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The Uses of the University
by Clark Kerr
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 March, 2001)
list price: $22.50 -- our price: $22.50
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Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Fifth Edition, Still the Best in Class


Of the three books read and reviewed on the role of the university within a nation, this is the best, with Derek Bok's volume on universities in the marketplace being the runner up.

With a new preface written in 2001, and a pattern over the course of five editions of each time updating, correcting, and commenting on differences between past predictions and actual outcomes, this book appears to be the best available on this topic.

The author is alarmed by the possibilities that universities, which were nurtured by post-World War II federal funding and state funding that is now vanishing, could begin to fail in almost catastrophic terms.Between aging and unrepentent faculty, the vanishing of liberal arts (or even quality education) for undergraduates, and the prostitution of graduate education to commercial purposes, there does appear to be a crisis.

After noting that America appears to spend more on prisons than on universities, the author makes several recommendations, all of which appear sensible.They include a new emphasis on university support to primary and secondary education, a rationalization of information technology within communities to better link businesses with members of the university family, the exploration of distance learning alternatives (as much to reach the drop-outs inexpensively as for any other reason), and the resurrection of mid-career education or continuing education as a mainstream expectation for personal as well as business advancement.

The author, who clearly has a very strong ethical perspective, quotes Alfred North Whitehead, who concluded that any society that "does not value trained intelligence is doomed" and adds his own view, that "the university that does not fully dedicate itself above all else to the continuing advancement of trained intelligence is also doomed."

This is a really fine book that should be in the library of anyone seeking to understand "national intelligence" as Thomas Jefferson understood it when he said "A Nation's best defense is an educated citizenry." ... Read more

Isbn: 0674005325
Sales Rank: 134848
Subjects:  1. Education    2. Education / Teaching    3. Education, Higher    4. Higher    5. Reference   


$22.50

Infinite Wealth : A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era
by Barry Carter
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
Paperback (15 June, 1999)
list price: $26.95 -- our price: $26.95
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Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars Understanding the coming Future
With the publication of Infinite Wealth, Barry Carter has established himself as a voice on the leading edge of the synergic paradigm.

The synergic paradigm is a place where you and I can be much more by working together than we could ever be by working separately. It is a place where we both can win. It is a place where we can create a win-win world in contrast to our present win/lose and often lose/lose world.

To solve the problems facing us (humanity) at the beginning of the 21st Century will require nothing less than our learning to work together. We must learn to Co-Operate. As Barry Carter explains in his Conclusion to Infinite Wealth:

"Our social institutions are dying. The pain we feel is the pain of death and birth simultaneously, the death of one civilization and the birth of a new one. We have entered a period in which the conservative person who does not take risks and needs stability has become the risk taker, the radical, and the gambler. It is a period in which the one who refuses to change will surely be the one who will lose the most in the coming years. There is no going back to the way things used to be. Back to the basics is a failed policy. The future has already begun, and the trend is clear.

"Starting today you must have a completely new outlook on life. You must be responsible. You can no longer depend on employers, unions, or governments to look out for your economic well-being, to provide you with a job, retirement, social security, health care, or a safety net.

"From this day forward you and your global network of partners are responsible for creating work and wealth for yourselves. If you have no network you have no security. All of the rules have changed. The guarantees and promises made to you by Industrial Age society are null and void and will be breached.

"The government and controlled economies have no choice. The power bestowed on them in the Industrial Age is slipping away--to you the individual supplier and customer. You the individual supplier and customer have no choice about accepting this responsibility. Mass victimization is no longer an option.

"Because most companies and employees are not seriously preparing, the number of companies that fail to make the transition could be extremely high. And there likely will be no unemployment benefits, no welfare, and no Social Security safety nets to catch those who fall. Your network is your security. As we stand poised on the edge of the greatest advancement and growth boom in history, we may stumble. Many may lose life, fortune, and standard of living and suffer tremendous hardship.

"We the individuals are the only ones who can make the change. Our corporate and political leaders do not have the power, vision, or intelligence to address the root causes. We the people must wake up from the Industrial Age sleep into which our factory-style schools, jobs, and governing system have lulled us. We must come out of our defined compartments and take responsibility. Our leaders cannot do what has to be done to correct our problems; this responsibility does not lie in their bureaus of specialty. It is not in their job descriptions.

"History has shown that real change usually comes only through crisis. The evidence shows that the crisis has begun. Tens of thousands are dead from the transition. We can possibly lessen or prevent the crisis if we align ourselves with the change. Today we have the technology, knowledge, power, ability, intelligence, and willingness to move faster toward win-win wealth creation.

"We must use intelligence to recognize what is occurring and move with the natural flow of things and with all deliberate speed. Either way, we have to make the transition. Meandering along simply means that we will pay a higher price in life, death, suffering, standard of living, and debt for our children. Meandering also risks complete collapse and possibly a dark millennium.

"The universe does not guarantee our standard of living or our survival. Perhaps our ancestors had to meander during periods of social transition because there was little or no precedent and little knowledge to use the precedents there were. We are fortunate because we can learn from their mistakes. As the late Carl Sagan said, "we see further because we stand on their shoulders" (1980).

"Becoming aligned with the coming change will allow us to avoid pain and to prosper. Let's get on with it. Let's stop the bleeding and start the fun, passion, and living! This will be the most fun and exciting time of our lives!"

Barry Carter has discovered one of the biggest secrets of science:"When you read and understand the work of a world's leading expert, you can become the world's second leading expert."

Carter spent 12 years of his life studying the world's leading experts in the synergic paradigm. In Infinite Wealth, he shares what he has learned and interprets his new understanding from his unique perspective developed from working as a cog in the wheel of our present Industrial Civilization. With this interpretation he has expanded the paradigm. As a synergic scientist working in the field for 27 years, I was surprised and delighted to learn more. Infinite Wealth has much to offer to both novice and expert.

This is an important book that explains the shape of the coming future. I recommend that every thinking human read it!

5-0 out of 5 stars Survival Manifesto for Anyone with A Brain

First off, this book made the cut above another ten or so options on the fringes (the amazon reviews helped).It was a good choice.The author captures the essence of many other books as well as real-world experience with two fundamental points that every manager and every employee--including fast-food employees and others in "drone" jobs--needs to absorb: first, that the existing bureaucratization of the economy at every level is costing so much as to place those companies in jeopardy during the forthcoming economic shake-out, and second, that the sooner every individual begins the process of inventorying their personal capabilities and creating the networks for offering their personal services and knowledge via the Internet to all comers, the sooner they will be able to share in the profits associated with their direct individual contributions to the new economy.

The Department of Defense acquisition and contracting examples are especially shocking because they show, so credibly and in detail, how we have institutionalized multi-billion dollar waste.

This is a special book.It is by a practical man who has drawn very personal and transformative lessons from the school of hard knocks, and whose recounting of those lessons have value for anyone who expects to work for a living today and in the future.This is not a "get rich quick" book as much as it is a "get rich together or get left behind" book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Infinite Wealth - Not exactly as you might think
Assuming that Futurists do their homework right, one should be able to act on their insights with a fair degree of confidence. With "Infinite Wealth" the same trending snapshots caught by noted futurists such asFaith Popcorn, Alvin Toffler and John Naisbitt take on more personalizeddimensions.Barry Carter opens up before his readers doors to personalfulfillment, inviting them to join the driving forces of 21st Century neweconomies. If ever there was insider information worth its weight in gold,this is it.

