The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data (Liveright), by Michael Patrick Lynch
Oct. 4, 2016
Michael Patrick Lynch wants to put on a happy face, but the frowns keep showing through. The University of Connecticut philosophy professor insists we “should not fear information technology per se” and that he is “a dedicated user of social media and the platforms that enable it.” And yet the chief concern of The Internet of Us is the way Googling can “weaken and undermine other ways of knowing,” curb creative engagement with the world and reduce information gathering to a merely passive experience. Although nowadays people expect crowds to fund their hobbies, and pundits speak seriously of “the wisdom of crowds,” Lynch reminds us of the herd mentality that Internet “information cascades” can foster. “People later in the sequence [of online comments] tend to follow the crowd more than their own evidence.” While the Internet didn’t invent our deep-seated tendency to seek only the facts that validate our opinions, it has exacerbated the problem. Lynch walks in careful balance between Pollyanna and Cassandra, writing approvingly of the digital world while warning of its consequences.