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Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age Hardcover – September 18, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488207
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488207
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 3.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"There’s an interesting book, if you want to be optimistic about the future, by Steven Johnson, a great science writer, called Future Perfect." – Bill Clinton, speaking at The Health Matters conference
 
Praise for Where Good Ideas Come From

[Where Good Ideas Come From is a] rich, integrated, and often sparkling book. Mr. Johnson, who knows a thing or two about the history of science, is a first-rate storyteller." -- New York Times

"A vision of innovation and ideas that is resolutely social, dynamic, and material.... Fluidly written, entertaining, and smart without being arcane." -- Los Angeles Times
 
"Brilliant... Johnson is an exemplar of the post-categorical age.... The 'long zoom' approach gives Johnson's book power, makes it a tool for understanding where we stand today, and makes it satisfying." -- New York Times Book Review
 
"Stimulating, iconoclastic, and strikingly original." -- The Atlantic Monthly
 
"Essential reading for anyone trying to understand this culture." -- New York Times
 
"Johnson is a polymath... [It's] exhilarating to follow his unpredictable trains of thought. To explain why some ideas upend the world, he draws upon many disciplines: chemistry, social history, geography, even ecosystem science." -- Los Angeles Times
 
"Steven Johnson is the Darwin of technology. Through fascinating observations and insights, he enlightens us about the origin of ideas. How do you create environments and networks that promote innovation? Johnson discovers patterns that help clarify that critical question." -- Walter Isaacson, author of the bestselling Steve Jobs
 

About the Author

Steven Johnson is the author of seven bestsellers, including Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad Is Good for You, and is the editor of the anthology The Innovator’s Cookbook. He is the founder of a variety of influential websites—most recently, outside.in—and writes for Time, Wired, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He lives in Marin County, California, with his wife and three sons.

More About the Author

Questions from Readers for Steven Johnson

Q
Steven, you've often written about the ways in which a city's density enables great ideas to flourish. You've applied the same metaphor to the web as a engine of creativity and innovation. What about book-reading? Do see our natural inclinations...
Ryan T. Meehan asked Aug 30, 2011
Author Answered

Well, my first response is that the book, in its traditional form, has been as much of an idea generator as the Web or the city over the centuries. In part that was because it had been the best mechanism for storing and sharing information, before computers and networks came along. But also because the linear format of the book -- and the word count of most books -- allowed more complex and important arguments or observations to be presented. So I would hope we can preserve some of that linearity and that length in the digital age. But in general, I am exhilarated by all the new possibilities of the networked book. I wrote an essay for the WSJ journal a few years ago -- inspired actually by the Kindle I had just bought -- about where I thought the book was heading. Here's the link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123980920727621353.html

Steven Johnson answered Aug 31, 2011

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Andreas Jungherr on October 12, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
The first third of the book contains an interesting and highly readable popularisation of recent scientific texts on the role of networks in social organisation. Unfortunately the last two thirds of the book are filled with highly enthusiastic and uncritical examples of how these network structures might change various fields of society. Mainly these case studies fall short of valid analyses since they create false dichotomies between network structures, market structures and hierarchies. Instead of telling the more differentiated tale that network structures increasingly supplement traditional forms of social organisation the cases push the more sensationalist tale that network structures will replace traditional structures. For more balanced accounts of the phenomenon see for example: Bruce Bimber, Andrew Flanagin, Cynthia Stohl (Collective Action in Organizations: Interaction and Engagement in an Era of Technological Change (Communication, Society and Politics)), Andrew Chadwick ([...]) or Dave Karpf (The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy (Oxford Studies in Digital Politics)).
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. Bowdoin Van Riper on November 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Future Perfect is an optimistic book about technology, society, and the future. That's remarkable in itself, since pessimistic (or at least cautionary) books tend to outnumber optimistic ones, but what's even more remarkable is the care and precision with which Johnson makes his case. The new communications technologies, he argues, are significant less for what they do than for what their capabilities enable us to do, if we choose to do it.

The first of the book's two sections lays out its central premise: that distributed "peer networks" allowing the free flow of information between diverse individuals are a powerful force for social progress. decentralized networks are a powerful tool for facilitating interaction between individuals, and thus for social progress. It concludes: "We have a theory of peer networks. We have the practice of building them. And we have results. We know that peer networks can work in the real world. The task now is to discover how far they can take us." The second, longer section - a series of thematic chapters on subjects like journalism, technology, and government - makes good on that promise. It presents case studies that show what peer networks have already accomplished, and contemplates what they might accomplish in the future.

Johnson's goal, in Future Perfect is not to write a primer on the theory of networks, an analysis of how distributed networks function, or a history of distributed networks (though he touches, expertly but wearing his expertise lightly, on all those subjects). Nor is his goal to predict the future: The potential applications he describes for peer networks are presented as possibilities, not certainties.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ashish Singal on October 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an extreme technophile, I am certainly a tad biased in writing this review. However, Johnson's observations really gave a philosophical underpinning to the movement that the Internet has created. His argument is that the Internet makes information cheaper, which in turn allows "peers" to share data and information, rather than information coming down from a hierarchy. When innovation comes from the edges of the network, rather than the center, then the full power of the network is unleashed. Though detailed analysis and countless examples, he shows how the Internet is making this possible. However, I think he also comes across very balanced. He pulls examples not just from the last 20 years, but also sometimes from centuries ago to illustrate his point. The "peer progressive" mentality was not created by the Internet, but the Internet has enabled it to spread in a way never before possible. The writing and stories were thoroughly captivating as well.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By unkleplav on October 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I very much enjoyed reading Johnson's musings on the promise of peer networks and emergent forms of connection. I especially liked the perspective that this growing peer philosophy is neither Big Government nor Big Corporation, nor does it fit neatly into either of our dominate political platforms. It is indeed something altogether different. This aspect of the book was inspiring and refreshing.

However, despite his appeals that this "peer" revolution is not simply net-utopianism, the majority of Johnson's examples of peer-networked success were drawn from web related projects. If, however, we are learning from the Internet as a model as he says, maybe the dearth of non-web examples in Future Perfect suggests they are still emerging and evolving.

Additionally I really wished he had included a chapter on energy. There was almost no mention of climate change in this brief book. While tackling some "pressing" problems such as election finance reform, democracy, business, and education, Johnson overlooks one of the most centralized (non-distributed) platforms in our country: our energy grid. Energy seems like hanging fruit for this book, and its a disappointment to read 20 pages about KickStarter instead...
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