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Contributions from such diverse and intelligent voices as Russell Baker, Cliff Stoll, David Gelernter, and Doris Grumbach elevate this collection of essays criticizing our computerized lives above the usual Luddite screeds found in the daily media. Many of the essays are skeptical of cyber-life, but even those of us who use computers constantly can gain insights into how technology may be affecting us in ways that hardly constitute progress.
Publisher-editor Henderson named his whimsically conceived Lead Pencil Club after the trade of Thoreau's father, a pencil maker. The club quickly won a following for its outspoken antitechnology stance. The members, mostly in a spirit of desperate fun, rebel against much modern gadgetry designed for speed and comfort, but which, they say, is actually depersonalizing human life: voice mail, e-mail, the proliferation of worthless TV, word processors, computer "education"?and, most especially, anything to do with the Internet. The book is a collection of articles, columns, snippets, quotes, Lead Pencil member letters, even a smattering of cartoons. Some of it is, expectably, smug and self-satisfied, but much, particularly by the likes of Neil Postman, Clifford Stoll, David Gelernter and Mark Slouka, is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. There is indeed a quasi-religious mania about some of the claims for the Web, and it's true that this goes ill with what is, after all, an enormous marketing bonanza for software and hardware manufacturers (was Windows 95 really the Second Coming?). For technology skeptics, it's good to have so much informed dissent gathered between covers.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.