Hailed by Publishers Weekly as "a potent primer on the need to rein in big tech" and Kirkus Reviews as "a rock-solid plan for controlling the tech giants," readers will be energized by Tom Wheeler's vision of digital governance.An accessible and visionary book that connects the experiences of the late 19th century’s industrial Gilded Age with its echoes in the 21st century digital Gilded Age.
Hailed by Ken Burns as one of the foremost “explainers” of technology and its effect throughout history, Tom Wheeler now turns his gaze to the public impact of entrepreneurial innovation. In Techlash, he connects the experiences of the late 19th century’s industrial Gilded Age with its echoes in the 21st century digital Gilded Age. In both cases, technology innovation and the great wealth that it created ran up against the public interest and the rights of others. As with the industrial revolution and the Gilded Age that it created, new digital technology has changed commerce and culture, creating great wealth in the process, all while being essentially unsupervised.
Warning that today is not the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” some envision, Wheeler calls for a new era of public interest oversight that leaves behind industrial era regulatory ideas to embrace a new process of agile, supervised and enforced code setting that protects consumers and competition while encouraging continued innovation. Wheeler combines insights from his experience at the highest echelons of business and government to create a compelling portrait of the need to balance entrepreneurial innovation with the public good.
Businessman, venture capitalist, and former chairman of the Federal Communication Corporation during the Obama administration, Tom Wheeler is the author of several books including, most recently, From Gutenberg to Google: The History of Our Future (Brookings, 2019). He resides in Washington, DC.
Section One: Our Moment In History
Chapter One – Echoes Of The Gilded Age
Chapter Two – This Is Not The “Fourth Industrial Revolution”
Chapter Three – Closing The Open Internet
Chapter Four – You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!
Section Two: Who Makes The Rules?
Chapter Five – When Innovators Make The Rules
Chapter Six – The World’s Greatest Business Model
Chapter Seven – Where Is The Watchdog?
Section Three: Reasserting The Public Interest
Chapter Eight – Designing Behavioral Expectations
Chapter Nine – Privacy By Design
Chapter Ten – Competition By Design
Chapter Eleven – Truth And Trust By Design
Section Four: Consequences We Control
Chapter Twelve – Time To Make History Again
Lax regulation has allowed the most powerful tech companies to become 'pseudo-governments' imposing their will on the public, according to this impassioned broadside. Wheeler, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission during the Obama administration, draws parallels between the Gilded Age and the present, noting that the income inequality and market concentration that characterize both eras were ameliorated in the 19th century by 'antitrust law and regulatory oversight.' Advocating for the use of similar tools to curtail the power of Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta (Facebook), and Microsoft, Wheeler warns that these companies have been implementing invasive data collecting and other problematic practices with few means for users to push back. Wheeler persuasively makes the case that tech CEOs can’t be trusted to regulate themselves.... It’s a potent primer on the need to rein in big tech.
A detailed, well-researched rundown of the runaway tech sector. Wheeler is a former chairman of the Federal Communication Corporation and a successful venture capitalist, so when it comes to regulation of the tech giants that dominate the U.S. economy, he is a person whose voice should be heard. In this follow-up to From Gutenberg to Google, the author argues that the past few decades are similar to the Gilded Age following the Civil War, when powerful barons built enormous wealth by harnessing new technologies. They used their power to bury potential competitors and intimidate politicians, but they met their match in Theodore Roosevelt, who broke up the monopolies and established a regulatory system. Wheeler sees enough similarities to draw useful lessons for ways to leash the tech beasts, and he presents a host of proposals. A crucial move would be to ensure that competition can flourish through a rewriting of the outmoded regulations and laws to shift the emphasis from technical rules to behavioral standards. The liability rules for social media companies must be revised with the public interest, not corporations, in mind. Wheeler believes that there is currently a window of opportunity created by a high level of community distrust of big tech. This might be true, but it is by no means clear that the distrust translates into an organized impetus for increased regulation, which would mean a period of disruption. Moreover, the tech behemoths have invested billions in political protection. At the moment, there are no Rooseveltian figures on either side of the political spectrum. Wheeler’s ideas are important, and policymakers should read this book carefully. Finding the courage to act on it, however, does not seem likely. With a firm sense of history and an eye on the future, Wheeler lays out a rock-solid plan for controlling the tech giants.
Once again, Tom Wheeler makes sense out of the dizzying technological changes that often seem to initially befuddle and beset us before they come into sharper focus, a focus he brings to each page and each new idea. Wheeler understands in his bones that “what is past is prologue,” and so he correctly anchors the new in the context of what has taken place before. Ecclesiastes is always right: “There’s nothing new under the sun,” but it sometimes takes an original thinker to make clearer the “mess” in front of us. Bravo!
In this tour de force, Tom Wheeler not only unpacks the challenges that the new gilded age poses to consumer privacy, competition, truth, and trust but also highlights ways to safeguard them and us. An eye-opening guide to a more hopeful future!
Tom Wheeler is one of the major global players on Technology and Media regulation in the 21st century. Techlash is a powerful book that speaks to some of the most important issues facing our society. Wheeler's expertise as both a business leader and America's top media regulator offers a unique and trenchant perspective that makes this a must read for anyone concerned about technology's impact on our lives... and on our children's lives.
The clarion call by Tom Wheeler for a new model of governance in the Internet age demands our attention. Wheeler's thoughtful case for agile oversight is grounded in history and should be read by all who care about public policy.
Tom Wheeler brings an invaluable mix of insight, experience and historical knowledge to this critical challenge for our age: how do we protect innovation and the fruits of the digital revolution while also protecting individual rights and the broader public interest? At a moment when “technology is policy” and the coders hold the keys, the need for wise and nimble regulation grows more apparent by the day. Wheeler is uniquely positioned to sort through the challenges, choices, and competing values and this book will be essential reading for all those invested in platform accountability and the health of our information ecosystem.
Tom Wheeler's TECHLASH is an urgent and timely work of public service. For too long, the American people have been left to defend themselves against powerful tech companies that erode their privacy, addict their kids, and undermine our democracy. Wheeler's lucid and historically grounded book describes the utter inadequacy of our existing regulatory structure to defend the American people against technologies moving at the speed of light, and he makes a compelling case to stand up a new federal body to oversee digital platforms and defend the public interest -- just as we did for radio, air travel, and pharmaceuticals at previous moments in our history. If we choose to meet our moment, TECHLASH shows us the way.
In graceful and concise language, Tom Wheeler brings his entrepreneurial and regulatory experience to explain and demystify the impact of digital technology on our economy and society and how government must come off the sidelines to protect the public interest.
Wheeler calls for government oversight with a new, flexible regulatory framework fit for the speed of technology that would protect the public while encouraging innovation. Techlash is an outstanding and necessary read for all who want to understand the impact of our digital economy and how to curb its excesses without curbing its benefits.
Brilliant! Every member of Congress and every state AG needs to read this book now.
Choice: This Brookings book was included in a roundup of forthcoming titles in Business.
8/9/23, Next Big Idea Club: The feature “October 2023’s Must-Read Books” compiled by Panio Gianopoulos, includes Techlash.Link: https://nextbigideaclub.com/magazine/next-big-idea-clubs-october-2023-must-read-books/44195/
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8/30/23, Barron’s: Tom Wheeler is interviewed for an article about reining in big tech and discusses themes from the book.