#BookReview: Meganets by David Auerbach

A Needed Conversation. As someone also in tech at a megacorporation (though to be clear, not the same ones Auerbach has worked for) that openly seeks to employ several of the technologies discussed in this book, and as someone who finished this book right as Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter was being completed and Facebook announced that it was open to colluding with Twitter regarding content moderation… this was an absolutely fascinating look at my field and where at least one part of it currently is. But it is also written in a very approachable manner, one such that anyone who so much as uses any social media even casually or who interacts with their government virtually at all (if you see what I did there 😉 ) will be able to follow along with reasonably well. Fear not! No Discrete Modeling, Statistics, Calculus, or any other high level collegiate mathematics Computer Science majors are forced to endure will be required here. 🙂

And yet, this is also a book that everyone *needs* to read and understand. Auerbach manages to boil his primary thesis of what meganets are and how they operate into three very simple yet utterly complex words: Volume. Velocity. Virality. And he repeats these words so *very* often that you *will* remember them long after you’ve read this text. (Though I note this writing this review just 24 hrs after finishing my read of it, and knowing I’ll read at least 30 more books before 2022 is done. So check back with me on that after this book actually publishes in about 4.5 months. :D)

Indeed, really the only problem here – potentially corrected before publication – is that at least in the copy I read, the bibliography only accounted for about 15% of the text, which is fairly light for a nonfiction book in my experience, where 20-30% is more normal and 50% is particularly well documented. Thus, the single star deduction.

Still, this truly is a book everyone, from casual readers uninterested in anything computer yet who are forced to use computers in modern life to the uber-techs actually working in and leading the fields in question to the politicians and activists seeking to understand and control these technologies, needs to read. Very much recommended.

This review of Meganets by David Auerbach was originally written on October 29, 2022.

#BookReview: Tech Panic by Robby Soave

Solid Examination Of The Issues. I’ve read some of the author’s work over the last year in particular on his primary employer’s website (Reason.com), and that is actually how I found out about this book. So I knew roughly what to expect here, and that is pretty well what I got: a fairly solid look at the issues surrounding tech, elections, privacy, free speech, and other related issues from a moderate libertarian (small “L”, to be clear, since these things matter in circles that will likely be most open to reading this book) perspective that is mostly well-reasoned from that particular mindset. As more of an avowed Anarchist (and former Libertarian Party official and candidate, though I myself was more moderate in that era) and software development professional, eh, Soave allows government a bit too much intervention into tech companies than I’m personally comfortable with. Even here, however, most who are more aligned with the left/ right divide in the US are going to be hit fairly equally and largely find various arguments here that they will (and sometimes do) champion and others that they will (and often do) despise. Which in the age of hyperpartisanship and barely-there “reasoning”, is generally a sign of someone who *has* actually seriously and critically thought about the issues he is speaking of. An excellent work that really should be read by anyone trying to urge government action regarding technology companies, and thus one that quite a few should consider as we begin the march into the mid-term elections of 2022 in just a few more months. Very much recommended.

PS: The reason for the star deduction? Light bibliography, at least potentially corrected in a non-Advance Reader Copy version of the book. The ARC, however, had a bibliography that clocked in at just 9% of the text, vs a “more normal” range of 25-33% in my experience across almost 650 books since Jan 1, 2019 alone.

This review of Tech Panic by Robby Soave was originally written on September 14, 2021.