So last week I was having a discussion about how back in the days there were some great influential books that discussed philosophical issues surrounding the cyber domain. There are so many books that shaped my ideas of the digital area from the “dude everybody read those” like “Being Digital” by Negroponte to “Barbarians at the door” etc etc. However among them 3 stand out as truly influential to me and I still go back to them once in awhile.
1.Cyberspace: First Steps Hardcover – November, 1991
This is one of the books that I picked up at my university bookstore back in the days I lived like a true slacker in a college town. Truly a great collection of essays regarding the then emergent concept of “virtual worlds.” It covered conceptional and philosophical issues and future predictions. I loved this book so much after coming back to Japan and working in the industry I went back to search for an used version of this book to keep in my bookshelf. I gave my original copy to the dorm library. Although it has been years since the last time I opened it still sits proudly in my bookshelf.
2.High Noon on the Electronic Frontier – Conceptual Issues in Cyberspace
Another great book by MIT Press that covers a wide range of essays from privacy, individual rights, hacking and other cyber related issues still relevant today. I have traveled with this book on many business trips as my companion for long flights.
3.Computers: An Illustrated History
Not a philosophical or conceptual book regarding the cyber domain, it is one of my favorite books regarding the product design of various computers. Computers covered in this book range from old military computers to some of the conceptual models of the 90s. It truly is a visual encyclopaedia of product design of computers and digital gadgets. A german friend I was visiting in Berlin had a copy of this book and saw me drooling over the pages as he showed me his copy. After seeing me ogling over every page in the book at the end he just gave me his copy. This book is one of the books I still open on a regular basis just to feel inspired or motivated. Granted that modern computers have a much more mature product designs, some of the older machines just have more character and style. The Connection Machine by Danny Hillis still one of my most favorite physical computer designs ever.
A small stone:
With the word “cyber” becoming more and more diluted and connectivity becoming an essential part of our daily lives there are a lot of discussions among applied practical issues about our current environment. But as a lover of philosophy I fear that we as humans are now loosing part of our humanity by avoiding the discussion regarding conceptual issues that would be critical in forming our ideas and perception of how we as humans will progress. Applied knowledge is only truly applied and useful if at least some of us spend time discussing the foundations and the conceptual aspects that form the applications of technology. Knowing what the “next big thing” is great and very usefull, however if we do not engage in a deeper rooted discussion of how and what the next big thing will bring to us, how can that be truly “the next big thing?” There are many academic-commercial collaborative environments where the current seemingly out of control applications of technologies are discussed but many of them focus too much on the current status and the direction of applied knowledge and not enough on deep rooted core conceptual aspects. As a participant in this cyber domain I am as guilty as anyone else of neglecting the conceptual foundations of human progress or regress and its relationship with technology. However we as people in the industry do owe it to the future generation to seriously discuss and leave evidence of our discussions so that future historians and anthropologists do not face the same daunting tasks of deciphering what we meant to say as modern historians/anthropologists do with ancient cultures.
I would love to see a conference series or even a journal that brought together academics, industry leaders,philosophers,theologists,anthropologists,artists and other people to contribute in journaling our current journey as mankind in adopting technology. Not only as proof to the future generations that we did our best in assessing our voyage into a new era but also we did consider as best as we could what the impacts could have been.
Thankfully to the “nothing disappears from the internet” phenomenon me writing this blog post might be a small stone in a vast ocean of human history but I hope that hundreds of years from now somebody would find this text and say “Dude, this guy at least wrote something on how he thought about the fucked up situation he left us with.” Truly the day mankind stops discussing conceptual issues is the day we as occupants of this vast universe will stop being contributors and become true parasites.