... a welcome arrival on the scene ... unlike the many other works which critique, say, machine learning technology on the grounds of racial or gender bias or its environmental impact, Susskind raises the deeper question of why such powerful discriminatory technologies can be deployed at all. Why are democracies so cowed by digital technology that almost anything goes? ... it may sound like a to-do list for policy wonks, but Susskind’s gift for exposition means that the reader rarely loses the will to live as they head towards the (vast) bibliography. It also helps that he has a knack for the telling phrase ... really, the most refreshing thing about this fine book is its ideological stance. The reason why most current attempts to rein in tech power are doomed is because its critics implicitly accept its legitimacy rather than being outraged by its arrogant effrontery. That’s because they’ve been drinking the neoliberal Kool-Aid for nearly half a century. Ideology, after all, is what determines how you think when you don’t know you’re thinking. It’s time for a change, and The Digital Republic is a good place to start.
Susskind’s remarkably comprehensive book explores the challenges new digital technologies create, asking what the power and potential of digital systems means for human liberty, democracy, justice, and politics. Most importantly, he argues that the political ideas we have held for centuries are ill-equipped to respond to the challenges posed by current and future technological innovations ... Susskind underappreciates how, in many ways, today’s tech behemoths enjoy portraying themselves as playing an indispensable civic role ... while acknowledging that 'the digital is political' might be an important step in reining in tech’s power, we might go too far by buying into the concept of tech companies as non-traditional economic actors.
... offers a blueprint for the regulation of digital technology...It is an ambitious goal, and the book suffers from the scale of the task it sets itself. Since technology is now intertwined with just about every aspect of society, it is hard to get a grip on what exactly the object of this regulation is, other than, well, everything. Consequently, for a book that seeks to address systemic problems, The Digital Republic has a rather piecemeal and slippery quality which makes it hard for the reader to get a grip on it ... It is stuffed to the gills with information ... There are 39 short chapters, some of which seem to end before they get going and it’s not always clear how they connect to each other. As a software designer might put it, the book’s UX is less than optimal ... I’m not sure Susskind gives enough weight to the downside of regulation. It risks entrenching corporate power and hindering start-ups, since only big companies can afford to hire the number of compliance officers required to deal with it ... When Susskind addresses a specific topic in depth, his analysis and recommendations are worth taking seriously.