Whether or not you are already a pioneer of the emerging FreeAgent Nation, this book is a must read! If you are one of tens-of-millionssensing that the world you thought you knew is changing, not certain whereyou might fit in, I highly recommend "Infinite Wealth" as a beginner'sguide to learning. But be forewarned! "Infinite Wealth" is not really aboutmaterial wealth - per say, and if that is what you seek...well then maybe youshould read the book. Otherwise, you may never know what hit you. ... Read more

Isbn: 075067184X
Sales Rank: 450276
Subjects:  1. Business & Economics    2. Business / Economics / Finance    3. Business/Economics    4. Development - Economic Development    5. Diversity in the workplace    6. Information Industries (Economic Aspects)    7. Information Management    8. Information Technology    9. Knowledge management    10. Management Information Systems    11. Privatization    12. Wealth    13. Business & Economics / Management    14. Computing and Information Technology    15. Economic theory & philosophy    16. Management decision making    17. Work & labour   


$26.95

Who Owns Information?: From Privacy to Public Access
by Anne Wells Branscomb
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (01 April, 1994)
list price: $25.00
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Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars Helpful, but dated
Information privacy is a dynamic field.This is a good introductory book to key concepts.It is also a nice guide to key legal decisions that have influenced current information privacy policy in the United States.The legal cases are presented in an approachable, narrative form -- not a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo.The only shortcoming of this book is that it was published in 1994.A lot has changed since then.Even so, I recommend it as a starting point for those just stepping into the realm of information privacy.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Real Benchmark--The Post Office Owns Your Name
This is a unique book by a very respected scholar.It methodically goes, chapter by chapter, over who owns your name and address (the U.S. Postal Service does), your telephone number, your medical history, your image,your electronic messages, video entertainment, religious information,computer software, and government information.The answers are not alwaysobvious.A real benchmark. ... Read more

Isbn: 046509175X
Sales Rank: 1204561
Subjects:  1. Business/Economics    2. Civil Procedure    3. Freedom Of Information    4. General    5. Intellectual property    6. Law Of Intellectual Property    7. Politics - Current Events    8. Privacy, Right of    9. Reference    10. United States   


The Politics of Information Management: Policy Guidelines
by Paul A. Strassmann
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (01 November, 1994)
list price: $49.00
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Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Improve your IT project's chances for success
Have you ever wondered why introducing state of the art information technology into an organization can fail? Whether you are a first time IT project manager or a wiley veteran, this book offers keen insights into the dynamics of introducing IT projects into an existing organization.Most of his "war" stories are based on his experiences both in private industry and the Pentagon so there is wide applicability. I found his insights into "governance" of an organization particularly useful. He describes how the relative roles and responsibilities at each level of an organization need to be carefully negotiated and documented much like our Federal, State, and local government roles are differentiated.

5-0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for Boards and Stockholders
Many of the cartoons published in the Irreverent Dictionary came from this book, and I was among those who suggested to Paul that he should publish the cartoons separately.They were, however, essential to this otherwiseintimidating book that is nothing less than an operating manual for theCaptain of the Virtual Network.The bottom line that I took from this bookis that Kevin Kelly is right, our national and international informationsystems are "out of control" and our policy leaders haveabdicated their responsibilities to technicians who do not have thepolitical, economic, or common sense of two ducks and a chicken.As Paulalludes in one of his footnotes, the Network today is somewhat inrelationship to the "horseless carriage" stage of the automobile,and we have a very long way to go before policy helps make computers asuser-friendly and reliable and interoperable as the telephone and theautomobile are today.

4-0 out of 5 stars Managers should control technology, not vice versa.
It is a fundamental truth that information is an asset.Unfortunately, most managers aren't very technical and convince themselves that they therefore cannot manage information or technology.

Nothing could be more wrong, or more deadly.Strassmann examines how to exert management control over technology, information, and ultimately the organization's success.

This book is a MUST for any manager who may have responsibility for any technology project, and is doubly useful for more senior managers who must formulate the rules by which their subordinates will manage information. ... Read more

Isbn: 0962041343
Sales Rank: 778447
Subjects:  1. Computer Bks - General Information    2. Information Technology    3. Science/Mathematics    4. Business    5. Political Theory   


Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
by Howard Rheingold
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (15 October, 2002)
list price: $26.00
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Reviews (21)

5-0 out of 5 stars Smart Mobs. Smarter Marketers.
The cool thing about "Smart Mobs" is that it's really happening. People are behaving in "linked" ways that transcend the obvious demographic definitions of groups we typically think of as "behaving in unison." As technology and the infrastructure arriving with it enable increasingly extemporaneous networks between people, marketers are similarly challenged to reach outside of traditional mass channels. Howard Rheingold brings us a really nice set of actual examples--combined with his own unique insights--that provide the basis for next-generation communications strategies as what had been cohesive groups fragment into a foam of indivduals united (only) by this moments current interest and the task at hand. For marketers, it's a great read...and a big clue. Anyway, I liked it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Remote Control To The World
How many of you recall that EF Hutton commercial that started off by saying, "When EF Hutton talks, people listen". The same thought can be applied to Howard Rheingold.

Rheingold is veteran technology watcher and well-publised futurist. He has identified yet another transformative technology. In 'Smart Mobs' he describes in vivid detail how large, geographically dispersed groups connected only by thin threads of communications techology, such as text messaging, e-mail, cell phones, two-way pagers, and web sites, can draw together in the blink of an eye, groups of people together for a collective cause.

From various parts of the world, Rheingold, has gathered stories about engineers and inventors of all sorts, working feverishly to create ever-smaller and more powerful devices that contribute to this new paradigm.

In this book,Rheingold points out examples of Smart Mobs such as the swarms of demonstrators who used mobile phones, Web sites, laptops and handheld computers to coordinate their protests against the World Trade Organization in November of 1999.

Rheingold shows a concern of smart mobs other than describing the weath of new communications technology that is available and coming. He is also concerned about the social, political, economic, environmental and even genetic consequences of the ever-expanding and more intrusive plethora of multidirectional communications technology.

This book is a must read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Keen on Smart Mobs
As one who needed a basic primer on various areas of technology--past, present, and future--and their implications for the human being, I found "Smart Mobs" to be both helpful and conversational.Rheingold's journalistic style kept the topics easy to understand, interesting to read, and fairly light hearted in spite of some rather daunting conclusions that one could draw from his research.As well, those who want to delve further into the various topics discussed will find his endnotes quite helpful--annotated are works from a number of key figures who a) are making, or have made, breakthroughs in technology, or b) provided insightful critiques on those breakthroughs.I found that engaging in "Smart Mobs" opened the door to further research and understanding of this seemingly complex and very progressive area of study. ... Read more

Isbn: 0738206083
Sales Rank: 118202
Subjects:  1. Communication    2. Communication and culture    3. General    4. Information Technology    5. Internet    6. Science/Mathematics    7. Social Aspects    8. Sociology - General    9. Technology    10. Technology & Industrial Arts    11. Technology And Social Change    12. Technology And Society    13. Technology and civilization    14. Business & Management   


The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World
by LAWRENCE LESSIG
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (30 October, 2001)
list price: $30.00
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Editorial Review

If The Future of Ideas is bleak, we have nobody to blame butourselves. Author Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford law professor and keen observer ofemerging technologies, makes a strong case that large corporations are stagingan innovation-stifling power grab while we watch idly. The changes in copyrightand other forms of intellectual property protection demanded by the media andsoftware industries have the potential to choke off publicly held material,which Lessig sees as a kind of intellectual commons. He eloquently andpersuasively decries this lopsided control of ideas and suggests practicalsolutions that consider the rights of both creators and consumers, whileacknowledging the serious impact of new technologies on old ways of doingbusiness. His proposals would let existing companies make money without usingthe tremendous advantages of incumbency to eliminate new killer apps before theycan threaten the status quo. Readers who want a fair intellectual marketplacewould do well to absorb the lessons in The Future of Ideas. --RobLightner ... Read more

Reviews (30)

5-0 out of 5 stars Important book for IP lawyers and internet architects
This is the best of Lessig's books that I've read so far.Lessig is one of the more articulate spokespersons for the movement to protect the public domain, which includes such groups as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, etc., although he may be more moderate in his views than some.

