First published in 1938, a modern edition is vastly improved by the addition of a critical introduction by Alan Mayne. Very much focused on how a world-brain might alter national policy-making, how Public Opinion or an “Open Conspiracy” might restore common sense and popular control to arenas previously reserved for an elite. The information functionality of the World Brain easily anticipated the world wide web as it might evolve over the next 20-30 years: comprehensive, up to date, distributed, classification scheme, dynamic, indexes, summaries and surveys, freely available and easily accessible. We have a long way to go, but the framework is there. The communication functions of the world brain would include a highly effective information retrieval system, selective dissemination of information, efficient communication facilities, effective presentation, popular education, public and individual awareness for all issues, and facilitate social networking between organizations, groups, and individuals. The world brain is the “virtual intelligence community” qua noosphere. This is one of the fundamental references for anyone thinking about the future of politics, economics, or social systems.
Distingushed, Accurate, Superior to Government Story,
April 7, 2000
This is one of three books I trust on hackers and hacking (Levy and Turkle are the other two trusted authors). Bruce, a very distinguished author in WIRED and science fiction circles, went to great lengths to investigate and understand what was happening between hackers exploring corporate systems, corporate security officials that were clueless and seeking scorched earth revenge, and Secret Service investigators that were equally clueless and willing to testify erroneously to judges that the hackers had caused grave damage to national security. Bruce is a true investigative journalist with a deep understanding of both technical and cultural matters, and I consider him superior to anyone in government on the facts of the matter.
“Our networks are awash in data. A little of it’s information. A smidgen of this shows up as knowledge….The Internet, that great digital dumpster, confers not power, not prosperity, not perspicacity…Our networks can be frustrating, expensive, unreliable connections that get in the way of useful work. It is an overpromoted hollow world, devoid of warmth and human kindness. The heavily promoted information infrastructure addresses few social needs or business concerns. At the same time, it directly threatens precious parts of our society, including schools, libraries, and social institutions.”
Some serious food for thought here. Not only is the power to define madness, criminality, and sexuality addressed, but also the active use of criminals, and sex, to suppress and subjugate the populace. Somewhat more difficult to wade through but similar to Norman Cousins, it helped provoke my thinking on how top-down unilateral command based on secrets is inevitably going to give way to bottom-up multicultural decision-making by the people based on open sources evenly shared across networks. This is really very heavy stuff, and it helps call into question the “rationality” of both the Washington-based national security policymaking process, and the “rationality” of spending $30 billion a year on secrets in contrast to what that $30 billion a year might buy in terms of openly-available insights and overt information peacekeeping.