Don’t call Evgeny Morozov an early adopter — unless you’re talking about casting a skeptical eye on Silicon Valley. Born in Belarus, raised in Bulgaria, and now living in Barcelona, the 33-year-old writer became so annoying to the United States’ techno-elite that Hillary Clinton’s former top digital adviser called him a “neo-Luddite.”
Former Yahoo fellows and Stanford scholars like him are supposed to found Silicon Valley startups. Morozov tackles them to the ground instead. His mantra: There is “no digital paradise.”
Long before Brussels and other European capitals woke up to the dark side of digital, Morozov had turned his baleful gaze on the social, economic and privacy implications of recent technological breakthroughs. As the behavior and business models of American tech giants come under ever harsher spotlights, Morozov — who most likely will have gotten there first — will be somebody to watch.
“They offer all sorts of services for free,” he says of the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter. But “we do not see the other end of the deal” — the thirst for clicks and likes, the concentration of so much private data in corporate hands.
One of the reasons Morozov’s punches hurt when they land: He thinks big. The “Great Firewall of China” is not a tool to suppress free expression (though it does); it’s protectionism in its purest form, he says. Beijing’s path to tech dominance, helping China create massive companies like TenCent and Alibaba, has left Europe, with its digital floodgates wide open, reminiscing about Skype and Nokia.
Morozov’s most far-reaching prediction is that the effects of the digital revolution will one day feel similar to those of climate change. Cars, air-conditioners and mass-market goods shuttling across global supply chains are great to have. But “30 years later the bill arrives, and you don’t know what to do with it.”