Life in the Age of Electronics

Thinking Wired

Like it. Hate it. Like it. Hate it.

I like Wired because it is one of the few magazines out there that is optimistic about technology. Hate it because of its smarmy celebration of digital capitalism unleashed. Like it because it defends civil liberties and privacy and hackers. Hate it for its romper room economic libertarianism. Can't tell the copy from the ads. No conscience. Clever headlines. Interesting stories. Makes me feel out of touch, future shocked and over the hill. Like it. Hate it. Like it. Hate it.

In the new issue (February, 2003, will be on the Wired website in a couple of weeks):

-- More revolutionary new technology. Yawn. That's what it seems like, since new things keep coming, and coming fast. New tech becomes invisible because there's such a steady flood of it. But don't fall asleep yet, because each new advance strengthens the foundation for a new society based on abundance, antagonistic to property, and fully functioning on the basis of "to each according to need, from each according to ability."

For example: "smart pipe" that "could revolutionize how -- and where -- we get oil." (It's a new way to run data lines inside oil drilling rigs to help sniff out oil in hard to get places.) Or, "six ways nanotubes will change your life" (nanotubes are incredibly teeny cylinders of carbon molecules -- 50,000 times thinner than a human hair -- that are 100 times stronger than steel, and one-sixth the weight. Lighter and stronger means doing more with less.

-- And the consequences. The new Wired has a series of stories on "the fall of the music industry." Useful reading because it shows how utterly incompatible the new technologies are with capitalism. People want to share. The P2P file-sharing networks like Gnutella show that the notion of "intellectual property" is an un-human alien concept that needs to be pounded into people's heads with a billy club. We are hard-wired to share and help each other. The Wired articles clearly show, as Music and Revolution III (on this website) points out, "who needs a music industry?" More on "intellectual property" in a future column, but for now, let's just say that artists, musicians, writers, etc. could and should be supported by a public, community fund, and art made available, digitally, for free. (And after the music industry goes, next will be Hollywood, once cheap DVD burners are available.)

-- And the bad news. Articles on the High Tech Pentagon, plus DynGen Corp., which is in the forefront of the trend towards a privatized military, beyond the reach of normal government oversight. "Privatized firms are doing Washington's dirty work." Capitalism will not go quietly.

-- And an interesting column by Bruce Sterling critiquing "No Global" a large anti-globalization gathering in Europe (the comments apply to the U.S. as well). "Without a platform, No Global is all nodes and no server." The movement needs a program.

A network-form revolution needs both a vision and a program to keep those nodes moving forward towards a glorious future.

Jim Davis
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For current items, see my blog Networks and dialectics