"Self-forgetfulness is the reigning temptation of the technological era. This is why we so readily give our assent to the absurd proposition that a computer can add two plus two, despite the obvious fact that it can do nothing of the sort--not if we have in mind anything remotely resembling what we do when we add numbers. In the computer's case, the mechanics of addition involve no motivation, no consciousness of the task, no mobilization of the will, no metabolic activity, no imagination. And its performance brings neither the satisfaction of accomplishment nor the strengthening of practical skills and cognitive capacities."
In this insightful book, author Steve Talbott, software programmer and technical writer turned researcher and editor for The Nature Institute, challenges us to step back and take an objective look at the technology driving our lives. At a time when 65 percent of American consumers spend more time with their PCs than they do with their significant others, according to a recent study, Talbott illustrates that we're forgetting one important thing--our Selves, the human spirit from which technology stems.
Whether we're surrendering intimate details to yet another database, eschewing our physical communities for online social networks, or calculating our net worth, we freely give our power over to technology until, he says, "we arrive at a computer's-eye view of the entire world of industry, commerce, and society at large...an ever more closely woven web of programmed logic."
Digital technology certainly makes us more efficient. But when efficiency is the only goal, we have no way to know whether we're going in the right or wrong direction. Businesses replace guiding vision with a spreadsheet's bottom line. Schoolteachers are replaced by the computer's dataflow. Indigenous peoples give up traditional skills for the dazzle and ease of new gadgets. Even the Pentagon's zeal to replace "boots on the ground" with technology has led to the mess in Iraq. And on it goes.
The ultimate danger is that, in our willingness to adapt ourselves to technology, "we will descend to the level of the computational devices we have engineered--not merely imagining ever new and more sophisticated automatons, but reducing ourselves to automatons."
To transform our situation, we need to see it in a new and unaccustomed light, and that's what Talbott provides by examining the deceiving virtues of technology--how we're killing education, socializing our machines, and mechanizing our society.Once you take this eye-opening journey, you will think more clearly about how you consume technology and how you allow it to consume you.
"Nothing is as rare or sorely needed in our tech-enchanted culture right now as intelligent criticism of technology, and Steve Talbott is exactly the critic we've been waiting for: trenchant, sophisticated, and completely original. Devices of the Soul is an urgent and important book."
--Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World
"Steve Talbott is a rare voice of clarity, humanity, and passion in a world enthralled by machines and calculation. His new book, Devices of the Soul, lays out a frightening and at the same time inspiring analysis of what computers and computer-like thinking are doing to us, our children, and the future of our planet. Talbott is no Luddite. He fully understands and appreciates the stunning power of technology for both good and evil. His cool and precise skewering of the fuzzy thinking and mindless enthusiasm of the technology true believers is tempered by his modesty, the elegance of his writing, and his abiding love for the world of nature and our capacity for communion with it. "
--Edward Miller, Former editor, Harvard Education Letter
"Those who care about the healthy and wholesome lives of children can gain much from Steve Talbott's wisdom. He examines the need to help children spend more time touching nature and real life and less touching keyboards. He eloquently questions the assumption that speeding up learning is a good thing. Is, after all, a sped-up life a well-lived life? Most importantly, he reminds all of us that technology is just one part of life and ought not to overshadow the life of self and soul."
--Joan Almon, Coordinator, Alliance for Childhood
"One of the most original and provocative writers of our time, Steve Talbott offers a rich assortment of insightful reflections on the nature of our humanity, challenging our own thinking and conventional wisdom about advances in technology."
--Dorothy E. Denning, Department of Defense Analysis, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA
"Are you experiencing growing unease as computational metaphors have seized our discourse? Steve Talbott offers immediate relief. You are not losing your mind Chapter after chapter, he shows how to draw on the powers of technology without losing your soul or breaking your heart."
--Peter Denning, Past President of ACM, Monterey, California
"Steve Talbott is a rare writer whose words can alter one's entire perception of the world. He is our most original and perceptive defender of the wholeness of life against the onslaught of mechanism. Devices of the Soul is written with Talbott's typical grace and clarity. It displays a quality hardly found anymore in our high tech culture--wisdom. "
--Lowell Monke, Associate Professor of Education, Wittenberg University
The Unreal game engine is a versatile system that has been used to power a variety of best-selling video games. In The Unreal Game Engine, environment artist Andrew Finch looks at how to create game levels using the free Unreal Development Kit, from modeling the environment and building objects to adding those objects to the scene, texturing, and lighting. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to be a level designer, then look no further
Andrew Finch works for Codemasters games studio as an environment artist and his credits include F1 2012 and Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron.
The cultural and media studies perspectives on the technology of electronic consumer profiling.
In this book Greg Elmer brings the perspectives of cultural and media studies to the subject of consumer profiling and feedback technology in the digital economy. He examines the multiplicity of processes that monitor consumers and automatically collect, store, and cross-reference personal information. When we buy a book at Amazon.com or a kayak from L.L. Bean, our transactions are recorded, stored, and deployed to forecast our future behavior--thus we may receive solicitations to buy another book by the same author or the latest in kayaking gear. Elmer charts this process, explaining the technologies that make it possible and examining the social and political implications.
Before slim laptops that fit into briefcases, computers looked like strange, alien vending machines. But in "the most staggering burst of technical invention by a single person in high-tech history" (BusinessWeek) Steve Wozniak invented the first true personal computer. Wozniak teamed up with Steve Jobs, and Apple Computer was born, igniting the computer revolution and transforming the world. In iWoz the mischievous genius with the low profile treats readers to a rollicking, no-holds-barred account of his life--for once, in the voice of the wizard himself.
This timely book, Timothy Leary's "cyberpunk manifesto," is his future-vision of the emergence of a new humanism with an emphasis on questioning authority, independent thinking, individual creativity, and empowerment via computers and brain technologies. Cyberpunks brings together some of Leary's most provocative writings, along with selections from interviews and conversations with a variety of writers and thinkers. Individual chapters include "How I Became an Amphibian," "Personal Computers; Personal Freedom," and "Navigational Game Plane." "How to Boot Up Your Bio-Computer" typifies Leary's outrageous yet surprisingly grounded ideas, linking pagan, nature-based rituals with a "collective boot-up" of the brain through stimulation from certain natural plants. Together, these pieces describe a new breed of human being who embraces technology, uses it to revolutionize communication and evade and annoy Big Brother, while at the same time achieving personal success, attaining political power, and above all, having fun.
The Internet was going to liberate us, but in truth it has not. For every story about the web's empowering role in events such as the Arab Spring, there are many more about the quiet corrosion of civil liberties by companies and governments using the same digital technologies we have come to depend upon. In Consent of the Networked, journalist and Internet policy specialist Rebecca MacKinnon argues that it is time to fight for our rights before they are sold, legislated, programmed, and engineered away. Every day, the corporate sovereigns of cyberspace (Google and Facebook, among others) make decisions that affect our physical freedom -- but without our consent. Yet the traditional solution to unaccountable corporate behavior -- government regulation -- cannot stop the abuse of digital power on its own, and sometimes even contributes to it.A clarion call to action, Consent of the Networked shows that it is time to stop arguing over whether the Internet empowers people, and address the urgent question of how technology should be governed to support the rights and liberties of users around the world.