New Delhi, Penguin Random House India announces the acquisition of Nandan Nilekani and Tanuj Bhojwani’s new book The Art of Bitfulness: Keeping Sane in the Digital World. The book is a must-have practical guide on taking back control of our own lives from the Internet. The book will be published under the Allen Lane imprint in April 2021.
Other than future pandemics and climate change, there is another existential crisis humanity must tackle—the Internet. While the authors are great believers in technology for societal good and the positive digital transformation of enterprises, they are troubled by some of the internet’s current manifestations. From its hold on our attention to its effects on our elections, the internet is upending the way we do everything. This third crisis combines the worst aspects of the other two—it grows exponentially, while its effects are pernicious and imperceptibly slow. In its current form, the internet threatens to bring surveillance risks, polarize societies, and even fracture relationships in our private sphere.
COVID-19 has only accelerated the adoption of digital everywhere. Today, we are living in a world where three-year-olds attend school on Zoom and a grandmother meets her only grandchild virtually. From office meetings to weddings, everything is happening online. While there are efforts underway to better regulate the Internet, these efforts are slow-moving. They are unlikely to provide immediate relief to the daily anxieties of our always-connected personal lives. What can an individual do in such a scenario?
The pandemic has imposed on us some basic guidelines like washing our hands, wearing a mask, and maintaining social distance. Climate change, too, makes us adopt certain practices for our benefit, such as conserving water and using solar energy. It is high time that the Internet too had a set of basic rules that we could follow to ensure that the digital space does not compromise our safety or sanity.
Nandan Nilekani says, ‘We can learn to engage with the internet in a way that is thoughtful, enriching and safe. You can carve a space for being yourself, without becoming the product. To not be overwhelmed in a world that prizes “hacking” attention, one needs to be mindful about the data one absorbs, and mindful about the data one emits. We call this deliberate engagement with technology, Bitfulness.’–Nandan Nilekani
The primary experience for most people on the internet today is that of feeling utterly overwhelmed. We are glued to our phones and computers and cannot seem to look away. Very few of us can honestly say we know how to thrive in this new, noisy normal. This book acts as a personal guide that will enable us to do so.
Tanuj Bhojwani says, ‘We understand that, for most people, entirely disconnecting is impossible. Instead of railing against social media, we show you privacy strategies that let you be yourself online and simultaneously undercut their constant need for your attention. Bitfulness, like mindfulness, requires a modicum of self-awareness, and an initial investment of time. We focus on principles and techniques that help you set your own boundaries effectively. With practice, the result is a calmer, more meaningful experience on the internet on your own terms.’
We have heard that on the internet, we are the product. But do we really understand how we are processed, packaged, and sold? The authors help us understand how exactly convenience weaponizes our human instincts against our own economic and mental well-being. Rather than merely raising alarm, the authors propose perennial principles to help maintain equanimity in our digital life.
Commenting on the book, Meru Gokhale, Publisher, The Penguin Press Group, says, ‘The Art of Bitfulness is exactly the book we need right now. It goes to the core of the anxieties and conversations at the heart of the Indian digital experience. It will change your relationship with the internet.’
About the author
Nandan Nilekani is the co-founder and chairman of Infosys Technologies. He is also the Co-founder and Chairman of EkStep, a not-for-profit effort to create a technology-based platform to improve basic literacy and numeracy for millions of children. He was most recently the chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in the rank of a Cabinet Minister. His earlier books with Penguin Random House India include the bestseller Imagining India (2008), Rebooting India (2015) with Viral Shah.
Tanuj Bhojwani is a Fellow at iSPIRT Foundation. He works on architecting and implementing foundational digital infrastructure for India. His primary research areas are financial inclusion and data privacy. Most recently, he helped the design of an air-traffic management platform for commercial drones. Currently, he’s working on LokOS – a collection of open technologies that brings women self-help groups into the formal financial system.