Review of The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen

March 4, 2016

This is a book that tells the truth about the main digital upheavals of our time. With a smart and clever style, the author, a real insider of Silicon Valley, reveals very interesting and disquieting predictions about the future of the Internet and Social networks. I am discussing about The Cult of the Amateur, the cult book, I would say, written by Andrew Keen, today the main critic of the Web 2.0 revolution. Indeed, the subtitle of the book is well aimed with the topic and reads: how the web 2.0 revolution is killing our culture and destroying our economy.

I read the Italian edition of this essay and this confirms the book has already been translated all over the world. And given that I read the Italian edition, I tried to translate the subtitle into English again, by hoping for doing a good work. This is a kind of book I would also reviewed without a complete reading. In reality, I read the book in one breath, one Sunday night, while I was thinking about the future of the web and my job. As an Internet worker, indeed, I was worried about my writing job and my blogs.

But when I read the book of Andrew, a really enlightening work, I understood many things about the irreversible change of our economy and the world, but, above all, I also understood that the Economic global crisis was not only caused by governments and banks, but also by the Internet. And think that Andrew Keen was one of the people who at the end of the last century contributed to create and divulgate the Internet. At that time, among 1997 and 1999, many believed that the Internet was able to spread more culture, knowledge and democracy.

In reality, culture and knowledge remained backward and only democracy moved forward up to become the only reason for the web existence. The author explains this concept very well in the book. In the Internet language, democracy means everybody can decide to open a website or a blog overnight and write about any topic. Just think, every minute new tens (I think tons) of websites, blogs and social networks are created.

But when everyone can do the same thing and when all become amateurs , then it is hard to spot the true experts and with no experts there is no talent and meritocracy. Or rather, amid many web amateurs who write, publish and comment every day, the talented experts find it is harder and harder to have a room on the red carpet of the web. But usually, who and what arrives on the red carpet? Rubbish, gossip, needless chatters and unverified information.

The author also brings us the story of Wikipedia, the free Internet encyclopaedia written by anyone. By now, Wikipedia website has even overcome other accredited and well known encyclopaedias. These are edited only by professionals. At Wikipedia, the editors are instead voluntary. All this can explain the phenomenon of the citizen journalism, where common people can share their content and images with no filter. Unfortunately, people tend to show only their private life, what they are doing at a certain moment, what their dog is doing and so on.

Every day, tons of needless content cloud excellent or good content. I am talking about important media groups, such as The Guardian, The New York TimesThe Washington Post and others that are struggling with the economic crisis caused by the Web2.0 revolution. Nowadays, to emerge from the crowd of the web, you need to invest in advertising and this is another item that escalates the crisis. And not only. To not be fired, the true editors, writers and journalists are forced to lower their rates, but, at last, they end up to pick up only the crumbs. In this case, the equation of Andrew Keen is very fair: if democracy means get services, products and information for free, then it is not a good democracy.

This author has been very sharp to open our mind on the new possible perspective of the web. Very gloomy is the prediction the author casts before our eyes and shows as a question: What is the most wealthy Company on the Internet? Not Google, Not Facebook, Not Amazon, but you, only you, as the famous American song. Only you, in front of your digital screen to look at your jokes and probably visit your website or blog. Yes, because too many websites mean no-one will get many unique visitors and visits one day, and the only visit you will have will be yours!

Sad prediction, but very realistic. All this means further economic crisis, unemployment, more poverty and no future. How can we stop these happenings? The answers will be provided only by our mindfulness, wisdom and by this excellent book.

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