Readings for Westminster College’s Symposium on Democracy VI:
My Digital Life @ The Speed of Light
(September 20-21, 2011)
The Possibilian: What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain
Burkhard Bilger (2011) “
,” The New Yorker
A profile of 2011 Symposium plenary speaker Dr. David Eagleman from The New Yorker
. The article talks about his childhood, his worldview, and how they have affected his work in neuroscience and technology. __________________________________________________________________________________
*Edwin Black (2001) IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation (Lake Arbor, Maryland: Crown Books).
Black argues that Big Blue was complicit in the Holocaust in Europe and it had a strategic relationship with Nazi Germany in providing the advanced punch card technology essential for the Final Solution of the Jews to be carried out by Hitler and his henchmen.
Vannevar Bush (1945) “As we may think,” The Atlantic (July)
Bush, as a government science leader, led six thousand scientists in getting them to think about how science and war-making interface. In this piece, he addresses the issue of making the proliferation of knowledge more accessible.
David Eagleman (2011) Why the Net Matters (Edinburgh: Canongate Books).
In this electronic book, Eagleman discuss how the Internet may very well help save the world from itself. This webpage is not the book itself but a description of the book and two video clips on Eagleman and his ideas.
__________________________________________________________________________________Cyborg anthropologist Amber Case, the Technocult interview
Klint Finley (2010) “
Case is interviewed about cyborg anthropology and how technology and society interface.
Bill Joy (2000) “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” Wired 8.04 (April)
Joy outlines what some driving forces of technology are and how they are becoming more
volatile as we move to easily accessible knowledge-based technologies (genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics). This leads us to a future that possibly (and unfortunately) does not need us.
*Kevin Kelly (2010) What Technology Wants (New York: Viking).
Kelly ties together many ideas concerning exactly what technology is. He then (and this is the important question) asks “What does technology want?” Chapter 1, which is really just an introduction, outlines the book and hints at his arguments. His key points are as follows. First, technology creates an environment called the technium. This includes things like art, culture, law, philosophy, and also things like hammers, cameras, and pens. Second, technology comes from the same evolutionary process that humans came from. Third, exotropy (sometimes written as extropy) is the opposite of entropy and is the guiding force of life and of technology. Fourth, the macro-forms of any technology are preordained (and he defines this very specifically). Essentially, there is this triad of evolution that technology (and life) follows: functional - kind of like natural selection, structural - everything is guided by the laws of physics and geometry, and historical - everything that is here now is based on what was before. Fifth, certain technologies (again in their macro-forms) are inevitable. There are certain things that are just so useful (or that the knowledge environment is so often bearing) that they will arise independently multiple times over. That is part one and two of his book. Part three deals with the choices we have in this framework. Kelly brings in examples from the Unabomber, the Amish, and other groups and individuals to examine what we can do. Part four is where Kelly turns back to the technology and outlines what it wants.
*Ray Kurzweil (2000) The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, pbk (New York: Penguin) (see chapters one and two).
Kurzweil is a prolific writer and inventor with writings that are almost prophetic. In the beginning of this book, Kurzweil explains the power of exponentials – an invaluable piece of understanding technology and humanity. This book and others begins to elaborate on the future as Kurzweil sees it. Using a data driven technique, he explores when technologies should be available to us (like a $1000 computer that can compute with more power than the entire human race) and how these technologies will transform us. Kurzweil sees a future where
technology and biology combine and we truly transcend our human existence into immortality. Kurzweil does a lot of work with what is called the Singularity – an event or time or relative time from us (it is defined differently by different people) of which we cannot even begin to accurately guess what will happen after it. Or it is seen as an event after which we won’t be able to comprehend what is happening unless we modify our biology (part of Kurzweil’s stance).
Andrew R McHugh (2011) “Technology and the Human Spirit: A Philosophical, Historical, and Physical Exploration of the Human Spirit” – Essay, Templeton Technology and Religion Project (Wartburg College).
Westminster College student (and 2011 Symposium on Democracy committee member) Andrew McHugh won the prestigious paper competition for the Templeton Technology and Religion project at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. The project was funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to fund discussion and research about the relationship and interaction between technology and religion/the human spirit. The thematic range for research sponsored by the grant includes the complex relationships between technology, the natural world, and human identity or spirit; the relationship between science and religion as well as the philosophy of technology; and the interdisciplinary study of technology, including philosophies about technological progress, theories of human selfhood found in literature, psychology, and the humanities, and contemporary theories on environmental protection proposed by political scientists, theologians, and natural scientists. McHugh’s paper itself, it is broken up into five parts: Terms – he explores the definitions of technology, the technium, and the human spirit; Trends of the Universe – he explores what trends have been ever-present; Biology and the Technium – he explores the similarities and differences of life and the technium; Historical Divisions – he explores the historical divisions of evolution; and finally, The Human Spirit – he explores lessons from individuals or groups regarding the human spirit.
*Bill Roedy (2011) What Makes Business Rock: Building the World’s Largest Global Networks (New York: John Wiley & Sons).
Roedy reviews his eclectic and fascinating career in leadership from his days on the ground in combat in Vietnam to running the global MTV network. His insights help us understand change and leadership in a truly global context.
*Cliff Stoll (1990) The Cuckoo’s Nest: Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Espionage, pbk (New York: Pocket Books).
Stoll takes the reader on a fascinating journey about his quest to track spies in cyberspace who were threats to American national security. His work was done before the Internet was widely accessible and before 9/11 and the age of global cyber-terrorism.
*Sherry Turkle (2011) Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books).
In this work, Turkle explores very well, why we expect more from technology and less from each other. She is not quite a neo-luddite, but does speak expansively on why we should moderate our technology consumption. She lays out a few scenarios backed with her own research to draw certain conclusions about what technology can do for us.
*Hard copies of books will be on a two-hour reserve at Reeves Library as of August 1, 2011.