I can see where the despair comes from. Jonathan Franzen is honestly lost when it comes to the issue of whether or not we should even have an Internet. He doesn't care for the technology or the philosophy that goes into it. And he has correctly identified what is happening during our modern phase of being in the thrall of the robber barons. The problem is, he's just not that interested in looking at this from the perspective of someone who studies the Humanities.
This is not a question of technology; it's a question of ethics and regulation. The government needs to correct the direction of capitalism. The technology we use today has no bearing on the discussion of how much the robber barons should restrained and whether or not we're going to guarantee workers some basic rights. The Internet, in many cases, helps educate people about how they're getting fucked over. Once people know they're getting fucked over, the technology is irrelevant. The laws and the ethics of the people fucking them over is what matters.
Everything Franzen cites above is a Humanities problem. How do we reconcile technology and society? How can we have jobs that pay living wages, careers that guide people through the phases of their life, and alleviate the shock of obsolescence? How do we wrestle with this without overreacting? Calling for the Internet to be regulated is the classical overreaction. Good luck with that.
Over a hundred years ago, buggy whip makers and wagon assemblers were rendered obsolete by the invention of the automobile. Those people had to go find something else to do. Their modern counterparts are faced with the same situation, one that is no less more brutal. Where they land will test the ethical positions of our collective governance. Hating people is inherently unethical and yet, in tribal America, we live with the attitude of you're fucked if you're not me because I want the government to take care of me and screw you at the same time. You're not allowed to complain because I have always had it harder than you. All of that is bullshit. We have to exit the era of the modern robber baron.
And that's why Franzen is wrong. Or is that illegal to point out?