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Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway Paperback – March 1, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Computer expert Stoll presents a backlash account of the Internet, questioning whether its potential influence is as far-reaching and positive as supporters claim.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Stoll, a Berkeley astronomer who chronicled how he broke a computer spy ring in The Cuckoo's Egg (LJ 9/15/89) and who has been netsurfing for 15 years, does an apparent about-face here, warning that the technophiles are trying to sell us a bill of goods on the promise of the Internet?one on which it can't deliver and that, ultimately, both ignores the cost of forsaking human interaction and actual financial costs. His is a lone voice countering the mass of media hype that has been touting the national information superhighway and the rush of individuals and businesses to get connected. In chapters dealing with everything from education to E-mail (Stoll reports he lost less mail via the U.S. Postal Service) to the "virtual" library, he details the limitations of the networks. Though he is occasionally not quite up to the minute on some library implementations, his message nevertheless should be read as a caution to every librarian rushing down the information highway. [For an interview with Stoll and an excerpt from his book, see p. 100.]?Francine Fialkoff, "Library Journal.
-?Francine Fialkoff, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
But move beyond that for a minute. Ignore anything he says about download speeds (although you should consider that, according to the Pew Internet Project, only 42% of Americans have high-speed Internet access at home, so broadband isn't as ubiquituous as some would like us to believe). Smile when he questions the concept of e-commerce. Every time he references Usenet or newsgroups, mentally substitute blogs and web forums; do the same substition with MUDs and World of Warcraft.
Even now, 12 years after the fact, the questions that he raises are still important and relevant. While I can find fantastic recipes for bread online, it doesn't actually tell me anything about that instant when you know you've kneaded the bread long enough. Getting driving directions online is great, until you realise that construction or an accident is blocking your intended route and you can't figure out how to get around it because you don't have an actual paper map. Kids learning how to use computers is great, but when they can't do basic arithmetic or write a five-paragraph essay, how can we justify spending millions every year on computers in the classroom?
For all that I think that the questions that he raised need meaningful answers, I found the book unsatisfying. Stoll is obviously a computer geek himself, and was a heavy computer and Internet user at the time that he wrote the book, so it is frustrating that he offers up so much criticism without tempering it with some statements about what he does find useful online. The book reads like a conversation, which is somewhat annoying because it wanders all over the place and gets a bit repetitive. It could have been tightened up into a highly-compelling work.
PS book for a penny! What a deal.
3.99 for shipping kind of funny.