Zucked (Roger McNamee)

This is an important book. It talks about the danger posed by our current online environments. The primary target is Facebook but the threat is also from Google and others. These companies have hit upon a successful way to make huge amounts of money and mindshare but along the way those platforms pose existential threats to democracy, health, innovation, and other aspects of society. Their rise was rapid and their creators didn’t think of how they would be used by bad actors.

The author was in the right places at the right times to see what most people didn’t. He was an early proponent but the election of 2016 awakened him to the harm they could be used to create. at that point he made it his mission to try and combat the damage. This book chronicles that journey. There have been some successes but there remains more to do.

A personal note: my recent undertaking of the digital declutter (see my previous review of Digital Minimalism) relates to this book in two ways: 1) the digital detox has opened more time for, among other things, reading. I was able to finish this book in two days! (much faster than my normal book completion time) and 2) The content of this book made me feel even better about giving up Facebook and other social media and restricting my time in front of screens.

I highly recommend this book.

Digital Minimalism (Cal Newport)

After a year off of Facebook this book seemed relevant to me. I’ve very glad I picked it up. It has inspired me to also give up Twitter and Instagram. I liked the book so much that I’m implementing the program the book recommends. I recommend it.

The book starts off by talking about the cost of always being connected to the digital world and the toll it takes on those of us who are trying to do stuff. The program recommended by the book consists of three phases: 1) deciding how you will implement step 2 in the form of rules. Newport is pragmatic and makes allowances for when you can’t give up all of your digital life. He urges making rules that capture you intentions so that you don’t fall prey to habits that have been built up over time. 2) take 30 days and do a digital detox. 3) gradually introduce digital aspects of your life intentionally and only if they provide great value.

The last part of the book proposes practices for engaging with the digital world in an intentional way and also practices away from the digital world that can enrich life in a deeper way.

As I write this, I am on day 1 of step 2 and man, I’m now aware of the autopilot habits I have around my phone, tablet and computer after only one day. Eye opening…