Beyond the Valley: How Innovators around the World are Overcoming Inequality and Creating the Technologies of Tomorrow

Beyond the Valley: How Innovators around the World are Overcoming Inequality and Creating the Technologies of Tomorrow


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How to repair the disconnect between designers and users, producers and consumers, and tech elites and the rest of us: toward a more democratic internet.

In this provocative book, Ramesh Srinivasan describes the internet as both an enabler of frictionless efficiency and a dirty tangle of politics, economics, and other inefficient, inharmonious human activities. We may love the immediacy of Google search results, the convenience of buying from Amazon, and the elegance and power of our Apple devices, but it's a one-way, top-down process. We're not asked for our input, or our opinions—only for our data. The internet is brought to us by wealthy technologists in Silicon Valley and China. It's time, Srinivasan argues, that we think in terms beyond the Valley.

Srinivasan focuses on the disconnection he sees between designers and users, producers and consumers, and tech elites and the rest of us. The recent Cambridge Analytica and Russian misinformation scandals exemplify the imbalance of a digital world that puts profits before inclusivity and democracy. In search of a more democratic internet, Srinivasan takes us to the mountains of Oaxaca, East and West Africa, China, Scandinavia, North America, and elsewhere, visiting the “design labs” of rural, low-income, and indigenous people around the world. He talks to a range of high-profile public figures—including Elizabeth Warren, David Axelrod, Eric Holder, Noam Chomsky, Lawrence Lessig, and the founders of Reddit, as well as community organizers, labor leaders, and human rights activists.. To make a better internet, Srinivasan says, we need a new ethic of diversity, openness, and inclusivity, empowering those now excluded from decisions about how technologies are designed, who profits from them, and who are surveilled and exploited by them.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262043137
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 10/29/2019
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 424
Sales rank: 550,252
Product dimensions: 9.00(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Ramesh Srinivasan is Professor of Information Studies and Design Media Arts at UCLA. He makes regular appearances on NPR, The Young Turks, MSNBC, and Public Radio International, and his writings have been published in the Washington Post, Quartz, Huffington Post, CNN, and elsewhere.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Foreword Douglas Rushkoff ix

Introduction 1

I Intrusive Tactics: Tracked, Hijacked, and Hooked 7

1 The Power of Data 9

2 The Social Contract 21

3 Foreclosing the Future 27

4 Disconnection and Connection 39

5 Blind Solutions 51

II Political Data Games: Targeted, Manipulated, and Motivated 59

6 Brave New Digital World 61

7 Cambridge Analytica and Global Disinformation 69

8 The Great Radicalizes 85

9 Bernie Is Born 95

10 Digital War Games around the World 105

III Gig Economy Blues: Corporate Windfalls or Living Wages? 111

11 Disrupting Jobs and Lives 113

12 Protecting Work and Workers 125

13 Working Hard, Struggling Harder 141

14 Money for Everybody? Exploring Universal Basic Income 147

15 Worker-Owned Technologies 155

16 Discrimination Technologies 159

IV An Internet for Us All: Overcoming Inequality 169

17 Keeping Network Power Local Aditi Mehta 171

18 Questioning Connectivity 181

19 African-Born Technology 191

20 Al in Uganda 205

21 Innovating from the Ground Up in Kenya 213

22 Mobile Power to the People: Indigenous Networks in Mexico 235

V Looking Toward Tomorrow: Our Path Is Not Locked In 257

23 Blockchain: A Crazy Free-for-All, and Maybe More? Adam Reese 259

24 Technology for All 283

25 Educating and Protecting Our Future 297

Conclusion 313

Notes 317

Index 391

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Beyond the Valley shows how we got to a place where a few big tech companies pull the strings and the rest of us work on command, without a secure future. Like the Green New Deal, it also shows us a way out, toward a digital new deal where we can reclaim the power and shape a world that includes us all. Read this book for its compelling vision of digital economy that provides decent work, wages, and justice for everyone.

Van Jones, CEO of REFORM Alliance; Host of The Redemption Project and The Van Jones Show on CNN

It sounds almost quaint to talk about privacy, fairness, and credible information these days. So it goes when Silicon Valley designs things for the rest of us based on what they think is important and cool—and profitable for them. What would it look like to turn the tables? Let's give the users control over the way algorithms and design choices are optimized. If you're tired of the surveillance, bias, and propaganda that are warping our world, read this book to see how things can be different.

Cathy O'Neil, CEO of ORCAA; author of Weapons of Math Destruction

In my work with Black Lives Matter, I have seen the power of people, and communities, and technology working together to support the aims of justice, equity, and diversity. So why do we assume we must accept surveillance-driven systems, low-paying crowd work, and racist algorithms? Beyond the Valley shows that there is nothing inevitable about the technology we have. Let's reach for something better.

Patrisse Cullors, Cofounder of Black Lives Matter Global Network

Readers of this brilliant book will discover that the sources of digital innovation today can be found across the world, with many technologies of the future coming from rural places. From Mexico to East Africa, people are using technology to solve problems and improve lives—without help from Silicon Valley or China. Beyond the Valley offers a vision for a digital world that places diversity front and center.

Vicente Fox, former President of Mexico; founder of Centro Fox

Great reporting from around the developing world reminds us how blinkered our view of digital technology really is—this book will expand your thinking about how we might make these networks work for us (and about the realms of human life we need to shield from them).

Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?; founder,

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