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The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, A Philosophy, A Warning

Los Angeles Review of Books: “The Internet has lost its way and taken society with it. Since the mid-2010s, we hear warnings of “dis/misinformation.” We hear about the loss of trust in our institutions and the need to reinvent them for the internet age. In short, we are living in a “crisis moment” — one ironically experienced by many of us while stuck at home.  Many have diagnosed these symptoms and proposed policy solutions, but few have done the hard work of rummaging around in the internet’s history to find the roots of the problems — and almost none have taken a truly long view. In The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is, Justin E. H. Smith, a philosopher and historian of science, argues that we’ve been much too narrow-minded in our understanding of the internet. In presenting a longue durée history, he challenges our assumptions about what the internet is and what we’re doing when we’re on it. Only by understanding the internet’s long history — by understanding the circumstances in which the internet’s many parts were conceived — can we, he claims, take back control of our lives and shape the internet in a way more conducive to human flourishing…”

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