From Airbnb to city bikes, the ‘sharing economy’ has been seized by big money by Evgeny Morozov

Of all the ideologies spawned by Silicon Valley, that of techno-populism – the making of empty promises on the basis of seismic digital disruption – is the strangest. Promising a world of immediate and painless personal empowerment, techno-populism is ambiguous enough to unite big tech firms, startups, cryptocurrency aficionados and even some political parties.

The history is murky, but we do know the date when it went mainstream. It can be traced to Time magazine’s selection, in 2006, of “You” – the millions of ordinary people behind the user-generated web of the 2000s – as its Person of the Year. That choice ingrained techno-populist themes deep into our collective unconscious.

While actual contributors to sites such as Wikipedia or Flickr were relatively few, the celebration of them delayed and deflected questions about corporate power and the durability of the emerging digital utopia. Just a few years later, that utopia was no more: highly centralised and dominated by a handful of platforms, the web was a shadow of its former eccentric self.

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