In 1787, Thomas Jefferson, then the American Minister to France, had the skeleton of an American moose shipped to him in Paris and mounted it in the lobby of his residence as a symbol of the vast possibilities of the largely unexplored New World. Taking a cue from Jefferson's efforts, David Post, one of the nation's leading internet scholars, presents a pithy, colorful exploration of the still mostly undiscovered territory of cyberspace--what it is, how it works, and how it should be governed.
|Dear Amazon Reader: |
Why might you want to read a Jeffersonian natural history of the internet? Perhaps because you know that Thomas Jefferson was a very interesting, and a very smart, guy but you'd like to know more about what he was up to. (Why did he have a moose skeleton and carcass--an acquisition, he wrote, "more precious than you can imagine"--shipped to him in Paris for display in his residence?) Or perhaps because you believe that the internet represents something important, some kind of transformative milestone in the history of human communication, but you don't really know much about where it came from, or how it actually works, or who's in charge.
At bottom, this book is a "natural history" of the internet: what it is, how it works, what shape it has, what kinds of things can be found there, how and why it has grown so prodigiously in size. Thomas Jefferson is the guide; the book is (or aspires to be) the natural history of the internet that Jefferson would write, were he around to write it. One thing I can promise you, if you read my book: you'll learn some things about Jefferson, and some things about the internet, that you never knew before, and you'll see some connections between the two that you never saw before. And I can also promise you that you'll encounter some magnificent prose--not mine, Jefferson's. I use Jefferson's own words as much as possible to describe what's going on out there in the "new world," and nobody could craft an English sentence better than Jefferson could.
To be honest, I don't know whether the book will change your mind about, or give you any simple solutions for, any of the great issues of the day. I was struck, though, several months ago, at the start of the meltdown in the global financial markets, by something Thomas Friedman wrote in his NY Times column: What we have to understand about the global financial markets, Friedman wrote, and what makes them so hard to understand and so hard to control, is this: everything is inter-connected, and nobody's in charge. Hmm, I thought--sounds like the internet. There are lessons to be learned from a deeper understanding of the net; I won't pretend to know what all of them are, but I know they're there, and my book is a way to help you think about what they might be and what they might mean.
David G. Post
"An interesting book...[from] one of the nation's leading Internet scholars... I hope you will keep Jefferson's moose in mind in the days ahead."--Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet
"Reading this beautifully written and extraordinarily diverse work today is what it must have been like to know or read Jefferson then. Post has crafted an experience in understanding that allows us to glimpse the genius that Jefferson was, and to leave the book astonished by the talent this extraordinary writer is."--Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law, Stanford Law School, and author of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace
"Now and then, ingenious insight yields an authentic work of genius. David Post's musing about cyberspace, the law, history, and a great deal more has produced such a work, conceived and written in the finest Jeffersonian spirit.--Sean Wilentz, Professor of History, Princeton University, and author of The Rise of American Democracy
"David Post is the Jefferson of cyberspace, and in this creative, playful, and entirely original book, he applies Jefferson's insights about governing the American frontier to think about governance on the Net. Even those who don't share all of Post's intuitions will be enlightened by his unique combination of technical precision and romantic imagination."--Jeffrey Rosen, Author of The Unwanted Gaze
and The Naked Crowd
"A fresh, insightful, and eminently readable look at cyberspace policy. It's surprising and fascinating how much the debates of 200 years ago continue to be relevant today and continue to be echoed today, even in media about which Jefferson and Hamilton could not have dreamed."--Eugene Volokh, Professor of Law, UCLA
is brilliant--and a joy to read. It is the book of a career: sweeping in scope, without dropping a stitch of detail. No one but David Post could have produced this sparkling analysis of the relationship between the world and worldview of Thomas Jefferson and today's puzzles of cyberspace."--Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Co-Founder, Berkman Center for Internet & Society; author, The Future of the Internet -- And How to Stop It
"[Post's] book addresses important questions that we all should be asking, and he acknowledges the scope of his undertaking with a candid humility that would have pleased Jefferson."--Greg Ross, American Scientist