Feeds

The autistic network: Web2.0 makes you dumb

'One nation under a format', New York Review of Books pronounces

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

If The Social Network dug the grave for Web 2.0, then here comes writer Zadie Smith to pile a lorryload of dirt on top.

The movie is excellent, and it’s finally got the review it deserves. Writing in the New York Review of Books, Smith has a big helping hand from Jaron Lanier, who provides her with just the right illumination.

In the movie, Zuckerberg is either a sociopath, or a tragic figure – take your pick. The movie’s scriptwriter Aaron Sorkin calls him a “tragic hero”. For Lanier, whose You Are Not A Gadget is the first and best book on the Web 2.0 culture, and the bland conformity that it requires from us, the answer is simpler.

Web 2.0

Lanier notices that to make “connections” or “share”, as Facebook and other Web 2.0 norms demand, you have to be a dumber, simpler version of yourself. Lanier is not surprised by this. Web 2.0, like most of our software, was created by autistic people. Zuckerberg is autistic, and can’t see individuality, let alone understand it. So he can only understand what humans want through the hive mind. And by creating Facebook, he created a massive machine to help him figure it out.

“He wants to be liked… For our self-conscious generation,” writes Smith, “not being liked is as bad as it gets. Intolerable to be thought of badly for a minute, even for a moment.”

She notes Zuckerberg’s behaviour as the the movie drew near: on the day the movie opened, he donated $100m to his home town’s school system. "He didn’t need to just get out ‘in front’ of the story. He had to get right on top of it and try to stop it breathing. [Then] two weeks later, he went to a screening. Why? Because everybody liked the movie."

That’s not having your own mind. But then that’s not the point. Facebook forces people into a straitjacket of conformity: “One nation under a format”, she calls it.

“The last defense of every Facebook addict is: but it helps me keep in contact with people who are far away! Well, e-mail and Skype do that, too, and they have the added advantage of not forcing you to interface with the mind of Mark Zuckerberg."

The review has spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it or plan to soon – don’t click the next link. If you have, it’s got some quite canny observations. Over here. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.