once dreams now how-tos // mainstreaming of cyberculture

Reading @ Biopolis
recent web culture books
What is your dangerous idea? by John Brockman +
Critical Mass by Philip Ball + The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen

:: a muse ::
What was once the dark freewheeling world of hackers and cyberpunks has now turned mainstream so elegantly, we largely don’t realize it. Anarchically free and open systems get turned into family-friendly ideologies such as the wisdom of the crowds, and in turn these swarming, hive minds become harvested by means of crowdsourcing (a delightful subversion?). It is as if by magic, where people can get around in vehicles without understanding the engineering behind it, or use sophisticated blogs without touching a single line of PHP. Books on web culture stand as artifacts of our time, where the stuff of science fiction which once merely existed in ink, is now lived and breathed by everyone, subconsciously.

:: meta-review ::
Of the three books shown, I recently acquired the first one entitled “What is your dangerous idea?” by John Brockman, which is great for a light reader like me since it’s a compilation of controversial thoughts by pretty well-received futurists, authors and academics. Everything under the sun is put to challenge, from science, religion, politics to the very nature of reality. If you like watching those TED conferences, this would almost be like a book version of that.

Based on Amazon’s reviewers:
• Jeff Benson notes that “The mini-essays are short enough to pick the book up, read several, put it down and mull them over for awhile. Often, two very well-articulated dangerous ideas will be in complete contradiction to one another and will thus be placed one right after the other. ”

• Robert Schmidt highlights some of his favorite lines: “And thus the essays begin, all 108 of them… Some examples that stood out for me:

Sam Harris – “In the spirit of religious tolerance, most scientists are keeping silent when they should be blasting the hideous fantasies of a prior age with all the facts at their disposal” (p. 150).

Robert Provine – “The empirically testable idea that the here and now is all there is and that life begins at birth and ends at death is so dangerous that it has cost the lives of millions and threatens the future of civilization” (p. 159).

Susan Blackmore – “We humans can and do make up our own purposes, but ultimately the universe has none” (p. 188).

Simon Baron-Cohen – “What would it be like if our political chambers were based on the principles of empathizing?” (p. 205).

Philip Campbell – “These perceptions and discussions [of and by alternative science networks] may be half-baked but are no less powerful for all that, and they carry influence on the Internet and the media” (p. 220). ”

:: call to action ::
If you’re interested, getting these books on Amazon pays for my afternoon tea:
What is your dangerous idea? by John Brockman
Critical Mass by Philip Ball
The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen