I cannot improve on the lead review, this review is primarily for those who follow my reviews, and the sub-set within my reviews, DVDs for intelligent people.
This is certainly a top-notch film with great acting, what I liked about it was the depiction of one lone person’s ability to get to the bottom of a government conspiracy against the public interest. While things happen that are arguably improbable for the average person, this film is both a revelation of just how much government can do that is NOT in the public interest (but assuredly at the public expense) and an inspiration on how possible it might be to stop such high crimes and misdemeanors by demanding integrity at all times.
Excellent in its Time, Overtaken by Time & Technology & Mindset, March 25, 2008
David V. Gibson
I have been toying with the need for a national skunkworks to create a complete open source software suite of analytic tools including open source multi-lingual and multi-media data ingestion and sense-making, and so I bought this book in part because the Microelectronics and Computer Corporation (MCC) was the “big deal” in the last quarter century of the 20th Century.
Bottom line: don’t bother. The bulk of the book, while very detailed and certainly a worthy effort of reporting and sense-making, does not really apply to today’s circumstances, when three big things are different:
1) Changes to the Earth and the marketplace are at light speed
2) Technology is no longer a top-down massive investment challenge
3) Social entrepreneurs, triple-bottom lines, and blended value propositions are the norm for those who seek to invent the future.
I can see now–in hind-sight, that the MIT Media Lab was the better venture, and still sets a gold standard for others to consider.
The final chapter of this book, entitled “Lessons Learned,” I found only two gems in that chapter:
1) Despite all the challenges of heterogeneous collaboration, benefits do emerge, and they are often unexpected and not part of the original concept of operations.
2) The challenge for the US is not technology invention, but technology application.
I was serving in the Office of Information Technology (OIT) of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the late 1990’s, and I well remember the Japanese Fifth Generation Project that inspired fear among U.S. electronic companies (never mind all the great Japanese espionage against us at the same time). I well remember all the expectation of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and so on. And I know for a fact that today, fully 26 years after CIA’s Office of Scientific and Weapons Research (OSWR) identified the eighteen functionalities needed for a desktop analytic toolkit called CATALYST (Computer Aided Tools for the Analysis of Science & Technology)–see the image above–the U.S. Intelligence Community, despite a $60 billion annual budget, still has total crap on its desktops; its vaunted Intelink system is a “crapshoot” in the words of its own managers; it cannot access the 96% of the information that is openly available in 183 languages it does not speak; and there is no one place (I am NOT making this up) where all of the information from across all of the disciplines can come together and be made sense of.
I conclude, from this book and my life experience, that LINUX is the right model, and we need to do more in open source hardware, and refuse to buy into proprietary black boxes. I am interested in helping to find funding for anyone that can build an Application Oriented Network (AON) router-server that can provide AON functionality at the hand-held or laptop or desktop point of creation; that can be updated without having to throw away the plastic container; and that is completely open source. CISCO CEO refuses to do this. Anyone else?
I won’t list books by Strassmann, Drucker, or Steele, but I will offer three final thoughts as I put this book away:
1. Strassmann: most firms’ investments in information technology return a NEGATIVE return on investment;
2. Drucker: we’ve spent the last 50 years focusing on the T in IT, we need to spend the next 50 focused on the I–one reason I do not think Google will succeed, just as NSA has not succeeded in 50 years; and
3. Steele citing Bamford: the ultimate computing machine, no larger than a small ball, powered by a tiny battery, capable of doing petaflops of calculations against unstructured data, remains “the human brain.”
I do not normally buy what I think of as “coffee table” books, but something moved me to buy this, despite my intent to see the movie, and I am glad I did. My 14-year old found it absorbing, and I myself was glad to have such an elegant piece of work, with the scripture text, available for review in a time and place of my choosing, in quiet.The movie is very disturbing and for many will be shocking in the extreme. The book is a “soft” alternative to the movie, more likely to provoke thought without disturbing, but by no means a substitute for full immersion in the overwhelming power of the movie. The book is also a fanstastic keepsake. I look forward to the release of the video, which I will surely buy, for this movie is likely to replace all other movies that in the past have been the staple of the Easter broadcast schedule.
One note of concern: I am sick and tired of having “anti-semitic” accusations hurled by defenders of Jewish sanctity. “Anti-semitic” has become a censorship phrase. I myself was disinvited from National Public Radio (NPR) in Chicago because I spoke in a balanced and fair fashion about the Palestinian casualities that the US media never covers, and the need to both guarantee a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state, and the need to provide US foreign aid to both sides equally while we build two new generations from kindergarten up, generations that know how to live in peace from birth. Neither the movie nor the book merit this Stalinist-like censorship, and I hope that non-Catholics will keep in open mind and not be scared away–as the Jews intend–from seeing the movie or buying the book. [I was most moved when Arab callers made the point that I was the first person on NPR Chicago to have been fair and balanced.]
To end on a fair and balanced note: the Catholic Church is guilty of great crimes–the crusades against Islam, the murder of millions of women unfairly cursed as witches, the Inquisition, the abuse of hundreds of thousands of children, and finally, aid to the Nazis during the Holocaust and in the aftermath of the war as some escaped through Church auspices. We would be fortunate indeed if there were movies and books that explored these historical aspects of Catholism, as well as the growing body of literature on Jesus having been married and having had children whose offspring survive today. Open mindedness, not censorship, is the path to understanding. This applies to Catholics as well as Jews and others of any faith.
This book has *huge* amounts of white space, and although it came to me highly recommended, over the course of reading every word I rated it at three stars–not nearly as interesting as, to take one book I especially liked, SNOWCRASH.However, I have raised it to 4 stars because of the gems, such as the loss of the future on page 57, good description of digital watermarking, the enormous distrust of false advertising and false impressions leading to false relations (p 85), the final denouncement of the loss of time and human intimary (p. 302-303), and–overall–the portrayal of web-life, the sympathetic portrayal of Usenet-type groups and their members, the idea of cool ideas and “cool hunter”, and the overall representation of mobile information and its vulnerabilities to interception.
Having said all that, I found this to be very light reading, half the text a book of this sort might have warranted, and on balance, disappointing.