- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (June 16, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0137135599
- ISBN-13: 978-0137135592
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 48 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion 1st Edition
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From the Back Cover
"If you want to understand the future before it happens, you'll love this book. If you want to change the future before it happens to you, this book is required reading."-Reed Hundt, former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission "There is no simpler or clearer statement of the radical change that digital technologies will bring, nor any book that better prepares one for thinking about the next steps."-Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law School and Author of "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace" ""Blown to Bits" will blow you away. In highly accessible and always fun prose, it explores all the nooks and crannies of the digital universe, exploring not only how this exploding space works but also what it means."-Debora Spar, President of Barnard College, Author of "Ruling the Waves" and "The Baby Business" "This is a wonderful book-probably the best since Hal Varian and Carl Schultz wrote "Digital Rules." The authors are engineers, not economists. The result is a long, friendly talk with the genie, out of the lamp, and willing to help you avoid making the traditional mistake with that all-important third wish."-David Warsh, Author of "Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations" ""Blown to Bits" is one of the clearest expositions I've seen of the social and political issues arising from the Internet. Its remarkably clear explanations of how the Net actually works lets the hot air out of some seemingly endless debates. You've made explaining this stuff look easy. Congratulations!"-David Weinberger, Coauthor of "The Cluetrain Manifesto" and Author of "Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder." ""Blown to Bits" is a timely, important, and very readable take on how information is produced and consumed today, and more important, on the approaching sea change in the way that we as a society deal with the consequences."-Craig Silverstein, Director of Technology, Google, Inc. "This book gives an overview of the kinds of issues confronting society as we become increasingly dependent on the Internet and the World Wide Web. Every informed citizen should read this book and then form their own opinion on these and related issues. And after reading this book you will rethink how (and even whether) you use the Web to form your opinions..."-James S. Miller, Senior Director for Technology Policy and Strategy, Microsoft Corporation "Most writing about the digital world comes from techies writing about technical matter for other techies or from pundits whose turn of phrase greatly exceeds their technical knowledge. In "Blown to Bits," experts in computer science address authoritatively the practical issues in which we all have keen interest."-Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Author of "Multiple Intelligences "and "Changing Minds"" ""Regardless of your experience with computers, "Blown to Bits "provides a uniquely entertaining and informative perspective from the computing industry's greatest minds.A fascinating, insightful and entertaining book that helps you understand computers and their impact on the world in a whole new way. This is a rare book that explains the impact of the digital explosion in a way that everyone can understand and, at the same time, challenges experts to think in new ways."-Anne Margulies, Assistant Secretary for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ""Blown to Bits "is fun and fundamental. What a pleasure to see real teachers offering such excellent framework for students in a digital age to explore and understand their digital environment, code and law, starting with the insight of Claude Shannon. I look forward to you teaching in an open online school."-Professor Charles Nesson, Harvard Law School, Founder, Berkman Center for Internet and Society "To many of us, computers and the Internet are magic. We make stuff, send stuff, receive stuff, and buy stuff. It's all pointing, clicking, copying, and pasting. But it's all mysterious. This book explains in clear and comprehensive terms how all this gear on my desk works and why we should pay close attention to these revolutionary changes in our lives. It's a brilliant and necessary work for consumers, citizens, and students of all ages."-Siva Vaidhyanathan, cultural historian and media scholar at the University of Virginia and author of "Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity"" ""The world has turned into the proverbial elephant and we the blind men. The old and the young among us risk being controlled by, rather than in control of, events and technologies. "Blown to Bits "is a remarkable and essential Rosetta Stone for beginning to figure out how all of the pieces of the new world we have just begun to enter-law, technology, culture, information-are going to fit together. Will life explode with new possibilities, or contract under pressure of new horrors? The precipice is both exhilarating and frightening. Hal Abelson, Ken Ledeen, and Harry Lewis, together, have ably managed to describe the elephant. Readers of this compact book describing the beginning stages of a vast human adventure will be one jump ahead, for they will have a framework on which to hang new pieces that will continue to appear with remarkable speed. To say that this is a 'must read' sounds trite, but, this time, it's absolutely true."