The end of reality How four billionaires are selling a fantasy future of the metaverse, Mars, and crypto

Jonathan T. Taplin

Book - 2023

"At a time when the crises of income inequality, climate, and democracy, are compounding to create epic wealth disparity and the prospect of a second American civil war, four billionaires are hyping schemes that are designed to divert our attention away from issues that really matter. Each scheme--the metaverse, cryptocurrency, space travel, and transhumanism--is an existential threat in moral, political, and economic terms. In The End of Reality, Jonathan Taplin provides perceptive insight into the personal backgrounds and cultural power of these billionaires--Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marc Andreesen ("The Four")--and shows how their tech monopolies have brought middle-class wage stagnation, the hollowing ...out of many American towns, a radical increase in income inequality, and unbounded public acrimony. Meanwhile, the enormous amount of taxpayer money to be funneled into the dystopian ventures of "The Four", the benefits of which will accrue to billionaires, exacerbate these disturbing trends. The End of Reality is both scathing critique and reform agenda that replaces the warped worldview of The Four with a vision of regenerative economics that seeks to build a sustainable society with healthy growth and full employment"--

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Subjects
Published
New York, NY : PublicAffairs 2023.
Language
English
Main Author
Jonathan T. Taplin (author)
Edition
First edition
Physical Description
322 pages : 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9781541703155
  • Introduction
  • Part I. The Past
  • 1. Technocracy's Libertarian Roots
  • 2. The Rise of the Technocrats
  • Part II. The Present
  • 3. Technology and Inequality
  • 4. Fantasy Culture
  • 5. People of the Lie
  • Part III. The Future
  • 6. Welcome to the Metaverse
  • 7. The Crypto Con
  • 8. Going to Mars
  • 9. Transhumanism
  • 10. Creating an Age of Realism
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this vigorous polemic, University of Southern California professor of communication and digital media Taplin (Move Fast and Break Things) accuses Marc Andreesen, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Mark Zuckerberg of capitalizing on the low quality of life among America's poor and working classes by selling them a carefully calculated fantasy. Among other pipe dreams, these "Technocrats" promised that life in the metaverse would be more fulfilling and that an economy based in cryptocurrency would be more equitable. The reality, according to Taplin, is that tech products like crypto and social media only "preserv the status quo" in place since the 1980s--namely chaotic, unregulated free-market liberalism--under which the tech billionaires' wealth and power has grown. Moreover, Taplin writes, "the rise of social networks correlates with the metastasis of social distrust political polarization" that further entrenches the dominance of these technocrats. Taplin accuses political leaders of being either slow or unwilling to take what he sees as the obvious first steps forward, including breaking up Meta and putting the Securities and Exchange Commission in charge of cryptocurrency. Persuasive and insightful, this cutting portrait of America's slide toward oligarchy hits home. (Sept.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Film producer and scholar Taplin is far from a technophobe; he created the Internet's first video-on-demand service and led the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC. But he is concerned about certain current technological tendencies that he views as unhealthy. He says that concepts such as the metaverse, human colonization of Mars, cryptocurrency, and transhumanism are moral, political, and economic existential threats. This wide-ranging book focuses on four influential technology billionaires: Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marc Andreessen. The author argues that the four have adopted a mixture of libertarianism and "fascism," a term he uses expansively to seemingly include any right-wing authoritarianism, not just the ethno-nationalist totalitarianism that the word historically signifies. The book indicates the author's view that these four people encourage hyper-partisanship because it makes changes in the status quo--specifically, increased regulation of their businesses--less likely. The book recommends a reordering of the economy that is more ecologically oriented and decentralized. VERDICT A book that both critiques the business models of specific billionaires and calls for a regenerative economy. Best for readers wary of the metaverse.--Shmuel Ben-Gad

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