In this book, Lessig does a great job explaining why the Internet became what it is (or at least what it was in 1999 or 2000).Ultimately the success of the Internet resulted from the fact that no one was in control... But his most important message is that corporate interests don't necessary like what it is, and are using their considerable powers to change it into something more useful to them.This isn't because these companies are evil - their approach is completely rational and legitimate.However, their interests and the interests of the public probably don't coincide here.

The only way to ensure that future control and/or regulation properly balances public and corporate interests is to have an informed public.Professor Lessig's book is a great start.

1-0 out of 5 stars From whence comes invention?
Ultimately, the flaw in Lessig's books is his belief that the revolution of personal computing and the internet are the products of intellectuals like himself.Undermining the freedom and property rights of the programmers and companies who really invented these marvels is a profound threat to one of America's most vital and creative industries.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good historical and future views, but neglects the present
Rather than just looking at what the intellectual property law is today, he does an excellent job of framing what all of the different types of intellectual property are, how they were intended to be protected (or not!) by the framers of the Constitution, and where we've strayed since then. He provides a very interesting and compelling argument that much of the direction we're headed in today is being forced by corporations who really should be doing that sort of thing -- it's in their charter! However, he points out that it's the responsibility of the people and the government to take actions to ensure a level playing field where people can still make major, field-shattering innovations. It's a great argument, and one that I highly recommend reading through and thinking hard about.

Unfortunately, he doesn't talk much about what kinds of innovation DO happen in the current model (in the large), and how it contrasts with the kinds of innovation that happen in the other model (in the small) that he wants to try to enforce. The implication is that it's as little as possible while maintaining status quo, but that seems hard to believe. Maybe I'm just overly optimistic. ... Read more

Isbn: 0375505784
Subjects:  1. Computer Bks - Internet    2. Computer Books: General    3. Computers    4. Copyright and electronic data    5. Copyright and electronic data processing    6. Information society    7. Intellectual Property    8. Internet    9. Internet - General    10. Law Of Intellectual Property    11. Law and legislation    12. Social Aspects - General    13. Computers / Internet / General   


The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-first Century Organization
by THOMAS A. STEWART
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (26 December, 2001)
list price: $27.50
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Reviews (10)

4-0 out of 5 stars Engaging book, sometimes lacking focus
Business corporations of old were formed out of physical assets such as real estate, buildings, and machinery. Over the last few decades, and accelerating as we move into the 21st century, businesses have increasingly shifted emphasis to intangible assets, including brands, patents, relationships, knowledge, and organizational culture. Yet accounting methods and much input into strategy and decision-making have lagged behind this trend. Stewart, author of Intellectual Capital and a Fortune columnist, has produced an impressive book that investigates many aspects of the knowledge enterprise and the role of intellectual capital. The three main sections are "The Theory of a Knowledge Business", "The Disciplines of a Knowledge Business", and "The Performance of a Knowledge Business". The weakness in this range is that it appears that Stewart has thrown in topics that have little relation to the main point of the book. Each chapter, with a few exceptions, can be read separately as they do not build one on another effectively. Some of the chapters are particularly rewarding: Chapter 10 looks at how to support knowledge processes; chapter 12, "The Human Capitalist", gathers some interesting thoughts on work and pay for intellectual capitalists, and chapter 13 covers several recent views on how to account for intangibles. The book is definitely worth picking through for the many nuggets but would have been improved with a tighter focus and a stronger theoretical framework. Faults are easy to miss and, when not missed, to forgive thanks to Stewart's undeniable talent as an entertaining writer.

5-0 out of 5 stars Good read, provocative ideas
This is Tom Stewart in his usual form: provocative, speculative, and challenging conventional logic. The writing style is lucid and the discussion of KM technolgy (2 chapters) is commendable. Just a few phrases and metaphors that is uses in the book make it a worthy read. Definitely worth the money. Buy it, but read it slowly. There is much tacit knowledge between the lines!

5-0 out of 5 stars Paying Attention to Truth is Profitable and Protective


Too many people will miss the core message of this book, which is about paying attention to truth and seeking out truth in the context of networks of trust, rather than about managing the process of internal knowledge.

When the author says "It's time to gather the grain and torch the chaff," his book over-all tells me he is talking about brain-power and a culture of thinking (the grain) and counterproductive information technology and irrelevant financial audits (the chaff).

This is one of those rare books that is not easily summarized and really needs to be read in its entirely.A few items that jumped out at me:

1) Training is a priority and has both return on investment and retention of employee benefits that have been under-estimated.

2)All major organizations (he focused on business, I would certainly add government bureaucracies) have "legal underpinnings, ..systems of governance, ..management disciplines, ..accounting (that) are based on a model of the corporation that has become irrelevant."

3)Although one reviewer objected to his comments on taxation, the author has a deeper point--the government is failing to steer the knowledge economy because it is still taxing as if we had an industrial economy--this has very severe negative effects.

4)As I read the author's discussion of four trends he credits to John Hagel of I2, it was clear that "intelligence" needs to be applied not only to single organizations, but to entire industries.In my view, this author is quite brilliant and needs to be carefully cultivated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all of the industry associations, and by governments.There are some extremely powerful "macro" opportunities here that his ideas could make very profitable for a group acting in the aggregate.

5)This is one book that should have had footnotes instead of end-notes, for while the author is careful to credit all ideas borrowed from others, it is difficult in the text to follow his thinking in isolation.One idea that is very pertinent to national intelligence and counterintelligence as well as corporate knowledge management is that of the reversal of the value chain--"first sell, then make," i.e. stop pushing pre-conceived products out the door and get into the business of just enough, just in time knowledge or product creation that is precisely tailored to the real time needs of the client.

6)The author excells at blasting those corporations (and implicitly, major government bureaucracies such as the spy agencies that spend over $30 billion a year of taxpayer funds) that assume that if they only apply more dollars to the problem, they can solve any challenge."Too often 'dumb power' produces a higher-level stalemate."One could add: and at greater cost!

