The End of Reality: How Four Billionaires Are Selling a Fantasy Future of the Metaverse, Mars, and Crypto

PublicAffairs: Perseus. Sept. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9781541703155. $30. BUS
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.
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