A smart, lively history of the Internet free culture movement and its larger effects on society – and the life and shocking suicide of Aaron Swartz, a founding developer of Reddit and Creative Commons-fromSlate correspondent Justin Peters. Aaron Swartz was a zealous young advocate for the free exchange of information and creative content online. He committed suicide in 2013 after being indicted by the government for illegally downloading millions of academic articles from a non-profit online database. From the age of fifteen, when Swartz, a computer prodigy, worked with Lawrence Lessig to launch Creative Commons, to his years as a fighter for copyright reform and open information, to his work leading the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act, to his posthumous status as a cultural icon. Justin Peters examines Swartz’s life in the context of 200 years of struggle over the control of information. The Idealistsituates Swartz in the context of other “data moralists” past and present, from lexicographer Noah Webster to eBook pioneer Michael Hart to NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden. Peters also breaks down the government’s case against Swartz and explains how federally funded academic research came to be considered private property, and downloading that material in bulk came to be considered a federal crime. An essential look at the impact of the free culture movement on our daily lives and on generations to come.
In a world of self-driving cars and big data, smart algorithms and Siri, we know that artificial intelligence is getting smarter every day. Though all these nifty devices and programs might make our lives easier, they’re also well on their way to making “good” jobs obsolete. A computer winning “Jeopardy” might seem like a trivial, if impressive, feat, but the same technology is making paralegals redundant as it undertakes electronic discovery, and is soon to do the same for radiologists. And that, no doubt, will only be the beginning. In Silicon Valley the phrase “disruptive technology” is tossed around on a casual basis. No one doubts that technology has the power to devastate entire industries and upend various sectors of the job market. But “Rise of the Robots” asks a bigger question: can accelerating technology disrupt our entire economic system to the point where a fundamental restructuring is required? Companies like Facebook and YouTube may only need a handful of employees to achieve enormous valuations, but what will be the fate of those of us not lucky or smart enough to have gotten into the great shift from human labor to computation? The more Pollyannaish, or just simply uninformed, might imagine that this industrial revolution will unfold like the last: even as some jobs are eliminated, more will be created to deal with the new devices of a new era. In “Rise of the Robots,” Martin Ford argues that is absolutely not the case. Increasingly, machines will be able to take care of themselves, and fewer jobs will be necessary. The effects of this transition could be shattering. Unless we begin to radically reassess the fundamentals of how our economy works, we could have both an enormous population of the unemployed-the truck drivers, warehouse workers, cooks, lawyers, doctors, teachers, programmers, and many, many more, whose labors have been rendered superfluous by automated and intelligent machines-and a general economy that, bereft of consumers, implodes u