7)The bottom line of this truly inspired and original book comes in the concluding chapters when the author very ably discusses how it is not knowledge per se that creates the value, but rather the leadership, the culture, and infrastructure (one infers a networked infrastructure, not a hard-wired bunker).These are the essential ingredients for fostering both knowledge creation and knowledge sharing, something neither the CIA nor the FBI understood at the management level in the years prior to 9-11. ... Read more

Isbn: 0385500718
Sales Rank: 389964
Subjects:  1. Business & Economics    2. Business / Economics / Finance    3. Business/Economics    4. Corporate & Business History - Strategies    5. Economics - General    6. General    7. Human capital    8. Information Management    9. Intellectual capital    10. Knowledge management    11. Knowledge workers    12. Business & Economics / General   


Manufacturing Consent
by EDWARD S. HERMAN, NOAM CHOMSKY
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (12 September, 1988)
list price: $18.95 -- our price: $18.95
(price subject to change: see help)
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Editorial Review

An absolutely brilliant analysis of the ways in which individuals and organizations of the media are influenced to shape the social agendas of knowledge and, therefore, belief. Contrary to the popular conception of members of the press as hard-bitten realists doggedly pursuing unpopular truths, Herman and Chomsky prove conclusively that the free-market economics model of media leads inevitably to normative and narrow reporting. Whether or not you've seen the eye-opening movie, buy this book, and you will be a far more knowledgeable person and much less prone to having your beliefs manipulated as easily as the press. ... Read more

Reviews (64)

1-0 out of 5 stars Quality Paperback Book Club
This is a fictional introduction to an interview with Noam Chomsky.All the quotes and facts are non-fiction.



"Good evening.My name is Bernie Dwyer.Tonight we have with us a man the New York Times calls 'arguably the most influential intellectual alive,' Noam Chomsky.

Indeed, there is a wide consensus in the United States regarding Chomsky's importance and influence.According to the NNDB database, Chomsky is "a profoundly influential voice".The New Statesman argues, "For anyone wanting to find out more about the world we live in...there is one simple answer: read Noam Chomsky."In addition, we all must agree with the words of Business Week, which says "With relentless logic, Chomsky bids us to listen closely to what our leaders tell us--and to discern what they are leaving out."

Mr. Chomsky is an extremely popular lecturer around the United States, speaking on U.S. foreign policy, Mid East politics, and related subjects.He has authored more than 30 books on political subjects, and has been a political icon for three generations of the American Left.For example, The Village Voice notes "Chomsky's early books criticizing U.S. policy in southeast Asia were bibles of the Vietnam anti-war movement." His book "For Reasons of State," concerns the upheavals in domestic and international affairs of the 1970s. The New York Times Book Review noted that it "Displays those qualities which exemplify the finest traditions of intellectual responsibility." An anthology of his writings, "The Essential Chomsky" has sold more than 45,000 copies, and was lauded by The Quality Paperback Book Club.

In over 30 years of writing, Chomsky's antipathy toward the U.S. government has never wavered.

His political thought has been the subject of several serious monographs, among which are M. Rai, Chomsky's Politics (London: Verso, 1995); P. Wilkin, Noam Chomsky: On Power, Knowledge and Human Nature (New York: St. Martin's Press Inc., 1997); A. Edgley, The Social and Political Thought of Noam Chomsky (London and New York: Routledge, 2000).

He is not merely an ivory-tower intellectual, however.As the socialist website MarxMail.org has stated, "The Marxist movement can learn much from Chomsky, most of all how to speak to the ordinary citizen."

His message is spread on tapes and CDs; he is promoted at rock concerts by superstar bands such as Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, and U-2 (whose lead singer Bono called Chomsky a "rebel without a pause"). He is the icon of Hollywood stars like Matt Damon whose genius character in the Academy Award-winning film Good Will Hunting is made to invoke Chomsky as the go-to authority for political insight.

On the Web, there are more chat room references to Noam Chomsky than to Vice President Dick Cheney and 10 times as many as there are to Democratic congressional leaders Richard Gephardt and Tom Daschle.

In short, according to The Observer, he is "the Elvis of Academia."

Uniquely among political writers, Mr. Chomsky has three books in Amazon.com's Top 2000.

Mr. Chomsky's book "9-11" is a best seller (it has made the best-seller lists of The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice and Amazon.com) with over 300,000 copies sold.According to Michael Massing, the book's genesis was the huge number of interview requests made to Mr. Chomsky after the attacks of 9/11.He was unable to keep up with all the media demands on his time, and so published an anthology of interviews on the subject.

In fact, there seems to be a great demand among the heretofore slumbering American public for works critical of their government.I am happy to report that "9-11" is just one successful book, according to The Village Voice, among many that "assail the Bush administration as hypocritical, incompetent, and corrupt.Stupid White Men by Michael Moore now has 500,000 copies in print and is still number five on the New York Times Top 10."It is a very good sign that publishers see the opportunity to make money off the criticism of Bush's policies.As one publisher said,"No one wants to miss the next Stupid White Men."

Another example of this hopeful trend is "The Best Democracy money can Buy: The Truth About Corporate Cons, Globalization and High-Finance Fraudsters," written by Greg Palast.The Village Voice quoted Palast as saying, "What I'm happy about is that with no money, no marketing, and a completely amateur operation, you can get 40,000 copies sold in the U.S.-- if you've got something to say."Palast has just sold the paperback rights to his book to American publisher Penguin Putnam for an undisclosed, but reportedly very high, amount.

In summary, Palast's story can be seen as emblematic of a new generation of American political critics.As the Village Voice puts it, "The rise of Palast's media star--he's putting his Observer column on hold to work on films and books, and will be contributing to Harper's--is coinciding with the expanding of America's appetite for unsanctioned perspectives."

Chomsky's "9-11" has been more successful than these other two books, however, perhaps because of his higher profile and more intense media coverage of his work in general. (Chomsky's publisher keeps its eyes on the bottom line: even the small pamphlet "What Uncle Sam Really Wants" has sold over 160,000 copies.) Mr. Chomsky's publisher took out front-page ads in national newspapers and magazines, and, according to The Village Voice, the book "received prominent placement in bookstores upon its release." In light of its controversial claims,

"...the mainstream media came calling on the
iconoclastic Chomsky. After profiles ran in The New York
Times and The Washington Post in May 2002, he faced off with
arch-conservative Bill Bennett on CNN's American Morning
With Paula Zahn, an appearance that created a definite spike
in sales, according to Greg Ruggiero, Chomsky's editor."

Chomsky's book "Manufacturing Consent," published in 1988, was also wildly popular. The book bravely identifies the fact that "America's government and its corporate giants exercise control over what we read, see and hear." The book was reviewed very favorably in the New York Times, which called it "[A] compelling indictment of the news media's role in covering up errors and deceptions in American foreign policy of the past quarter century."

Four of his books have been made into films, among which "Manufacturing Consent" has been called (by Inroads magazine) "among the most viewed documentaries of all time."

Chomsky is among the American media's 100 most-cited intellectuals, according to Inroads Magazine.According to the Chicago Tribune, Noam Chomsky is "the most often cited living author. Among intellectual luminaries of all eras, Chomsky placed eighth, just behind Plato and Sigmund Freud."In fact, an entire network of left-wing media - Z Magazine, Pacifica Radio, South End Press - repeat virtually his every word.

He is a winner of the Orwell Award for "Distinguished Contributions to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language." (Ted Koppel of ABC News is another distinguished recipient.)

Mr. Chomsky's main thesis, in all his political works, is that the American media filters out points of view that are critical of the United States government.

Mr. Chomsky, thanks for being with us tonight."

3-0 out of 5 stars Beware:Out of date facts
Beware:Even the new 2002 edition uses out-of-date facts.It seems the only "updating" the authors did from their original 1988 edition was a brief introduction with some new developments and facts.The main body of the book has completely useless charts and tables such as "Wealth of the Control Groups of 24 Large Media Corporations, February 1986."Media conglomeration has proliferated so much in the last nineteen years that these numbers are meaningless.There are only 5 or 6 major media companies left nowadays.

