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
From the Back Cover
"Thoughtful and erudite... Intelligent and readable...Will appeal to people who enjoyed Longitude by Dava Sobel or Fermats Enigma by Simon Singh." The San Diego Union Tribune
"Most engaging."The Boston Globe
"An optimistic and reassuring assertion that no matter what wonders we invent, human beings . . . remain infinitely more complex and interesting."The Economist
A lively, informative examination of the computer revolutionand why the top-performing information-processing device is still the human brain
If we believe the forecasts of many computer enthusiasts, a wave of amazing devices will soon fundamentally change our lives, and the "thinking machine" is just around the corner. In this authoritative and entertaining book, critically acclaimed author Charles Jonscher presents the other side of the argument: while communication developments have changed society, they also have their limits. He shows us that in order to understand the true transformative powers of the new technologies, we must know about the long history of their developmentand why no calculating machine can match the creative power of the human mind. Rich in insights from literature, philosophy, and history, The Evolution of Wired Life offers a fascinating look at the development of the digital era, from the invention of the first alphabetic language to the printing press to the World Wide Web.
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