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This event took place on Tuesday 7 March. You can watch the recording below.

In this Nesta talks to… author and tech expert Ben Tarnoff was joined by Laurie Smith, Head of Foresight Research for Nesta’s Discovery Hub, to discuss the future of the internet.

In his book Internet for the People: The Fight for Our Digital Future, Ben explores the internet from a historical perspective, focusing on the privatisation of the internet over time.

But what exactly are the consequences and issues caused by the privatisation of the internet? Ben and Laurie discussed how the market and profit-oriented structure of the internet creates inequalities. Depending on the company and sector, these inequalities manifest in different ways: in the case of Uber, for instance, low wage levels of drivers generate social and economic inequalities. Facebook, on the other hand, provides unequal access to (and distribution of) information.

In terms of potential solutions, Ben pointed out that there are existing alternatives to the privatised internet that require practical action and creative approaches. One way to reimagine the internet might be to create community-based municipal or regional models, allowing citizens to cooperate with software developers and other specialists to shape their own vision of the internet. The moderation of content should build on democratic processes rather than being governed by a single person or company.

Ultimately, the internet and any other technology can improve peoples’ lives if driven by a shared vision. Internet for the People: The Fight for Our Digital Future challenges the current paradigms of the private internet and stresses the importance of the public sector in the process of developing creative alternatives.

The opinions expressed in this event recording are those of the speaker. For more information, view our full statement on external contributors.



Ben Tarnoff


Ben Tarnoff is a writer who works in the tech industry. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The New York Review of Books, among other places, and his most recent book is Internet for the People: The Fight for Our Digital Future, which was published by Verso in June 2022. He is also a co-founder of Logic magazine.


Laurie Smith


Laurie oversees much of the organisation's research into emerging trends, novel technologies and promising interventions. Laurie works at Nesta's Discovery Hub, which embeds strategic foresight at the heart of the organisation and helps test high-potential ideas before applying them in our programmes.