5-0 out of 5 stars Too good to miss

The whole book tries to demonstrate how the mainstream media works within a propaganda framework, following the directrices from its government and only allowing criticism in very narrow grounds.

For the excercise on hand, they focus on three areas: Central America during the 80's , Indochina (Vietnam war) and the attempted murder of the Pope.

From these 3 cases, the Vietnam war is no doubt the most astonishing. Chomsky and Herman point out in the book (referring to the broad consensus in the media that the U.S. went there to do good when in fact the U.S army killed few million people for cynical reasons):

"We cannot quite say that the propaganda model is verified in the case of the Indochina wars, since it fails to predict such extraordinary, far-reaching, and exceptionless subservience to the state propaganda system (...) Even more revealing with regard to Western intellectual culture is that the simple facts cannot be perceived, and their import lies far beyond the bounds of the thinkable"

... Have a read, it will not let you down. ... Read more

Isbn: 0679720340
Subjects:  1. 1975-1985    2. 1985-1995    3. General    4. Mass Media - Electronics Media    5. Mass media    6. Media Studies - Electronic Media    7. Political aspects    8. Politics - Current Events    9. Sociology    10. United States    11. World politics    12. Current Events / Mass Media   


$18.95

CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND
by Allan Bloom
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (15 May, 1988)
list price: $15.00 -- our price: $10.20
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Reviews (97)

1-0 out of 5 stars hindered by onanism
i tried to read this book but was too preoccupied by onanism and patricide, the side effects of listening to rock music

3-0 out of 5 stars Critiquing "Plato's cave since MTV took it over"
"Openness to Closedness"? Are post-modern western culture and its attendant philosophy of education now recklessly and dangerously committed to the ideas of ethical and epistemological relativism? Bloom argues 'yes'. Some readers will find little to object to here, others will find much. In a "nutshell", here's Professor Bloom's introduction (and his thesis), in his own words:

"There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the student's reaction: they will be uncomprehending. . . The relativity of truth is not a theoretical insight but a moral postulate, the condition of a free society, or so they see it. (p25) . . . The purpose of their education is not to make them scholars but to provide them with a moral virtue -- openness. (p26) . . . There is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything. (p27) . . . There are no absolutes; freedom is absolute. Of course the result is that, on the one hand, the argument justifying freedom disappears and, on the other, all beliefs begin to have the attenuated character that was initially supposed to be limited to religious belief. (p28) . . . Actually openness results in . . . conformism . . . here we can create all the life-styles we want. Our openness means we do not need others. Thus what is advertised as a great opening is a great closing. (p34) . . . The point is to force students to recognize that there are other ways of thinking and that Western ways are not better. . . But if the students were really to learn something of the minds of these non-Western cultures -- which they do not -- they would find that each and every one of these cultures is ethnocentric. All of them think their way is the best way, and all others are inferior. . . Only in Western nations, i.e., those influenced by Greek philosophy, is there some willingness to doubt the identification of the good with one's own way. One should conclude from the study of non-Western cultures thatnot only to prefer one's way but to believe it best, superior to all others, is primary and even natural -- exactly the opposite of what is intended by requiring students to study these cultures, The scientific study of other cultures is almost exclusively a Western phenomenon . . . If we are to learn from those cultures, we must wonder whether such scientific study is a good idea. (p36)"
Drawing from Plato's famous representation of man as a prisoner in a cave: "A culture is a cave. [Plato] did not suggest going around to other cultures [i.e., caves] as a solution to the limitations of the cave. . . That is why philosophy, not history or anthropology, is the most important human science. . . Openness used to be the virtue that permitted us to seek the good by using reason. It now means accepting everything and denying reason's power. (p38)" Openness to closedness is what we teach. . . Yet the fact there have been different opinions about good and bad . . . in no way proves that none is true or superior to others. (p39)"
"Socrates knew, after a lifetime of unceasing labor, that he was ignorant. Now every high school student knows that. . . What accounts for our amazing progress? Could it be that our experience has been so impoverished . . . that there is nothing substantial enough left there to resist criticism, and we therefore have no world left of which to be really ignorant? (p43)"

The book is rather long-winded and hardly perfect, but these are powerful issues that most in the Western world now relate to as would Plato's famous cave dwellers, that is, with comfortably numb ignorance, disinterest, and/or a false confidence in questionable presuppositions/conclusions. Some critics may worry that the thesis appeals to certain Rightist ideologies, and on some points it does, but for the most part that complaint is an oversimplification, and not reasonably helpful. The problem with Bloom's thesis is that it is argued too specifically, has too many pieces, and, although on many points it's diagnose of symptoms is correct, it begins to sound like so much whining, the cause of these symptoms is not succinctly defined. The widely unacknowledged nihilism gripping Western post-modernism is the pervasive malignancy of our culture. C.S. Lewis knew something that Bloom did not -- the arguments against ethical and epistemological relativism are better made at the broader abstract level. The problem lies deeper than the conflict of feminism (most often a 'politically-correct' me-ism) with both nature and convention, deeper than the market-driven obsession of academia with specialization, such that "educated" decision-makers may see the gnat but can see neither the forest nor the trees. Lewis' "The Abolition of Man" is a 'leaner, meaner' treatment of the underlying disease. Like Lewis, Bloom sees a broadly unnoticed nihilism and uncritical relativism as denying college students a truly liberal education. Where a rigorously liberal education (literature, philosophy, etc) is lost, so is much of what is meant by "human" and we increasingly become mind-sedated cogs in a misguided wheel, Platonic cave-dwellers, delusional, 'enlightened' by a chosen darkness, unjustifiably over-confident in our impoverished 'scholarship'.
Bloom's book can certainly serve as a springboard for lively discussions of these issues (which is exactly what he hoped for). Relativism in ethics and epistemology is far too frequently assumed to be 'true' because it is assumed to be 'virtuous' (or vice versa), of course both assumptions logically gut themselves. Bloom's thesis is valid but not efficiently argued, I recommend Lewis' "Abolition of Man" instead.

5-0 out of 5 stars Only one side of the debate
CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND by Allan Bloom

If we frame this debate with Bloom, Neil Postman, Mark Edmundson, and Genrich Krasko all on one side, who do we have on the other? There are plenty of folks bemoaning the quality of liberal arts education in our schools. But I think another argument can be made to suggest that what our schools prepare students for is what they really need to be prepared for to survive in the world as they find it. Perhaps it is wrong to think very many people need a liberal education - a good one at least. Imagine the task of working in Wal-Mart after receiving a good liberal education? Wouldn't that be worse? "Expecting Deltas to know what liberty is! And now expecting them to understand Othello!" Not 1984 but a Brave New World. Soma anyone? But there are plenty of liberal arts students that are wonderful! Don't we always have more candidates that are qualified than positions for them? Plato's suggestion that an ideal state would be just when it fit the nature of the people in it. We are not amusing ourselves to death. Virtual life is soma.
... Read more

Isbn: 0671657151
Sales Rank: 5201
Subjects:  1. 20th century    2. Education    3. Education, Higher    4. General    5. Intellectual life    6. Philosophy    7. Sociology    8. United States    9. Social Science / General   


$10.20

Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World
by Bruce Schneier
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (14 August, 2000)
list price: $29.99
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Editorial Review

Whom can you trust? Try Bruce Schneier, whose rare gift for common sensemakes his book Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World bothenlightening and practical. He's worked in cryptography and electronic securityfor years, and has reached the depressing conclusion that even the loveliestcode and toughest hardware still will yield to attackers who exploit humanweaknesses in the users. The book is neatly divided into three parts, coveringthe turn-of-the-century landscape of systems and threats, the technologies usedto protect and intercept data, and strategies for proper implementation ofsecurity systems. Moving away from blind faith in prevention, Schneier advocatesswift detection and response to an attack, while maintaining firewalls andother gateways to keep out the amateurs.

