Summary of The Boy Who Could Change the World

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The Boy Who Could Change the World book summary

Editorial Rating



  • Controversial
  • Innovative


Aaron Swartz, who died in 2013 at 26 of suicide, was a “hacktivist,” a programmer, a political thinker and a center of controversy. Even as such a young man, Swartz was a significant figure as founder of Demand Progress, which advocates Internet freedom, and part of building Creative Commons. As a teen, he helped create RSS software, crucial to sharing data online. And he contributed to developing Reddit. He was embroiled in daunting criminal charges for downloading millions of articles from an academic database in order to share them online. His writing is clear, lively, informed and sometimes contentious. His thoughts on politics, his distinctive accounts of important historical trends and his ideas about the use of information have continuing influence. getAbstract recommends Swartz’s autobiography, opinions and sometimes fascinating insights to anyone interested in computing, cyberculture, politics or personal liberty.

About the Author

Founder of Demand Progress, the late Aaron Swartz developed the site, contributed to the development of Creative Commons and was co-author of the RSS 1.0 specification. Demand Progress supports “Internet freedom, civil liberties, transparency and human rights.”


The Internet Lets People Interact in New Ways: Take Wikipedia

Some people say downloading is stealing. But it’s not. Theft is wrong. But when you download something, you don’t steal it. If you steal a physical object, it’s gone. No one else can have it or use it. If you download a song, the song is still there. Someone else can hear it if they want to. The real questions are: What is ethical? And, what is the best way to handle new technological developments? Everyone should have free access to information. Ideas can’t be property.

Consider Wikipedia. Its “mass collaboration” would have been impossible before the Internet. People misunderstand Wikipedia. They tend to give credit to a small number of contributors and not to everyone who contributes. This misunderstanding could cripple the enterprise by modifying access to serve the few rather than the many. Wikipedia’s openness can generate inaccurate or vandalized entries, but that openness is central to it. Volunteers who do the writing and the administrators who handle the code disagree about where Wikipedia needs to go next.

People use Wikipedia as a model and support starting similar projects. For example...

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