Pioneering blogger and science fiction writer Cory Doctorow has been an activist for online freedom since the early days of the history of the internet. He has long been one of the major voices opposing restrictive copyright and corporate domination, and a visionary defending a pluralistic online world where eccentricity and individuality are allowed to flourish. In books like Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright and the Future of the Future (which, like all of his books, is available in full for free), Doctorow has shown what an internet created by the people, unconstrained by intellectual property law, Digital Rights Management, and monopolistic corporate gatekeeping, could be like.
In this conversation, Doctorow joins to discuss the importance of a democratic internet, and his recent book How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism, which argues that many people misidentify the main problem with what is called "surveillance capitalism," assuming that the problem is that corporations are amassing to manipulate us the power through intrusive collection of Big Data. In fact, Doctorow argues, the problem is less about a particular thing these corporations can do to us and more about the fact that monopolistic tech companies are in control in the first place. This has important implications, because it means that we cannot just regulate what companies do with our data, we have to fundamentally redistribute power over the internet. In this conversation, we talk about how Wikipedia provides an alternative vision for a participatory internet where the rules are set by users and there is oversight over governance. We do not need better and more benevolent Zuckerbergs. We need what Doctorow calls the pluralistic internet.
Cory Doctorow publishes a daily link blog at Pluralistic. His books can be found at his website, Craphound.com, and his archive of posts at Boing Boing is here. His upcoming book Chokepoint Capitalism (co-authored with Rebecca Giblin) can be pre-ordered here. A Current Affairs article about "surveillance capitalism" is here and Nathan's article about the magic of Wikipedia is here.