Newcomers to the world of Schneier will be surprised at how funny he can be,especially given a subject commonly perceived as quiet and dull. Whether he'sanalyzing the security issues of the rebels and the Death Star in StarWars or poking fun at the giant software and e-commerce companies thatconsistently sacrifice security for sexier features, he's one of the few techwriters who can provoke laughter consistently. While moderately pessimistic onthe future of systems vulnerability, he goes on to relieve the reader's tensionby comparing our electronic world to the equally insecure paper world we'veendured for centuries--a little smart-card fraud doesn't seem so bad after all.Despite his unfortunate (but brief) shill for his consulting company in thebook's afterword, you can trust Schneier to dish the dirt in Secrets andLies. --Rob Lightner ... Read more

Reviews (112)

4-0 out of 5 stars Book stradles both worlds: academia and corporate world ...
of IT Security.

While Bruce Schneider rehashes old ideas discussed in his other IT Sec books, this read is well organized, with lots of practical examples and quite thorough in his extensive coverage of all security measures.

The best thing about this book is how the presentation of various IT Security measures makes the reader aware of how imporatnt security policies are and what the important aspects of security management are.This read is definitely beneficial for IT and Security managers.

When reading this book I could not help but get annoyed with how verbose this book is.One could easily eliminate various paragraphs and still maintain the integrity of the books message.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great perspective on cybersecurity
As a graduate student in computer science, I can attest that the book is technically accurate with light-to-modereate depth.Bruce Schneier's use of real-life examples (along with a salting of imagined scenarios) and just good plain sense allows him the freedom to provide sufficient detail for the informed reader without ailienating newcomers.This is a great book for anyone interested in putting digital security in perspective from the owner of a company to an academic researcher.The narrative is witty and entertaining, while still being informative, although some people may find him a little condescending at times.

The most interesting part of the book for me was Part I: The Landscape, where Schneier describes security threats in general.My only real criticism is that the book felt repeatative towards then end; the examples were refreshing and informative at the beginning, but were old news by the end of the book.A more condensed version would be suitable for most people.

4-0 out of 5 stars Very good, but with some caveats
I finished the entire Bruce Schneier book "Secrets and Lies". I thought it was excellent but also I think it suffers from some very deep flaws.

1) While Schneier goes a long way to prove his point that open-source, non-proprietary software is, in general, more secure than closed-source, proprietary software, he fails to consider critical differences between types of open-source projects. All open-source, in other words, is not created equal. There are critical distinctions between the open-source projects undertaken by ANSI or other standards-making bodies and the open-source world of projects like, say, linux.

Under ANSI, standards are created by a consortium of business, government and industry bodies, usually employing the top people in the business. This consortium is structured like a giant software company designing a proprietary product, with all the checks and balances, redundancies, code testing, spec designs, etc. ANSI then asks for feedback from the entire user community, with the whole process from specs to product often taking years. Contrast this with the world of nobodies and semi-somebodies that often lead open-source linux and other projects like Mozilla. Such projects are more or less led by hobbyists in an ad-hoc fashion since the resources to do proprietary-style software development are not there.

The question is how much of open-source linux's reputation is riding on the reputation of open-source ANSI? How often is the quality between the two confused?

2) Schneier fails to fully consider problems with his suggestion that insurance companies market liability insurance to handle the cost of security breaches. They know the risk business, he claims, and, therefore, they are in a position to estimate the risks of such security. A laudable idea, except what happens if insurance companies know their business well enough not to provide any coverage at all? There is, in fact, a historical analogy: vaccines.

In 1976, an unusual epidemic of "swine flu" occurred at Fort Dix. The federal government decided to vaccinate the entire country. The Congressional Budget Office predicted that, with 45 million Americans inoculated, there would be 4,500 injury claims and 90 damage awards, totaling $2 million. Despite these statistics, insurance companies refused to participate. Amid denunciations of corporate greed, Congress decided to provide the insurance.

It turned out that the CBO was about half right. A total of 4,169 damage claims were filed. However, not 90 but more than 700 lawsuits were successful and the total bill to Congress came to $100 million, 50 times their initial estimate. Insurance companies knew their business well.

The point that Schneier needs to understand is the concept of "strict liability" that has replaced the older concept of "negligence." Under negligence, a plaintiff had to prove intent or fault. Under strict liability, a plaintiff does not. In effect, the theory says that damage has occurred and that someone has to pay. How does a cyberspace security company insure itself under such circumstances, at least at a premium that is not the value of the entire company? It cannot and like most of the vaccine business, such cyber security companies would simply leave the market.

3) Equally silly are some of the analogies Schneier uses to describe the state of the software industry and his laments about the lack of institutions to enforce solutions: "Skyscraper 1.0 collapses, but we will get it right in Skyscraper Version 1.1" or "a defective automobile gets recalled, but no one recalls software" or "we have the FDA, the UL or other institutions but nothing similar for software."

A skyscraper collapsing is not an example of a security problem. It is an example of a functionality problem. A skyscraper collapsing because a plane crashed into it is an example of a security problem. A skyscraper collapsing on its own means someone did not pay enough attention in architecture school: not enough schooling in statics or finite element analysis. But no amount of schooling could anticipate a plane crashing into a building, let alone prevent a collapse...unless an architectural equivalent of the Multics operating system were erected with all the functionality problems that such a building would have.

The same is true for automobiles. A car running off the road because the brakes stop working or the accelerator sticks is an example of a functionality problem. A car running off the road because another car hits it is an example of a security problem. And no amount of engineering is going to prevent an accident (or car thefts, for that matter.)

It is just as pointless to expect regulations or some third-party government body to handle this problem. Product recalls, Underwriters Laboratories and the FDA all deal with functionality problems, not security problems. Even safety issues, which could be likened to protecting valuable assets (just like security), deal primarily with functionality (recalling a car because the engine computer could shut down your engine while driving is a functionality problem while an engine computer susceptible to some device that opens your doors is a security problem; making sure a drug's side effects don't kill you is a functionality problem while making sure the packaging is tamper-evident is a security problem).

This should be obvious to Bruce since he himself admits that security testing is impossible, so what good is some outside regulator going to do, except institutionalize low standards? Automobile crash tests are one notorious example. Car manufacturers make a big deal out of them but what do they really test? An offset test, where half the front portion of a car is smashed against a heavy steel block just tells us how a car would behave if smashed into a heavy steel block. Specifically, since the mass of the block is greater than the car, the test simply measures how the cars structure reacts to the force generated by that car's own mass and acceleration. It tells us nothing about how it would react if, say, hit with a similar mass accelerated at the same rate as the approaching auto (presumably, it would do a lot worse).

