There are few things as frightening as the idea that you are being watched, and yet, over the past few years, we’ve found out that we’re being watched by our own government and private companies all the time. That’s right: the scariest thing imaginable is happening, and the question we need to ask ourselves is, “How is this legal?”
The short answer is that it shouldn’t be, and the long answer is found in Joshua Fairfield’s new book, Owned: Property, Privacy, and the New Digital Serfdom.
Now, unless you’re up on our medieval history, you may not remember what a “serf” is, and so the title of the book may not grab you as much as it did me. If that’s the case, let me explain. A “serf” was a peasant who was compelled to work a nobleman’s land as payment for living on it. They didn’t own the land they farmed or even their own homes. Their entire existence was dependent upon others, and this is the relationship that Fairfield sees us entering into through our head-long dive into this digital world of smartphones, smart courses, and the Internet of Things. He perceives us as surrendering our property rights bit by bit, especially as we continue to click “I Agree” on iTunes Terms and Conditions.
I’ve been thinking and reading and learning a lot about the issues of privacy and ownership over the past three to four years, and I have to say that there isn’t a lot out there that truly highlights all of the connections and overlapping issues between digital privacy, ownership, and the erosion of the very concept of owning anything.
This is very possibly going to be the issue that defines the twenty-first century. According to Kevin Kelly, the future will be one based on renting, paying for access. This isn’t quite the serfdom that Fairfield talks about, but if Kelly is right about the inevitable draw away from ownership, then I could see Fairfield being right about us entering into an age of digital serfdom.
So, why am I writing all of this terrible news under the “Good” section? Because this is the level of information provided in Owned, and this is why it’s worth your time.
The only I would say is that this book is a bit… can’t think of a good word. I don’t want to say “dense” because the author chooses very understandable and practical examples. Perhaps the word is “thorough”? I really enjoyed this book, and I want that to be clear. But I also need you to know that this is a book that demands and deserves concentration and thorough reading. Want to learn? Then this is the type of book you want to read.
I could write a half-dozen posts or even more about this book, but then, wouldn’t I simply be rewriting the book? There is so much here that it’s impossible to convey it all to you or for me to even begin to summarize it. In fact, I may actually write some follow-up posts about this book because I honestly feel like the Church needs to step up and once again be the intellectual center of the world. We need to be well-informed and well-read in all areas of public discourse so that we might help to direct public policy. If we want a seat at the cultural/political table, we won’t get it by arguing online. We’ll earn our seat by understanding the problems that technology poses and will have read enough to be able to propose some common sense solutions.
Owned is a great first step in that direction.
– Readability (4.0)
– Breadth/Depth of Content (5.0)
– Helpfulness (5.0)
Recommended? – Yes, especially if you’d like be aware of what the future could possibly hold for technology, privacy, and property.
Owned: Property, Privacy, and the New Digital Serfdom is by Joshua A. T. Fairfield, and you can buy it from Amazon.
A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in exchange for an honest review, which is what you just read.