CRF Blog

A Piece of the Action

by Bill Hayes

In A Piece of the Action for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Ron Hogan reviews three recent books on the digital economy: Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy by Jonathan Taplin, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly, and The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World by Brad Stone.

Jonathan Taplin, director emeritus of USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab, offers a much bleaker outlook in Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. Taplin delves into the “anarcho-capitalist” mindset of men like PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who is as famous for bankrolling the destruction of Gawker Media as he is for declaring he “no longer believe[s] that freedom and democracy are compatible.” What Taplin sees in that mindset is the makings of “an oligarchy in which only the brightest and richest get to determine our future,” an ultra-libertarian world where economic might makes right.

Taplin is particularly concerned with the ways near-monopolies on digital distribution hurt the creative classes, from musicians whose incomes drop as we choose to stream our music rather than buy albums to authors who watch helplessly as Amazon undercuts their royalties by offering used books alongside new editions. [more]