Second Thoughts on the Information Highway By Clifford Stoll Doubleday, , pages Clifford Stoll believes that too little attention has been given to the bogus claims and hidden costs of new information technologies. In this "free-form meditation" on the future of electronic networking, he offers what he considers a much-needed critical perspective on the "popular fictions" and "pernicious myths" about the on-line world. Among these are the notions that electronic networking will "oil the wheels of commerce"; that electronic voting and on-line public discourse will remedy the shortcomings of representative democracy; that interactive multimedia represents the educational medium of the future; that electronic communication will bring about a "literary revival"; that e-mail and networks are great places to meet people; that the Internet will foster a new culture of telecommuters; that electronic communication is virtually instantaneous; that there is a vast population on-line; and that new data storage techniques will make traditional libraries obsolete. Each of these ideas, Stoll writes, is based on either speculation or "a technocratic belief that computers and networks will make a better society. It is an over promoted, hollow world, devoid of warmth and human kindness.
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Shelves: essays , nonfiction An old book by Clifford Stoll on the perils of uncritical incorporation of online everything into our daily lives.
The Internet and online resources have changed a lot since this book was written, but the uncritical way we interact with it -- and with related networks -- remains the same.
Of course, Stoll writes in a long skeptical tradition, and he acknowledges it: "Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our An old book by Clifford Stoll on the perils of uncritical incorporation of online everything into our daily lives.
Of course, Stoll writes in a long skeptical tradition, and he acknowledges it: "Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end. We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.
Quoted at the start of chapter two. The quote is appropriate both for the attitude and for the dated technical reference -- magnetic telegraphs for Thoreau, 8-bit color depths for Stoll. The main snag is that this gets quite repetitive, so it would work better now as a chapter rather than a book, e. Most of his prophecies about computers were wrong, but I think he did accurately predict some future trends. And it was indeed interesting to see the insight the author had about the effect of and problems with the internet.
However, some of the problems he mentioned have been resolved, but I agree with him that there are a variety of ways in which computers are less efficient than paper.
Overall, the book was seemingly random in its organization, but an easy read, nonetheless. I particularly I was interested in this book because of its commentary on the internet from what is now 20 years in the past. I particularly enjoyed his commentary on the role of the internet in education, its effect on libraries, and the problems of maintaining records and compatibility over long spans of time.
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