Quotes from the book
From chapter "Digital Child Abuse"
"What is a ten year old kid to do against digitally mediated assault by
a hundred billion dollar corporation - when a school throws them into
a network that is much too big and hostile, the digital equivalent of
being abandoned on the streets of New York City?"
From chapter "Technology 3.0: Taking Back Tech"
"Wouldn't it be better if instead of inflicting a profoundly
dysfunctional model of life upon 7 billion inhabitants of Earth, the
few Silicon Valley `thought leaders' got themselves some good therapy?"
From chapter "Our Technological Addiction"
"Democratic power once hinged on coordination of
labour. Today it requires coordination of attention."
From chapter "The Security Game"
"Insecurity is the end goal for those who threaten your security in
order to 'protect' you, or deliberately cultivate your dependency for
their own gain. Factitious Disorder, or 'Munchhausen by Proxy', is
hurting people as a way to be able to 'help' them. Eve Ensler longs
for the basic right to feel insecure, like a normal human being should
when living in reality, and not have a bunch of psychology and
security experts try explaining that away, or offer hollow assurances.
Security as an imposition is most often really about the insecurity of
those who offer it."
More detailed description
What's a Digital Vegan?
A Digital Vegan takes care of their mental health, privacy and
dignity by making better technology choices. The devices, apps and
media we consume can have negative effects on us and others. Badly
designed gadgets and services from Big-Tech monopolies damage our
environment and society. How do we avoid contributing to toxic
e-waste, surveillance, and inequality?
Computer scientist Andy Farnell explains how balance between
online and real life can be achieved using the allegory of digital
diet. Toxicity, addiction, consumption and exploitation are not
just food issues.
Snowden's 2013 revelations were just the beginning of what is now
an almost decade-long cavalcade of security and privacy scandals.
Scientific evidence that over-connection and surveillance is
psychologically damaging is now indisputable. As awareness grows
under banners like "tech minimalism", Andy Farnell takes a more
comprehensive approach, appropriating a term first coined by Cody
Brown. It is the perspective of a technological "Epicurean". As
someone who built computers from microprocessors as a child in the
1970s, and has been immersed in computing and electronics for 50
years, his view that we can no longer tell good technology from
bad, and that much of it is "junk-food" foisted upon us by
aggressive, wasteful businesses is gaining wide recognition.
Our society is on the cusp of amazingly positive transformation
through data science, machine learning and digital
communication. Yet that same change has profoundly dark sides. We
are not passive observers. We can decide how our digital society is
built, and what human values are not up for sale.
Many people are burned out by mobile phones and social media and
want to get out. Despots and giant corporations have positioned
themselves to track and micromanage our lives. Complexity is
spiralling out of control, while disguising itself as "convenience
and simplicity". Our attention, memory and mental health are at risk
from ubiquitous smart devices. Even the fundamental resilience of
our society, education, supply chains and diversity of ideas are at
As Internet connected surveillance gadgets invade our homes
under the pretext of "convenience", "telemetery" and "big data
efficiency", society is experiencing a chilling effect that Tijmen
Schep called "social cooling". Voices vital to our democracy and
innovation are being silenced online. A few giant tech monopolies
own and run everything, and post-pandemic, conformist workplace
culture is intruding into our home lives - rebranded as Big-Tech
infrastructure. Even our governments are being outsourced to
"algorithms". What went wrong, and how can we fix it? Farnell
challenges us to "take back tech".
Can we re-humanise? Can we build equitable, sustainable systems that
serve people? Or are we sliding inevitably into a dystopia? Is such
dehumanising dependency on gadgets and technological monopoly even
necessary? Or can we reclaim a distributed, people-owned Internet
and information age like the one we were promised? Why are privacy,
dignity and personal cyber-security in such an awful state today?
Digital Vegan explores and builds on the writings of tech minimalists
and social media sceptics including Cal Newport, Zeynep Tufekci,
Nicholas Carr, Jaron Lanier and Nir Eyal; academic writers like Neil
Postman, Jacques Ellul and Lewis Mumford, and thinkers from
Aristotle to Freud, Nietzsche and Heidegger whose commentary on
technology is scintillating, vital, and completely forgotten today.
Dr. Farnell writes in an accessible and direct way on complex
issues and invites you to change the way you think about subjects
with a warm but provocative style. After reading Digital Vegan you
might start to think about how we educate new generations in digital
self-defence? You may start to question entrenched mythologies and
misleading narratives about our digital world. Isn't an idea like
"National Security" no more than the sum-total of individual earned
securities based on good judgement? Doesn't that judgement begin
with rejecting obviously hostile technologies, from sources foreign
and domestic? Tough questions and tough challenges remain. What can
we do about the problems of e-waste and designed obsolescence? How
do we stop amplifying malevolent power and undermining democracy?
Digital Vegan comprises fifty short chapters suitable for daily
reading. Its 211 pages of carefully referenced prose include 150
bibliographic sources spanning a period from classical Greece to
current scientific papers.