-Harvey Silverglate, criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer and writer Every day, billions of photographs, news stories, songs, X-rays, TV shows, phone calls, and emails are being scattered around the world as sequences of zeroes and ones: bits. We can't escape this explosion of digital information and few of us want to-the benefits are too seductive. The technology has enabled unprecedented innovation, collaboration, entertainment, and democratic participation. But the same engineering marvels are shattering centuries-old assumptions about privacy, identity, free expression, and personal control as more and more details of our lives are captured as digital data. Can you control who sees all that personal information about you? Can email be truly confidential, when nothing seems to be private? Shouldn't the Internet be censored the way radio and TV are? Is it really a federal crime to download music? When you use Google or Yahoo! to search for something, how do they decide which sites to show you? Do you still have free speech in the digital world? Do you have a voice in shaping government or corporate policies about any of this? "Blown to Bits" offers provocative answers to these questions and tells intriguing real-life stories. This book is a wake-up call to the human consequences of the digital explosion. Preface xiii Chapter 1: Digital Explosion: Why Is It Happening, and What Is at Stake? 1Chapter 2: Naked in the Sunlight: Privacy Lost, Privacy Abandoned 19Chapter 3: Ghosts in the Machine: Secrets and Surprises of Electronic Documents 73Chapter 4: Needles in the Haystack: Google and Other Brokers in the Bits Bazaar 109Chapter 5: Secret Bits: How Codes Became Unbreakable 161Chapter 6: Balance Toppled: Who Owns the Bits? 195Chapter 7: You Can't Say That on the Internet: Guarding the Frontiers of Digital Expression 229Chapter 8: Bits in the Air: Old Metaphors, New Technologies, and Free Speech 259 Conclusion: After the Explosion 295Appendix: The Internet as System and Spirit 301Endnotes 317Index 347
About the Author
Hal Abelson is Class of 1922 Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, and an IEEE Fellow. He has helped drive innovative educational technology initiatives such MIT OpenCourseWare, cofounded Creative Commons and Public Knowledge, and was founding director of the Free Software Foundation. Ken Ledeen, Chairman/CEO of Nevo Technologies, has served on the boards of numerous technology companies. Harry Lewis, former Dean of Harvard College, is Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard. He is author of Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future? Together, the authors teach Quantitative Reasoning 48, an innovative Harvard course on information for non-technical, non-mathematically oriented students.
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But what sets this book apart from similar introductions is its timelessness. One of the best sections of the book discusses "the koans of bits", paradoxical principles about digital information that prevent us from reasoning about it effectively in our existing social and legal frameworks.
This effort to grasp and communicate the fundamentals, those things which will still be true about digital information after every individual piece of our present technology has changed, is the reason I would recommend this book. Chapter 8, on radio, is excellent, as is the Appendix, "The Internet as System and Spirit".
In contrast, the weaker parts of the book can read like op-ed pieces, dwelling on specific laws (e.g. copyright, net neutrality) and having more off a tone of urgency and outrage. It's not as though the authors are wrong in these cases; I agree with them. In fact, the authors were prescient: this book was written seven years ago and these issues are more relevant than ever. It's simply a change in tone from the rest of the book.
I recommend it, and look forward to rereading it in the years to come.
If you do online banking, shopping, stock trading, email, social media, or just live in the 21'st Century you need to read this. Even if you don't own a computer or other device (although you won't be reading this review if you don't) you ought to know what the people who do own computers can do to you because even if you are not online your personal information is.
The authors aren't really seeking to be polemical in this book by advancing a single thesis or worldview. To the extent the book's chapters are guided by any central theme, it comes in the form of the "two basic morals about technology" they outline in Chapter 1:
(1) "The first is that information technology is inherently neither good nor bad -- it can be used for good or ill, to free us or to shackle us.
(2) Second, new technology brings social change, and change comes with both risks and opportunities. All of us, and all of our public agencies and private institutions, have a say in whether technology will be used for good or ill and whether we will fall prey to its risks or prosper from the opportunities it creates."
Mostly, what they aim to show is that digital technology is reshaping society and, whether we like or it not, we better get used to it -- and quick!
Like John Palfrey and Urs Gasser's excellent book Born Digital, Blown to Bits is very accessible and each chapter contains a great deal of useful information to bring you up to speed on the hottest tech policy debates under the sun. You can find my full review of Blown to Bits on the Technology Liberation Front blog.
It was irritating, to find sections of text which were unreadable because they ran off the right margin. Also, the text contains many illustrations. All of these were too small to read. These errors occurred on both the Kindle and Nexus 7.
These are simple format errors which detracted from the experience.
I also have the hard copy, which is quite readable. I note here that the Kindle version costs only a little less than the hard copy. This make putting up with the formatting even more exasperating.