Rossini, Patricia. Review of Pax Technica by Philip N. Howard. Journal of Communication 67(3). (2017): E4-5. DOI: 10.1111/jcom.12303.
What are the political, social, and economic consequences of the ever-growing number of devices connected to the Internet—from computers and cellphones to refrigerators and heating systems—that increasingly surround our everyday lives? This is one of the questions addressed by Phillip Howard in Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up. Departing from a historical perspective of prior eras of stability—the Pax Romana, Pax Britannica, and Pax Americana—Howard coins the concept of Pax technica to represent the current state of global affairs—an empire in which no single country is the sovereign leader and in which political power resides in information technologies and infrastructure. The Pax technica is described as a “political, economic, and cultural arrangement of social institutions and networked devices in which government and industry are tightly bound in mutual defense pacts, design collaboration, standards settings, and data mining” (2017, p. 145). In this new state of affairs, political power is granted to those who control the largest device networks and are able to collect (and analyze) the largest number of relationships between people and their devices. In this context, governments must work closely with technology companies who control the mobile and broadcasting spectrum. This collaboration, however, does not mean that the public and the private sector are aligned: As Howard correctly analyzes, governments and the industry find ways of collaborating to advance their agendas, which does not mean that their relationship is free of conflict or controversy.