Ironically, government crash test ratings seem to operate under the same theory as the Orange Book. A Windows machine can get a C2 rating...as long as it doesn't have a floppy drive and is not networked. Similarly, a Honda Prius can get a government five-star crash-test rating...as long as it doesn't get hit by a 4,500 pound Lincoln Town Car or a 6,000 pound Cadillac Escalade. Can the government guarantee that such cars are not going to share the streets with a Prius?

4) The most glaring problem in Schneier's book, however, is something that I call the "craft mentality." When I worked at Encyclopedia Britannica as a research analyst, I noticed that an inordinate amount of time and effort was spent by the management staff trying to preserve the quality of the research Britannica was putting into its products. Less time was spent trying to figure out how to price the products to capture the value of that research, or even trying to determine if that quality was evident or useful to the user (Articles on "Calculus", for example, were written by mathematicians and looked like they were taken out of graduate textbooks, obviously incomprehensible to the average user). Even in the face of hemorrhaging money, management still insisted on maintaining the standard...until they were replaced. In Britannica's case, research analysis was treated as a craft that needed to be preserved, even if that craft got in the way of selling encyclopedias.

Schneier's book suffers from the same problem. There appears to be an underlying need to preserve and pursue security research, security knowledge and other related academic disciplines...to preserve and pursue the basic "craft" to which security reduces. The problem is at what point does the practice of security as a craft interfere with real security? To put it another way, how is it possible to have even rudimentary risk management of cyber space if everyone, including academics, has an unlimited right to know?

We are in the situation of zero-day exploits, script-kiddies, malware, viruses and other problems precisely because of the craft mentality.

Consider the old model of submitting known vulnerabilities to CERT, which would then propagate that information to the industries involved. This process was slow and cumbersome and did not result in the security (i.e. craft) improvements that the submitting parties wanted. In the hopes that it would stir security (i.e. craft) improvements, the vulnerabilities were announced to the world, to be done with as anyone pleased.

Plenty of reasons are given for doing this...all of them specious. Claiming that the initial vulnerability is a problem is pointless if security vulnerabilities are ubiquitous, impossible to prevent, and even impossible to test. Improvements can be made, but true or perfect security is impossible. Claiming that the truly bad guys already know the vulnerabilities so it doesn't matter if everyone knows is equally pointless. No one really knows if the bad guys know the vulnerabilities. It is merely conjectured that they probably do. And the probability of the bad guys knowing is far more secure than the certainty of the bad guys knowing once the vulnerabilities are announced to the world (Imagine a national security agency with this attitude. All the other really bad national security agencies know, so it does not matter if everyone knows. Gee...that works). Claiming to be for publishing vulnerabilities while being against building exploits is pointless if public knowledge of those vulnerabilities leads to the building of the exploits. It is a distinction without a difference. Claiming that security by obscurity is not very good security does not imply that security by transparency is any better.

Discipline needs to be brought back into security. Vulnerability announcements should go through the proper channels, should be treated like a national secret, and should carry very, very stiff penalties for violations. Research should be supervised. The spectacle of Def Con in Vegas and the hacker quarterlies needs to stop with most if not all of those people going to jail and all of them not ever being allowed near a computer again (they can all work at Subway). The law works. Digital content providers, for example, are defending their property rights with heavy handed lawsuits, not quietly going into other lines of business as Schneier suggests.

None of this will happen if Schneier and others insist on maintaining their right to know and to spread that knowledge indiscriminately.

"Shooting the messenger" is the common analogy, but it is a false one. The problem is not that the messenger is bringing bad news. The problem is that the messenger is bringing the bad news to all of the wrong people. That needs to be brought under control.

Hopefully, Schneier will address these problems in another edition of his book. ... Read more

Isbn: 0471253111
Subjects:  1. Computer Bks - Communications / Networking    2. Computer Books: General    3. Computer Data Security    4. Computer networks    5. Computer security    6. Computers    7. Networking - General    8. Security    9. Security measures    10. Computer fraud & hacking    11. Data security & data encryption    12. Internet    13. Network security    14. Privacy & data protection   


The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
by John Lewis Gaddis
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Hardcover (September, 2002)
list price: $25.00
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Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars Philosophy Without the Pain
Gaddis examines the nature of history and the function of historians through a wide range of metaphors. By putting forth the question: How long is the British coast line? Gaddis immediately sets out that if we measure in miles we won't get to the alcoves and cubbyholes and we'll probably end up with a nice round number. If we measure in microns and millimeters, it'll take a while but we'll measure every single bend and dog leg and we'll have a much larger number. Many of Gaddis' metaphors spur philosophical discussions but he does not approach them with a philosophical background, instead he sets out to solve a functional question: What is history? Is it a natural science? If it is, then why can we not replicate any historical findings as biology and physiology can? Is it a social science? Then why do other social sciences like economics and anthropology try to find an independent variable upon which everything hangs when historians try to put out the bigger picture? Gaddis' conclusion then is that history is its own beast. It does not mirror either the hard sciences nor the social sciences although it may pick up some of their properties.

Gaddis uses metaphors that seem to have little connection with hsitory, such as fractal geometry and natural sciences. The connections are then developed and this may be a way of making scientists understand the nature of history or giving students with a familiarity in natural sciences a correlation to the study of history. Also, Gaddis' humor makes a philosophical discussion of history a little less tense and certainly more cheerful.

All in all, this book is very readable for a historiography and may appeal to non-historians seeking a perspective on history. The chapters read more like the text of a speech than a textbook so the minimal 140 or so pages will make this a very easy read.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not a "how-to"
This short (151 pages) book, really an extended essay, is more of a philosophical meditation on the nature of the historian's craft than it is an instruction manual of historical method. But this is not an esoteric treatise on the nature of causation, or a reflection on such deep questions as the nature of truth, although these issues are addressed briefly, particularly in the chapter entitled, "Causation, Contingency, and Counterfactuals." Most of the work, however, is devoted to various comparisons of History with Science. There are some tremendously interesting observations here. Gaddis points out that many branches of science, such as geology and evolutionary science, are founded on propositions that are no more experimentally verifiable than are the observations of historians. It is worth noting that these, like history, deal with events that occur over extended periods of time. He also draws parallels with modern physics (relativity, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle) and fractal geometry, and makes allusions to certain aspects of chaos theory and set theory. One scientific area that he does not mention is computer science, but the study of neural networks and programs employing "fuzzy logic" could also be used to bolster his contention that many fields of modern science contain within their basic postulates an element of uncertainty and unpredictability that mirror the apparent capriciousness of the course of human affairs. He draws a distinction between those areas of science and others, particularly the "social sciences" and especially economics, which, in his view, attempt to describe complex problems in terms of rigid, categorically independent and dependent variables. Because these approaches oversimplify to the point of absurdity, he argues that they cannot approximate, or, in his formulation, "represent" reality to an acceptable degree.

There is much in this short book to provoke thought. I don't know much about chaos theory or fractal geometry, and so I cannot comment as to whether Gaddis is merely picking and choosing from the periphery of those fields to illustrate his point, or whether he is truly describing fundamental similarities. Certainly, he does not provide detailed descriptions. And that, perhaps, is the main weakness of the book. The flip tone that he employs at numerous points undermines the seriousness of the discussion and contributes to an impression of a dilettantism, which is not mitigated by a more detailed description of the complex scientific concepts to which he alludes. The overall sense is of undergraduate lectures by a bright professor who is trying to connect his young audience with some difficult concepts. In some ways, however, that is a strength, in that the argument is more accessible than it would be otherwise. But there is a price to be paid.

