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


Here for the first time in print is revealed the quintessential Aaron Swartz: besides being a technical genius and a passionate activist, he was also an insightful, compelling, and cutting essayist.


In his too-short life, Aaron Swartz reshaped the Internet, questioned our assumptions about intellectual property, and touched all of us in ways that we may not even realize. His tragic suicide in 2013 at the age of twenty-six after being aggressively prosecuted for copyright infringement shocked the nation and the world.

With a technical understanding of the Internet and of intellectual property law surpassing that of many seasoned professionals, he wrote thoughtfully and humorously about intellectual property, copyright, and the architecture of the Internet. He wrote as well about unexpected topics such as pop culture, politics both electoral and idealistic, dieting, and lifehacking. Including three in-depth and previously unpublished essays about education, governance, and cities, The Boy Who Could Change the World contains the life’s work of one of the most original minds of our time.

About Aaron Swartz

26-year-old Aaron Swartz was a tech whiz-kid and political activist devoted to a free and open internet. When he tried to ‘liberate’ data from an academic website, US authorities responded fiercely. He faced a fine of up to $1m and 35 years in jail. Then he took his own life.  You can read more here and watch The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, a film about his life and work here.

Quotes from the book

“a piece of knowledge, unlike a piece of physical property, can be shared by large groups of people without making anybody poorer.”


“The scary thing is that the more open our markets get, the faster people can move their money around and the more trading is based on this kind of speculation instead of serious analysis. And that’s scary because—recall—the whole point of the stock market is to decide the crucial question of what we, as a society, should build for the future. As Keynes says, “When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done.”


“The indoctrination centers (notably schools) weren’t doing their job properly and so a back-to-basics approach with more rote memorization of meaningless facts and less critical thinking and intellectual development was needed. This was mainly done under the guise of “accountability,” for both students and teachers.”


“Swartz left behind an impressive body of writing that still has the power to rally others… Clear, well read and sourced”
– Financial Times


“Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill, and intelligence about people and issues. I think he could have revolutionized American (and worldwide) politics. His legacy may still yet do so.”
– Cory Doctorow


“A kid genius … Aaron was not just, or even primarily, a computer geek. His defining feature was a constant struggle for what he believed was right.”
– Lawrence Lessig

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