Cyberselfish in 2005

I recently read Paulina Borsook’s book Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech.  It was published in 2000, so yes I’m a little behind the times.

It’s a fun read, unless you’re a very thin-skinned techie — check out the reviews on Amazon for a sampling of nasty reactions to the book, and of the culture of which she writes.  I hadn’t thought that closely about libertarianism in high tech before, but her analysis does explain a lot.

Has much changed since 2000?  I’d suspect that 4 years of Bush junior have turned at least a few technolibertarians into lefties, but I may be wrong.

The official site for the book is still up — cyberselfish.com, as is a fan site with many of Borsook’s articles.  Neither looks to have been updated since about 2001, though, and I haven’t found any more recent writings of hers on the web.  (If you know of anything, on-line or off, please let me know.)

This page: Freedom Through Technology (part of the "Critiques of Libertarianism" site) has some interesting articles on technolibertarianism from around the same time period.

Here is an amusing exchange between Paulina Borsook and Eric Raymond on Salon (his review of the book, and her response).
http://archive.salon.com/tech/log/2000/06/30/borsook_raymond/

Raymond wrote (in 2000),

"Ultimately, it appears to me that what Borsook and Kakutani and their punditocracy ilk truly fear about hacker culture is in fact its libertarianism and what’s behind that, the liberating power of technology and free markets. Beneath that, I think they fear freedom itself …"

There you have it!  These critics of technology fear freedom!  I hope King George doesn’t hear about this.

NYT: Rapid Rise and Fall for Body-Scanning Clinics

For a brief moment, Dr. Thomas Giannulli, a Seattle internist, thought
he was getting in at the start of an exciting new area of medicine. He
was opening a company to offer CT scans to the public – no doctor’s
referral necessary. The scans, he said, could find diseases like cancer
or heart disease early, long before there were symptoms. And, for the
scan centers, there was money to be made.

"I’ve never seen a market for a medical technology collapse so completely," Dr. Ramsey said.

Link: The New York Times > Health > Rapid Rise and Fall for Body-Scanning Clinics.

Blame Hollywood

David Pogue talks about Nanotechnology today in the NYT (in a preview for a TV bit Sunday) and how "Hollywood always loves to exploit new technologies that still sound faintly frightening to the non-scientific public," with an IBM researcher citing the case of "The Hulk" being revamped to include genetic engineering and nano-robots.

There’s undoubtedly truth in that, but the sci-fi tradition goes way beyond Hollywood, of course, and plenty of real-live scientists are worried too ("scared" is a little condescending) about these technologies.

Link

The obvious reference here is Bill McKibben’s Enough, which has been unfairly labeled extreme and "technophobic" but it’s really a very thoughtful and considered work.

BBC: Games find home in the classroom

FutureLab is a UK organization trying to "accelerate educational innovation" through the use of technology.

Here’s a BBC story about it:

Video games could soon be transplanted from their natural habitat to the more academic atmosphere of the classroom.

With violent titles continuing to top the charts, gaming
and learning have not always sat well together but the tide could be
beginning to turn.

Recent research by the London Institute of Education concluded that games have a valid place in the classroom.

"Games teach life skills such as decision making, problem solving," said Martin Owen, at Futurelab.

Mr Owen said games could also help children make quick assessments of situations and learning by trial and error. …

What FutureLab is doing certainly sounds like valuable research, especially if it gives some strong data (finally) on how/if computer technology really can improve education.  This games effort sounds like a lot of puffery, though (at least from the BBC story) — "feedback from students has been positive", it satisfies "children’s desire to rise to a challenge."  That doesn’t sound like much in the way of evidence that learning is improved.

Computer TakeBack Campaign

This campaign seeks to improve the recycling practices of computer manufacturers (Apple in particular).

From an AP story about it:

Environmentalists with the Computer TakeBack Campaign are planning a
yearlong campaign to protest Apple’s lackluster recycling efforts.
Despite drizzle on Tuesday at the annual Macworld Conference &
Expo, activists passed out leaflets and erected a giant banner
proclaiming, “from iPod to iWaste.”

Environmentalists said they’re targeting Apple
because the hardware and software company makes it difficult to replace
batteries in its digital music players, and it charges many consumers
$30 to recycle their unused or broken computers and laptops.

“We
know consumers won’t pay 30 bucks to get rid of something they think is
junk,” said Robin Schneider, executive director of the Austin,
Texas-based Texas Campaign for the Environment. …

Related: here’s a Computer Recycling and Reuse FAQ from TechSoup.

BBC: Gadget growth fuels eco concerns

Technology firms and gadget lovers are being urged to
think more about the environment when buying and disposing of the
latest hi-tech products.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier
this month, several hi-tech firms were recognised for their strategies
to help the environment.

Ebay also announced the Rethink project bringing together Intel, Apple, and IBM among others to promote recycling. …

Link