Review: Republic.com

5 Star, Civil Society, Culture, Research, Democracy

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars 21st Century Primer for Cyber-Constitution,

April 8, 2001
Cass Sunstein
Every page offers up elegant thoughtful, *relevant* ideas that connect people, technology, and their government in dramatic useful ways.Core ideas explored by the book include the difference between populism and deliberative accountable judgment; the relationship between free speech and social well-being; the vital importance of being exposed to diverse opinion, not just similar opinions; the danger of cyber-cascade information, a form of Hitler-esque propaganda with malicious effect; the true potential (unlikely to be achieved at this point) of the Internet if managed in keeping with the original Constitutional understanding of the role of education and free speech); the absurdity of the notion of free speech as an absolute [on this see my review of Roger Shattuck’s Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography, St. Martin’s Press, 1996]; the importance of thoughtful regulation; and the destructive effects of market pressures on both culture and government.

This is important helpful legal opinion that is clearly “tuned in” to modern information technology and all its dangers as well as its potential. This book is designed for the citizen-reader worried about the future of the Republic. It is both easy to read and necessary to read–a very articulate and comprehensive starting point for devising new law appropriate to the 21st century. I recall Mike Nelson, the author assistant to then Senator Gore in the crafting of the National Information Infrastructure legislature, talking about the frustration of trying to manage 1990’s technology with 1950’s law. This book, and its author, represent the first decent intelligent brief I have seen connecting the first principles of our Constitution and our Supreme Court interpretations, with the realities of this century’s information technology and the threat of chaos in cyberspace.

Gems abound. From the author’s deep understanding of the dangers of undocumented computer code that contains pre-planned censorship and routing and privacy violation hooks, to his understanding of the need for diversity filters that expose one to contrasting viewpoints, to his discussion of emerging solutions from deliberative opinion polling (includes intelligence) to constructive URL linkages to the dangers of .coms over-whelming .orgs and .edus, this book is the best single lecture in the literature I have read in the past ten years–certainly important to the future of democracy in an electronic age.

The author concludes with a discussion of six reform possibilities, including deliberative domains; required disclosure by communications firms; voluntary self-regulation; economic subsidies for democracy-beneficial content and websites; “must carry” rules on *popular* websites (one might include pornographic websites) in the form of links designed to nurture exposure to substantive questions; and “must carry” rules on divisive highly-partisan websites in the form of links to contrasting views.

The book includes excellent biographical notes suggesting other readings, has strong and interesting footnotes, and a good index. This is an intelligent, moral, civic book.

The author renders us all a major service in bringing forth our foundational thinking–Mill on the importance of humans being exposed to the diversity of the human experience; Dewey on the infantile state of social knowledge, Brandeis on how public discussion is a political duty and that the greatest menace to liberty is an inert people–examining the current and projected legal and moral and social Internet and information trends–and suggesting how good law might yet lead to good results.

At 202 pages, pocketbook size despite its hard cover, this is a well-developed contribution to the great conversation that should be owned and read by anyone who cares to speculate on the future of the Republic. Seriously powerful stuff–and an ideal gift to include when you write a check to your elected representatives.

Vote on Review
Vote on Review

Review: The Cultural Creatives–How 50 Million People Are Changing the World

5 Star, Civil Society, Culture, Research, Democracy

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Not Yet a Movement, But Showing Serious Potential,

March 18, 2001
Paul H. Ray Ph.D.
Edit of 11 Sep 08 to add links.

This book should be read together with Imagine: What America Could be in the 21st century, edited by Marianne Williamson. Taken together, the two books are inspirational while still being practical.

Cultural Creatives as a book, and some of the other reviews, tend to over-sell the success of the emergence of an alternative lifestyle to Traditionalists (stereotyped as somewhat red neckish and religious rightists) and Moderns (stereotyped as ravish the earth anything-goes corporate carpetbaggers). The reality is that there are as many “cultural creatives” as there are people with disabilities in the United States–50 million. Not one quarter of the population, as one reviewer claims.

