Google's dominance in so many aspects of our digital lives is "creating a walled garden that's basically controlled by two nerds in Silicon Valley," says George Gilder, the author who more than anyone else predicted today's imperfect online utopia in books such as Life After Television: The Coming Transformation of Media and American Life and Telecosm: How Infinite Bandwidth Will Revolutionize Our World.
Of course it's not just Google (which owns YouTube), Gilder says in a Reason Podcast recorded at FreedomFest, the annual gathering of libertarian held every year in Las Vegas. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and a host of other online ecosystems are working to keep us all within their own specific spaces, the better to sell to us and capture economic and demographic value from users. "This model of creating economic success on the Internet by homogenizing a walled garden doesn't replicate," argues Gilder, who says that if Apple or whomever can have their own proprietary space that keeps people tethered to one service on the Internet, then so too will China, Iran, and despotic regimes. "In the end, the internet breaks into fragile fiefdoms and falls apart."
Long a prophet of transparency, mobility, and cryptocurrency, Gilder says that disruption is coming and, as with earlier shifts from mainframe to personal computers, it will be upon us long before the solons of Silicon Valley know what hit them.
In a wide-ranging conversation, I also ask Gilder how his techno-optimism about the liberating effects of cyberspace and technological innovation square with his old preoccupations in books such as Sexual Suicide and Men and Marriage about preserving traditional gender roles. "I do think reproduction is a vital human function, and if we botch that, we aren't going to have any future. I really do think maintaining the sexual constitution, as I called it in Sexual Suicide, is important for procreation and having new generations." Even in a world filled every sort of sex robot imaginable, he says, won't be able to reprogram that.
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Photo credit: Jim Epstein, Reason
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Photo Credit: Jim Epstein, Reason