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The Evolution of Wired Life:
From the Alphabet to the Soul-Catcher Chip -- How Information Technologies Change Our World

by Charles Jonscher

ISBN 0471392987 / 9780471392989 / 0-471-39298-7
Publisher Wiley
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

This is hardly the first book that promises to answer the question of how digital technologies are changing the nature of human reality. What's surprising is its answer: not much. In The Evolution of Wired Life: From the Alphabet to the Soul-Catcher Chip--How Information Technologies Change Our World, Charles Jonscher argues lucidly against the oft-heard proposition that computers are here to revolutionize, or even replace, the workings of our minds and societies. Drawing partly on the long prehistory of today's information technologies--reaching back all the way to the invention of alphabetic writing in the ancient Middle East--he makes a strong case for the contrary view: that human thoughts and interactions have always had, and always will have, more importance than the tools used to convey them.

Jonscher's no Luddite, though. A London investment banker and information-policy expert, he began his career as a programmer in the '70s, and he has retained an admiration for and deep understanding of computers. In fact, anyone looking for an inspired and intelligent introduction to the nature of digital technology--how it works, how it came to be, how it both resembles and differs from such intimately human mechanisms as the brain and the genome--need look no further. Jonscher doesn't dispute that computers are a fascinating philosophical conundrum, or that the question of "who we are in the digital age," as he puts it, isn't an interesting one. What he resists, compellingly, "is the claim that by deciding we're computers, we've cracked the mystery of human life." --Julian Dibbell [via]