Having said that, by way of somber stage-setting, I cannot say enough good things about this book. It should be required reading for every citizen, every student, and every public official. In a very real sense, this book strikes me as a truly seminal work that could help millions of individuals reframe their personal connection to one another, to their Republic, and to the earth.

This is neither a tree-hugger book nor a mantras R us book. This book provides a thoughtful review of how different movements–first the environmental movement, then the human rights movement, and finally the consciousness movement–have come together to define an alternative lifestyle and alternative paradigm for political and economic and social relationships in the larger context of a sustainable “whole” earth.

I found this book motivational and meaningful at both a personal level and a larger national level. At the personal level, its detailed and well-organized description of fifteen very distinct aspects of a “cultural creative” lifestyle helped me understand–as it has helped many others–that there is actually a category of people who have come to grips with and found solutions that enrich their lives–and this explains my great disappointment that the book does not offer a “resources” section at the end. I would have been very glad to discover, for example, a “Cultural Creative” journal or magazine that combined a strong book review section, art and culture, a consumer reports section tailored to the higher standards of the “CCs”, new innovations in home restoration and remodeling, vacation options known to be attractive to CCs, etcetera.

At the higher political level, I found the book constructive and just this side of a tipping point. An increasing number of people, all of them generally outside of Washington and not associated with Wall Street, clearly have some strong positive values and a real commitment to achieving reform through “many small actions”. What this group has lacked is a means of communicating and orchestrating itself on a scale sufficient to demand respect from politicians and corporation. The Internet now provides such a vehicle–and as the Internet explodes from 3.5M people worldwide to 3.5B people worldwide, in the next ten years, I am convinced that Cultural Creatives may finally come into their own as a new form of global political party. Cultural Creatives would sign the Kyoto Treaty (and know what it is); Cultural Creatives would demand a 100% increase–from a half-penny a dollar to a full penny a dollar–in America’s foreign diplomatic and humanitarian assistance budget–and Cultural Creatives could conceivably give the Republican Party a real beating in the next Congressional elections if President Bush persists in breaking his campaign vow on reducing carbon emissions. A peaceful revolution in our national agenda may truly be a near-term reality.

This is not a book where a summary can do it justice. It needs to be experienced at an individual level and ideally also at a community level, where it could be understood and accepted as a common point of reference for individual choosing to live “in relation” to one another and to the world, at a level much higher and more satisfying than our current arrangements. When this book makes it to the best-seller list, America will have matured and there will be hope for our children’s future quality of life.

Other books along these lines:
The leadership of civilization building: Administrative and civilization theory, symbolic dialogue, and citizen skills for the 21st century
How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Updated Edition
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
Society’s Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration
Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace (Helix Books)
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

Vote on Review
Vote on Review

Review: Imagine–What America Could Be in the 21st Century

5 Star, Civil Society, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Democracy, Future, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Vastly More Practical (and Political) Than Title Suggests,

March 18, 2001
Marianne Williamson

I almost did not buy this book, and I say that because an awful lot of really smart folks might be inclined to turn away on the basis of the title and the possibility that this is a fairy tale wishful-thinking la la land kind of book. It is not. It is practical (and political), it is enriching, and it is over-all a very high quality endeavor that has been well executed.

Four “great truths” are articulated many times over across the various readings, and they merit listing here:

1) Campaign finance reform is the absolute non-negotiable first step that must precede every other reform. Until the people can reassert their great common sense for the common good, and restore the true democratic tradition, nothing else will happen.

2) Neighborhoods are the bedrock of both democracy and sustainable development, and we have spent fifty years building in the wrong direction. New legal and economic incentives must be found to redirect both urban and suburban real estate management back in the direction of self-contained neighborhoods.

3) Local production of everything, from electricity to food to major goods like automobiles) appears to be a pre-requisite for deconflicting high quality of life needs from limited resource availability. The book includes several very intelligent discussions of how this might come about.

4) Networking makes everything else possible, and by this the book means electronic networking. I was especially fascinated by some of the examples of near-real-time sharing that electronic networking makes possible–everything from a neighborhood car to scheduled hand-me-downs of winter coats from one family to another. We have not progressed one mile down the road of what the Internet makes possible at a personal and neighborhood level, and I would recommend this book for that perspective alone.

The creative editorial role must be applauded. From the identification and recruitment of the contributors, to the selection of the photographs that each tell their own story, to the quality of the paper used to create the book, all testify to the competence and knowledge of the editor.

Lastly, it merits comment that the book serves as a very fine calling card from something called The Global Renaissance Alliance, a spiritually-oriented group that nurtures Citizens Circles and uses a web site to provide pointers to resources and other like-minded folk.

Vote on Review
Vote on Review

Review: The Virtual Community–Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier

5 Star, Civil Society, Culture, Research, Intelligence (Collective & Quantum)

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Prophet of Electronic Power to the People,

December 29, 2000
Howard Rheingold
Everyone seems to miss what I think is the most important the point of Howard’s book. First published in 1993 and now in the expanded edition, the bottom line on this book is that the Internet has finally made it possible for individuals to own the fruits of their own labor–the power has shifted from the industrial age aggregators of labor, capital, and hard resources to the individual knowledge workers. The virtual community is the social manifestation of this new access to one another, but the real revolution is manifested in the freedom that cyberspace makes possible–as John Perry Barlow has said, the Internet interprets censorship (including corporate attempts to “own” employee knowledge) as an outage, and *routes around it*. Not only are communities possible, but so also are short-term aggregations of interest, remote bartering, on the fly hiring of world-class experts at a fraction of their “physical presence price”. If Howard’s first big book, Tools for Thought, was the window on what is possible at the desktop, this book is the window on what is possible in cyberspace, transcending physical, legal, cultural, and financial barriers. This is not quite the watershed that The Communist Manifesto was, but in many ways this book foreshadowed all of the netgain, infinite wealth, and other electronic frontier books coming out of the fevered brains around Boston–a guy in Mill Valley wearing hand-painted cowboy boots was there long before those carpetbaggers (smile).
Vote on Review
Vote on Review

Review: Net Gain–Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities

5 Star, Best Practices in Management, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Change & Innovation, Civil Society, Information Society, Information Technology

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Community Building in Cyberspace–Cuts to Core Values,

April 8, 2000
John Hagel III

This is a very serious handbook for how to create communities of interest, provide value that keeps the members there, and establish a foundation for growing exponentially from day one.

Vote on Review
Vote on Review

Review: Consilience–the Unity of Knowledge

5 Star, Change & Innovation, Civil Society, Complexity & Resilience, Consciousness & Social IQ, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Education (General), Environment (Solutions), Information Operations, Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Science & Politics of Science, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page
5.0 out of 5 stars Creating World Brain and the Virtual Intelligence Community
April 7, 2000
E. O. Wilson
EDITED 9 July 2007 to add comment and links to other books.

Comment: This is still one of the best books for someone who wants to think deeply about knowledge. Below are links to some others I recommend.

Our answer to Levy, but an order of magnitude more practical and steeped in some of the best endnotes I’ve ever enjoyed. Consilience is the “jumping together” of knowledge across boundaries, and the greatest enterprise of the mind. He begins with an example, showing how biology, ethics, social science, and environmental policy must all come together to properly resolve a global environmental issue, but actually do not-the learned individuals are fragmented into four separate communities, and within those communities further fragmented into nationalities and cliques and jobs, and it is our greater loss for we cannot arrive at the best policy without being able to integrate the knowledge across all these boundaries. He emphasizes that the public must be educated and have access to this unified knowledge, not just the policymakers. He poses, and then answers across the book, this question: “What is the relation between science and the humanities, and how is it important to human welfare?” In my own mind, Edward O. Wilson has defined both national and global intelligence writ large, and done so in way that suggests the “virtual intelligence community” is a very practical and achievable vision.

The Future of Life
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-first Century Organization
Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives
Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Power at the Edge of the 21st Century
Infinite Wealth: A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era
The Age of Missing Information
Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography
Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
Information Productivity: Assessing Information Management Costs of U. S. Corporations

Vote on Review
Vote on Review