TECHNOMANIFESTOS
   

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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, in book and online form, 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, they chart a fascinating course through the history of ideas in the latter half of the twentieth century.

The book explores 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. This book places technological advances into broader social and political contexts, tracing their impact on work, education, law, and media.

The online network illuminates the intersections of technology and society, computers and culture, information and meaning. This living resource, distributable under the GNU Free Documentation License, allows anyone to link between the people, events, and ideas of our times. It complements and expands on the book.

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.

Adam Brate (ab@adambrate.com)

March 24, 2006

2:16 PM: The Open Source Metaverse Project aims to make Neal Stephenson's Metaverse of Snow Crash a reality by allowing people to move as seamlessly as possible between their avatars in different MMORPGs. The project presently focuses on the open-ended MMORPGs (or "metaverses") of Second Life, There and ActiveWorlds.

9:46 AM: Painful. This is what poses as responsible journalism these days:

Perhaps most important, many scientists say, is that there is no rational explanation for how this kind of prayer might work.

"There's nothing we know about the physical universe that could account for how the prayers of someone in Washington, D.C., could influence the health of a group of people in Iowa -- nothing whatsoever," Richard Sloan, a behavioral researcher at Columbia University, said.

But supporters say that much about medicine remains murky or is explained only over time. They say, for example, that it was relatively recently that scientists figured out how aspirin works, although it has been in use for centuries.

"Yesterday's science fiction often becomes tomorrow's science," said John A. Astin of the California Pacific Medical Center.

Proponents often cite a phenomenon from quantum physics, in which distant particles can affect each other's behavior in mysterious ways.

"When quantum physics was emerging, Einstein wrote about spooky interactions between particles at a distance," Mitchell W. Krucoff of Duke University said. "That's at least one very theoretical model that might support notions of distant prayer or distant healing."

March 20, 2006

2:33 PM: Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing is a remarkable documentary short about ARPANET made in its early years, featuring nearly all of the crucial players, including F.J. Corbato, J.C.R. Licklider, Larry Roberts, Robert Kahn, Frank Heart. Bob Kahn gives a graceful blackboard presentation of the store-and-forward network.

February 1, 2006

10:50 PM: Two links to peruse: in the vein of the GNU Manifesto and Transparent Society, a great article at Wired about the connection between constitutional law and secure computer system design; and in the vein of Understanding Media, the introduction to Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death twenty years later.

February 28, 2005

11:12 AM: "The Origins of Cyperspace": Last week Christie's auctioned off many of the original technomanifestos, including C.E. Shannon's "A symbolic analysis of relay and switching circuits", Turing's On computable numbers, Wiener's Cybernetics, and Eckert and Mauchley's "Outline of plans for development of electronic computers".

11:07 AM: Macintosh creator Jef Raskin died this weekend of pancreatic cancer. He provided great help on the Book.

August 16, 2004

5:18 PM: Today John Gilmore, founder of EFF, files his second-round lawsuit against the U.S. government over not being allowed to fly without showing identification -- a requirement, it now seems, was codified in a secret executive directive.

July 29, 2004

8:43 AM: A conversation at the blogger party hosted by the DCCC during the 2004 Democratic National Convention began like this:

...talking about problems with the law for free culture...

me: Do you know how long the copyright term is? Life plus 75 years.

man in suit: It's life plus 70.

me: I'm pretty sure it's life plus 75.

suit: Want to bet the clothes you're wearing?

me: I guess you must be an IP lawyer.

suit: I'm not just an IP lawyer. I wrote the DMCA.

The ensuing conversation was very interesting, with us each arguing our point of view--he used the anti-lockpicking analogy and talked about all the jobs lost at Universal Music in recent years, I discussed how 2600 Magazine (whose conference I recently attended) gives the kind of creative freedom and hope to kids that allow them 10, 20 years around to be this country's engineers, IT executives, and scientists instead of the next Dylan Kliebold.

We were coming from starkly differing ideological perspectives, so there wasn't much middle ground in our conversation, but he certainly was personable. I tried to be polite, but I did close the conversation with the line, "You have done a great disservice to your country." He's the anti-Lessig.

By the way, his website is www.justinhughes.net .

July 19, 2004

6:22 PM: Frank Rich gives a brilliant and scathing analysis of today's corporate mediascape, using Will Ferrell's puerilely hilarious Anchorman as a starting point. He discusses Anchorman's subject of the "newsonality", the blithely chipper and useless TV anchor.
If each generation gets the Hollywood treatment of TV journalism that it deserves, then "Anchorman," however hit-and-miss its humor, is our "Network" and "Broadcast News." ..."Anchorman" gets its history right: this toxic element was first injected into the media bloodstream by innovations in local news at the dawn of the 70's. One of its earliest sightings was in New York, where Al Primo, a news director at WABC, brought Eyewitness News in late 1968. Looked at today at the Museum of Television and Radio, the early on-air promos for this then-novel brand of news are revelatory of what was to come and even funnier than the parodies of them in "Anchorman."

June 1, 2004

7:19 AM: The NotCon '04--"an informal, low-cost, one-day conference on things that technologies were perhaps not intended to do"-- is this Sunday at the Imperial College Union. Topics highlighted include copyright, politics, hardware, geolocation, mashups, social software, blogging, peer-to-peer, and business.

 

The Book

Technomanifestos
by Adam Brate
TEXERE June 2002
Purchase now

What People Have Said

Table of Contents
Introduction
Acknowledgments
Bibliography

Frontier

Norbert Wiener
Vannevar Bush
Alan Turing
John von Neumann

Revolution

J.C.R. Licklider
Douglas Engelbart
Seymour Papert
Marvin Minsky
Alan C. Kay

Power

Marshall McLuhan
Abbie Hoffman
Ted Nelson
Tim Berners-Lee
Richard M. Stallman
Larry Wall
Eric S. Raymond
Lawrence Lessig

Symbiosis

K. Eric Drexler
Jaron Lanier
Bill Joy

The Author

Adam Brate
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