Every revolution has its manifestos. The Information Revolution has the Technomanifestos. From cybernetics to the Internet, we are in the grips of a knowledge revolution. It has already reshaped education, business, politics, and culture. Technomanifestos is the story of the Information Revolution as imagined in the writings of "techno-humanitarians"—engineers, programmers, computer scientists, and activists dealing with the intersection of technology and society. They see a future in which computers help humankind strengthen democratic values.
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The Information Revolution is changing our world in myriad ways. But is it a change for the better? Will advances in computer technology strengthen democratic values or destroy them? Enhance personal freedom or enslave us? Solve the world's problems or create new ones?
Technomanifestos sets out to answer these questions by investigating the primary sources-the seminal but seldom-read texts that form the philosophical foundation of the Digital Age. From artificial intelligence to nanotechnology, cybernetics to the World Wide Web, it charts a fascinating course through the history of ideas in the latter half of the twentieth century.
I explore the triumphs and tragedies of such visionaries as Norbert Wiener, Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson, Richard Stallman, and K. Eric Drexler. They emerge as a lively group of radical thinkers, deeply committed to civil liberties, personal empowerment, and participatory democracy.
With an eye on the telling detail, I illuminate the intersections of technology and society, computers and culture, information and meaning. This book places technological advances into broader social and political contexts, tracing their impact on work?, education, law, and media.
Technomanifestos is a survey of the crucial concepts that shape our world. Taken together, the manifestos don't just show us how we got here; they also point the way forward. And the future, as we all must realize, is ours to build or destroy.
Ideas are strange and magical. We can share an idea with someone else as easily as handing over a jacket. If two people share the jacket, only one of them can wear it at a time unless they rip it in half, rendering it useless. Unless both are the same size, it will fit only one of them well. When two people share an idea, however, they both can enjoy full use of it at all times. The idea shapes itself to fit each person. And it will never wear out; rather, the more a good idea is used and shared, the better it gets. People can learn, teach, and collaborate with ideas. No one can learn a jacket. Ideas inhabit the mental world; jackets inhabit the physical.
The Information Revolution is bringing the mental and physical worlds together. Not long ago, the primary way to store an idea outside the mind was in a book; now, it can be stored electronically with infinite variation. Marshall McLuhan recognized how profound the disjunction from the Gutenberg age to the electronic age would be, just by observing the changes wrought by the first electronic media: the telegraph, light bulb, radio, television. They only presaged the arrival of the networked computer, the ultimate medium of ideas.
With computers, ideas are encoded as software, the “code.” The code inhabits the physical world, stored on punch cards, magnetic tape, a memory chip, a floppy disk, a CD. It could even be stored within the threads of a jacket. Software is both idea and object, mental and physical. The institutions of the Industrial Revolution, built around mastery of the physical world, treat software as if it were no different from a jacket. Individuals have been able to see the difference, but for their insight to matter to society, all the institutions must adapt.