young cyberwriters" (Newsweek) seeking "to bring a more realistic dialogue to the topic of technology" (New York Times). Now technorealism's cofounder, Andrew Shapiro, gives us a lucid and fresh account of how the Internet is really changing our lives. The Control Revolution shows how the Net allows individuals to take power from institutions, causing hierarchies to unravel in politics, commerce, and social life. The result, Shapiro argues, is not as ideal as cyber-utopianists would have us think. Government and corporations alike are anxiously trying to retain their power, while individuals may wield their new personal control so bluntly as to squander its benefits and jeopardize personal well-being, rights of free speech and privacy, and democratic values. Shapiro concludes that we must achieve a new balance of power for the digital age, a conception of self-governance that takes into account the shifting of control from institutions to individuals.

>From the Back Cover
"A reservoir of civic reason in our tumultuous age...Shapiro is a de
Tocqueville of the information society." David Shenk, author of Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut

"Finally, a book that can help even a novice like me understand what the
Internet revolution is all about. Kudos to Andrew Shapiro!" Laurence A. Tisch, former Chairman and CEO of CBS

"This is an extraordinarily powerful and mature story of the hopeful side of
the Internet's revolution. Rich with insight, and surprisingly new conclusions, Shapiro's book is the best 'second-generation' thought on the questions the Net will raise. His account foreshadows the challenges for a liberal democracy in the networked future, and his analysis provides pragmatic and realistic responses for citizens today. Beautifully written, and tightly argued, the book is certain to become a classic." Lawrence Lessig, Berkman Professor, Harvard Law School

"Lucid and provocative from page one, The Control Revolution offers a rare
perspective on the high-tech frontier: an enthusiast's understanding of the digital world, tempered by a pragmatist's sense of the limitations of the new media. Shapiro gives us a powerful glimpse of what works in cyberspace--and how to fix what doesn't. The Control Revolution is bound to shape the terms of cyber-debate for years to come." Steven Johnson, editor of Feed Magazine and author of Interface Culture

"While I may be more hyperbolic in my optimism than Shapiro, The Control
Revolution is a lean and well-founded argument for a belief we share, namely that electronic networks are returning to individual human beings much of the authority we have lost to institutions during the Industrial Period. The Powers that Be are shortly to become the Powers that Were." John Perry Barlow, Cognitive Dissident, Co-Founder & Vice Chairman, Electronic Frontier Foundation

"Shapiro presents a compelling explanation of why we love the Internet-the
control and access it gives us-while also reminding us of the obligations this new power brings us to preserve what is good about America. It's important for each of us to read The Control Revolution, and to take up his call for a balance between personal and public interest." Zoe Baird, President, The Markle Foundation

A thoughtful and balanced treatment of the Internet.... Shapiro celebrates the enhancement of individual freedoms the Internet enables, while pointedly diagnosing its dangers to our collective well-being." Mitchell Kapor, founder Lotus Development Corporation, co-founder Electronic Frontier Foundation

The author, Andrew L. Shapiro ( , June 5, 1999 A brief note
Pundits and politicians speak in broad-brush terms about an information revolution or a communications revolution. But I never really understood those terms. To me, revolutions are all about struggle and crisis, a clash of values, and ultimately a fragile reordering of the social landscape.

Is that what the Internet is doing to society? I was skeptical at first. But after five years of study, I have come to believe that new technology is enabling fundamental changes, particularly regarding the status of the individual in society. The Net is giving each of us the ability to control aspects of life that were previously controlled by our most powerful institutions: government, corporations, and the news media. We can decide for ourselves what information we're exposed to; how we learn and work; whom we socialize with; and even how goods are distributed and political outcomes are reached. This development deserves to be seen as revolutionary.

But it's not a revolution we can yet celebrate -- for it has all the tenuous attributes of any political upheaval. There is resistance from institutions struggling to maintain their authority. And there is a grave danger that we will push the revolution too far, blinding ourselves to the need for balance between personal indulgence and commitment to something more. Technology bestows great privileges upon us. The question is whether we will shoulder the responsibilities that accompany them.

About the Author
Andrew L. Shapiro, a writer and lawyer, is director of the Aspen Institute Internet Policy Project and a contributing editor at The Nation. He has recently been a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and the Twentieth Century Fund/The Century Foundation. He lives in New York City.

The publisher, PublicAffairs , May 28, 1999 Reviews
"With scrupulous documentation and a knowledgeable but unpatronizing tone,
Shapiro delivers a penetrating analysis of both the promise and peril of the digital future." --Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Shapiro has this brilliantly nailed.... It's hard to imagine a more timely book about the real significance of the Internet." --Jon Katz, Slashdot

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"First, the good news: all you have to do is talk about it.
Now, the bad news: you have to talk about it."