5-0 out of 5 stars The lectures were even better ...
I had the privilege of attending Prof. Gaddis' lectures in Oxford, and enjoyed every minute of it.His writing accurately reflects the lectures;the only thing missing is the Q&A at the end.

This is not a methodological how-to for historians, it is a philosophical look at the tradecraft, mostly done by comparing it to other disciplines, especially the hard sciences and social sciences.Historians will no doubt enjoy reviewing (maybe reitering) what they've been doing all along;students will undoubtedly learn much from this study.

Many of the critical comments during the Q&A reflected current fads in historiography, such as subaltern studies, triumphalism, etc.Some of this made it into the book, in Prof. Gaddis' emphasis on solid academic analysis.It is impossible to achieve a totally detached point of view, but the historian should strive toward that goal through the rigors of an honest review of the facts, and the subsequent interpretation.Causation is a difficult point here, in that the latest fads attempt to ascribe causation to whatever their favorite subaltern.Prof. Gaddis notes that causation is perhaps the best we can hope for, turning the clock backwards, searching for the point of no return in events leading to the subject in question.

His use of metaphors lends much humor to the book, I especially empathized with the one about the spilled truckload of Marmite on the highway between Oxford and London.

All in all, a delightful book to read, I hope it quickly replaces the really tedious textbooks normally assigned to the study of historiography;it will add greatly to classes on methodology.

Thanks you, Prof. Gaddis, for this witty, eminently readable gem of a book. ... Read more

Isbn: 0195066529
Sales Rank: 280776
Subjects:  1. 20th Century World History    2. Aesthetics    3. Historiography    4. History    5. History - General History    6. History: American    7. Methodology    8. Philosophy    9. Reference    10. 20th century   


The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility: The Ideas Behind the World's Slowest Computer
by Stewart Brand
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Paperback (01 April, 2000)
list price: $14.00 -- our price: $11.20
(price subject to change: see help)
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Reviews (16)

5-0 out of 5 stars Truly Extraordinary--Core Reading for Future of Earth- Man


I confess to being dumb.Although I know and admire the author, who has spoken at my conference, when the book came out I thought--really dumb, but I mention it because others may have made the same mistake--that it was about building a cute clock in the middle of the desert.

Wrong, wrong, wrong (I was).Now, three years late but better late than never, on the recommendation of a very dear person I have read this book in detail and I find it to be one of the most extraordinary books--easily in the top ten of the 300+ books I have reviewed on Amazon.

At it's heart, this book, which reflects the cummulative commitment of not only the author but some other brilliant avant guarde mind including Danny Hillis, Kevin Kelly (WIRED, Out of Control, the Rise of Neo-Biological Civilization), Esther Dyson, Mitch Kapor (Lotus, Electronic Frontier Foundation) and a few others, is about reframing the way people--the entire population of the Earth--think, moving them from the big now toward the Long Here, taking responsibility for acting as it every behavior will impact on the 10,000 year long timeframe.

This book is in the best traditions of our native American forebears (as well as other cultures with a long view), always promoting a feedback-decision loop that carefully considered the impact on the "seventh generation."That's 235 years or so, or more.

The author has done a superb job of drawing on the thinking of others (e.g. Freeman Dyson, Esther's father) in considering the deep deep implications for mankind of thinking in time (a title popularized, brilliantly, by Ernest May and Richard Neustadt of Harvard), while adding his own integrative and expanding ideas.

He joints Lee Kuan Yew, brilliant and decades-long grand-father of Asian prosperity and cohesiveness, in focusing on culture and the long-term importance of culture as the glue for patience and sound long-term decision-making.His focus on the key principles of longevity, maintainability, transparency, evolvability, and scalability harken back to his early days as the editor of the Whole Earth Review (and Catalog) and one comes away from this book feeling that Stewart Brand is indeed the "first pilot" of Spaceship Earth.

It is not possible and would be inappropriate to try to summarize all the brilliant insights in this work.From the ideas of others to his own, from the "Responsibility Record" to using history as a foundation for dealing with rapid change, to the ideas for a millenium library to the experienced comments on how to use scenarios to reach consensus among conflicted parties as to mutual interests in the longer-term future, this is--the word cannot be overused in this case--an extraordinary book from an extraordinary mind.

This book is essential reading for every citizen-voter-taxpayer, and ends with an idea for holding politicians accountable for the impact of their decisions on the future.First class, world class.This is the book that sets the stage for the history of the future.

2-0 out of 5 stars Facile Yet Ultimately Specious
I wanted to like this book -- big fan of the Whole Earth Catalogs, "How Buildings Learn," Brian Eno and hard science fiction -- but the text kept chasing me away.In the end I had to conclude it was an attractive but rather poorly thought out book.

The idea of 'deep' or 'geological time' is hardly new, but arguing that a 10,000 year view of history is beneficial is simply fatuous.Brand somehow manages to miss the obvious First Nations concept of stewarding land for future generations rather than owning it, and the Inuit concept of making decisions based on what's best for the seventh generation to follow.And by doing so he misses the larger lesson contained therein - that such long views are always eclipsed and subsumed by more powerful, shorter views with more immediate returns.

Brand is also hampered by recurring (and surprising) technical errors - a supposed 15-year lifespan for optical media, a four-digit date for computer dating, sufficient digital storage for all the information in the world(!), etc.His "Long Now Foundation" -- a dodge for attracting short now investors -- envisions a huge mechanical clock built into a mountain somewhere, which completely ignores the lessons of long history that he claims to revere.We still have a few 10,000 year clocks that our predecessors left us, but having lost the owner's manuals, Stonehenge and the pyramids at Cheops have become all but useless.

Documentation is everything - and documentation is ephemeral.That's why his proposal for a 10,000 year library brought guffaws - daily newspapers?Books on computer programming?How long does he think 10,000 years is?I was reminded of Rudy Rucker's "Saucer Wisdom" which imagines itself (with a good deal more humor) still popular in the year 4004 - and that's less than halfway there!!!Ray Kurzweil's "The Age of Spiritual Machines" is much more mind-boggling, and he had the good taste to look forward only100 years.

John Lennon as usual summed up everything pertinent when he said, "Life is what happens to you when you're making other plans."

4-0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking book on thinking long-term
Brand, author of The Whole Earth Catalog, is part of a team that is endeavoring to build a clock that will last for ten thousand years. In here, he comments on the lessons to be learned from that effort and the result.

These days time seems to be getting ever shorter, our subjective "now" shrinking from generations to years or less. People need to think on the longer term, for the sake of earth and civilization. Brand broods on how to accomplish this with a series of short, themed articles addressing everything from a visit to Big Ben to a commentary on how the digital age has made things more impermanent rather than less. (Want to try to run a Commodore 64 program? Well, you might almost as well forget it.) He provides a list of levels of paces, from fashion (the quickest) through commerce, infrastructure, governance, culture, and (the slowest) nature. He points out the twentieth century phenomenon of organizations and movements devoted to historical preservation, both a luxury that earlier ages would have found it hard to afford and perhaps a need to be filled in our fast-paced age.

A fascinating and thought-provoking read. ... Read more

Isbn: 0465007805
Sales Rank: 148600
Subjects:  1. American    2. Current Affairs    3. Fiction    4. Future Studies    5. General    6. Responsibility    7. Social Aspects    8. Sociology    9. Strategic planning    10. Time   


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