Category Archives: Books

The Internet As a Market: Al Gore and Reasoned Discourse

al-gore.jpg So I’ve been wondering what to say about Al Gore’s book, The Assault on Reason. A story in The Economist helped me out. After lauding Gore for calling Mr. Bush’s risky schemes well before most people, for denouncing the invasion of Iraq back in 2002, for his Oscar, and for being “the man who changed the climate of opinion climate change”, it then ridicules the book’s core thesis:
But he does not stop there. He worries about America’s money-saturated politics. He lambasts television for infantilising the electorate.

He sometimes comes across as eccentric—as when he lambasts television for killing public discourse, then celebrates the internet as its potential saviour. A few minutes online, reading the zealots on either the right or the left, should have been enough to explode that illusion.

Gore in the balance, From The Economist print edition, May 31st 2007

That last would appear to be the sort of trivialized, perhaps even infantilized, reaction Gore is lamenting. The big advantage of the Internet is you get not just a few zealots at extreme ends of an arbitrary spectrum: you get all the shadings and colors and depth you can absorb. And you can weave your own strands in this home-made tapestry. Continue reading


tv451.jpg Ray Bradbury didn’t go collect his Pulitzer special citation because winners aren’t permitted to say anything, so he created a press event instead:
He says the culprit in Fahrenheit 451 is not the state — it is the people. Unlike Orwell’s 1984, in which the government uses television screens to indoctrinate citizens, Bradbury envisioned television as an opiate. In the book, Bradbury refers to televisions as “walls” and its actors as “family,” a truth evident to anyone who has heard a recap of network shows in which a fan refers to the characters by first name, as if they were relatives or friends.

Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted, L.A.’s august Pulitzer honoree says it was never about censorship, By Amy E. Boyle Johnston, Wednesday, May 30, 2007 – 7:00 pm

Yet the state, or politicians, can leverage that opiate for their ends just as well, perhaps even better, than if the government sold the drug directly. Continue reading

Exogenous Technological Change

Here’s a good backgrounder video on where the Internet came from and where it may be going: Humanity Lobotomy. See especially the part by Larry Lessig about how printing presses in the early days cost about $10,000 in 2007 dollars, and lots of people had one and published books and pamphlets.

What did the telephone companies have to do with inventing the Internet?
The browser?
The World Wide Web?
What have they had to do with the Internet from the beginning of time?

–Bob Kahn

What did they invent? Continue reading