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Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
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    Outstanding Reading Material

    I have carefully selected a few of the outmost important texts on the history & future of technology, computers, internet etc... I consider all of them must-read material when it comes to the evolution of technology, computers, internet. Furthermore, they're all texts that are fully & freely available online ( just click the links).

    I present them to you in a chronological order with either a short abstract or a relevant quote that will give you an idea on the content of each paper.

    Of the Analytical Engine by Charles Babbage (1864)

    "The analytical engine, an important step in the history of computers, was the design of a mechanical general-purpose computer by the British mathematician Charles Babbage. It was first described in 1837, but Babbage continued to work on the design until his death in 1871. Because of financial, political, and legal issues, the engine was never actually built. In its logical design the machine was essentially modern, anticipating the first completed general-purpose computers by about 100 years." (from wikipedia)

    The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster (1909)

    "The story describes a world in which almost all humans have lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth, and most of the human population lives below ground. Each individual lives in isolation in a standard 'cell', with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. Travel is permitted but unpopular and rarely necessary. The entire population communicates through a kind of instant messaging/video conferencing machine called the speaking apparatus, with which they conduct their only activity, the sharing of ideas and knowledge with each other." (from wikipedia)

    Daedalus, or Science and the Future by J.B.S. Haldane (1923)

    "The book is an early vision of transhumanism and his vision of a future in which humans controlled their own evolution through directed mutation and use of in vitro fertilization ("ectogenesis") was a major influence on Aldus Huxley's Brave New World. The book ends with the image of a biologist, much like Haldane himself, in a laboratory: "just a poor little scrubby underpaid man groping blindly amid the mazes of the ultramicroscop...conscious of his ghastly mission and proud of it."" (from wikipedia)

    As We May Think by Vannevar Bush (1945)

    "Bush argued that as humans turned from war, scientific efforts should shift from increasing physical abilities to making all previous collected human knowledge more accessible.

    [...] The system, which he called memex, was described as based on what was thought, at the time, to be the wave of the future: Ultra high resolution microfilm reels, coupled to multiple screen viewers and cameras, by electromechanical controls.

    [...] As We May Think predicted many kinds of technology invented after its publication, including hypertext, personal computers, the Internet, the World Wide Web, speech recognition, and online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia: "Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready-made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified."" (from wikipedia)

    Computing Machinery and Intelligence by Alan Turing (1950)

    "In "Computing machinery and intelligence" (Mind, October 1950), Turing addressed the problem of artificial intelligence, and proposed an experiment now known as the Turing test, an attempt to define a standard for a machine to be called "intelligent". The idea was that a computer could be said to "think" if it could fool an interrogator into thinking that the conversation was with a human." (from wikipedia)

    Man-Computer Symbiosis by J. C. R. Licklider (1960)

    ""Man-Computer Symbiosis" is a key speculative paper published in 1960 by psychologist/computer scientist J.C.R. Licklider, which envisions that mutually-interdependent, "living together", tightly-coupled human brains and computing machines would prove to complement each other's strengths to a high degree

    [...] In Licklider's vision, many of the pure artificial intelligence systems envisioned at the time by over-optimistic researchers would prove unnecessary. (This paper is also seen by some historians as marking the genesis of ideas about computer networks which later blossomed into the Internet)." (from wikipedia)

    <b>Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework by Douglas Engelbart (1962)

    "This is an initial summary report of a project taking a new and systematic approach to improvin the intellectual effectiveness of the individual human being. A detailed conceptual framework explores the nature of the system composed of the individual and the tools, concepts, and methods that match his basic capabilities to his problems. One of the tools that shows the greatest immediate promise is the computer, when it can be harnessed for direct on-line assistance, integrated with new concepts and methods." (the abstract)

    The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis by Marshall McLuhan (1964).

    This is the 4th chapter of his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

    "The book is the source of the well-known phrase "The medium is the message". It was a leading indicator of the upheaval of local cultures by increasingly globalized values. The book greatly influenced academics, writers, and social theorists.

    McLuhan uses interchangeably the words medium and media. For McLuhan a medium is "any extension of ourselves", or more broadly, "any new technology". In addition to forms such as newspapers, television and radio, McLuhan includes the light bulb, cars, speech and language in his definition of "media": all of these, as technologies, mediate our communication; their forms or structures affect how we perceive and understand the world around us." (from wikipedia)

    The Future of Humanity by Asimov (1973)

    "Let me point out that our youth-centered culture is youth-centered particularly in one important way: education. For years, and centuries, and millennia, it has always been assumed that education is the prerogative of the very young. That there's such a thing as finishing your education.

    [...] We teach kids that to be grown up is to be able to be stupid for the rest of your life. [...] In the 21st century, we're going to have to think of education not as a task to be completed, but as a process to be continued.

    [...] I foresee a 21st century in which the educational process will be organized so that every human being has a right to institutional help for education in any field he wishes, in any direction he wishes, at any age he wishes. Education and learning will be the name of the game." (from the lecture)

    Tools for Thought: on the Rise of Personal Computing by Howard Rheingold (1986)

    "Tools for Thought is an exercise in retrospective futurism; that is, I wrote it in the early 1980s, attempting to look at what the mid 1990s would be like. [...] The idea that people could use computers to amplify thought and communication, as tools for intellectual work and social activity, was not an invention of the mainstream computer industry nor orthodox computer science, nor even homebrew computerists.

    [...] I went back to piece together how Boole and Babbage and Turing and von Neumann — especially von Neumann - created the foundations that the later toolbuilders stood upon to create the future we live in today. You can't understand where mind-amplifying technology is going unless you understand where it came from." (from the Introduction)

    Engines of Abundance by Eric Drexler (1986).

    This is the fourth chapter of his book Engines of Creation. In 2007, a 2nd edition appeared under the name Engines of Creation 2.0, also freely available.

    "Originally published in 1986, K. Eric Drexler's Engines of Creation laid the theoretical foundation for the modern field of nanotechnology and articulated the amazing possibilities and dangers associated with engineering at the molecular scale. Unique for both its style and substance, the book is today recognized as the seminal work in nanotechnology and has earned Drexler the title of "Father of Nanotechnology."" (From the Introduction of the 2nd Edition)

    A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace by John Perry Barlow (1996)

    "Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

    We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

    We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

    Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here." (quote from the declaration itself)

    The Law of Accelerating Returns by Ray Kurzweil (2001)

    "An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense "intuitive linear" view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The "returns," such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There's even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity — technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light." (quote from the paper itself)


    I carefully selected these 13 texts and abstracts/quotes, but there is more. 71 texts are available in total. You can browse all of them through a collection I made in Clipmarks called CyberReader. If you plan on reading any of those texts, and if you're a Diigo user, then might I suggest sharing your highlights and annotations: make them public. This could prove quite interesting if other people would to the same.


    Note: this is Cross-posted from K21st. the post was written by Djiezes, an outstanding critical thinker and fellow blogger, I believe that this list is one of the most interesting suggested reading i have come across in a long time, hence the re-posting here for the benefit of all SC readers.

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