cover image The Boy Who Could Change the World: The Writings of Aaron Swartz

The Boy Who Could Change the World: The Writings of Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz. New Press, $17.95 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-62097-066-9

This thought-provoking collection of essays, lectures, and blog posts by the late Swartz, an Internet “hacktivist” and computer programmer who took his own life in 2013, shares his thoughts about a number of topics, covering everything from the inner workings of Wikipedia to the dirty secrets of political maneuvering. Selections have been arranged by theme: politics, media, books and culture, computers, free culture, and unschool (a subset of homeschooling). Swartz’s writings are passionate, intelligent, and esoteric, representing a depth of knowledge and wide variety of interests, but the level of accessibility ranges considerably, from the beginner-level introduction to some intensely technical and niche pieces. Swartz’s activism “went hand in hand with a deep commitment to the intellect and to figuring out the world through argument,” writes Henry Farrell, a professor of political science at George Washington University, in a postscript to the politics section; the selections contained throughout, written over the course of a decade, represent an intellect in a constant state of change and growth. Reading some of these essays is like peeking at the secret history of the modern Internet and having the curtain pulled back in the political arena; some topics may be dated, but there’s still value in Swartz’s thoughts and explorations. [em](Jan.) [/em]