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Adam Brate, Technomanifestos: Visions From the Information Revolutionaries (2002)


Thesis: 4 – the goal of the information revolutionaries is to create new systems—technological, social, political, and economic—that adapt to people instead of the other way around.


38 – Information that is unused and unorganized will disperse into the unknown.

191 – the struggle to keep software free is the struggle to keep society free

218 – Nelson believes that the linearity of language combined with the old printing and binding technologies have trapped us into linear reading and thus linear thinking.

241 – [Stallman and Wall] embraced openness and collaboration and led the charge to establish a technological, social, and moral alternative to cutthroat commercialism

271 – the way information is structured, delivered, and accessed … can be immensely political

320 – What makes the information age particularly dangerous is what also makes it so liberating: Information can circulate with unprecedented speed and scope.


Norbert Weiner -- The Circle of Feedback

12 – cybernetics is the mathematical science of how adaptive systems, biological or mechanical, function … something is said to carry information if it reduces uncertainty, restricts choice, or controls something else.

12 – Every action involves information. Every object contains information. And everything can’t help but interact—exchange information—with the world around it … noise is the introduction of random error in the transmission of information … destroys meaning and frustrates intent.

14 – Feedback is the process of connecting the output of a system to its input and may be positive or negative. Positive feedback amplifies errors; negative feedback corrects and controls them.

15 – Entropy is a measure of the probable, and noise, disorder, chaos, and sameness are more probable than organization, differentiation, and form. … In the long run, entropy will overrun any closed system—such as the entire universe—until it reaches maximal entropy in a state of homogeneity and disorder.

16 – Our ability to think is in service to the local, temporary defeat of chaos and disorder. … Entropy is the measure of what we don’t know.

28 – No knowledge can be truly independent; the most valuable works are those that are cumulative. (What does this mean for the genius of the commander?)


Vannevar Bush

37 – Information must be connected to be relevant, lest it become forgotten.

46 – no machine can be a substitute for “mature or creative thought” … memex could help us simply to store, organize, refine, and make sense of the clutter of information out there.

48 – Totalitarianism begins when the people of a land must submit to only one system. In a democracy, information is meant to be controlled by an open and fair collective of enlightened individuals. technology could be a great democratizer, but it could also be a customized tool for a ruling class.


Alan Turing and John von Neumann

56 – Only by stepping outside the system can one say that anything is true or false in any meaningful way.

57 – Turing’s crucial realization is that the note of instructions could be more than just how to do a step of the calculations; it could also be what the next note of instructions must be.

64 – Nearly every computer in the world now follows his design, which became known as the von Neumann architecture … he broke down the computer into separate “organs” analogous to the separate regions of the brain: a central arithmetical part; a logical control; memory; systems for input and output

70 – Turing explained, the rules can allow for self-modification. It’s possible to program a computer to have the capacity to learn.

83 – As biology becomes more a computational science and computational models grow more complex, the vision of von Neumann and Turing of a logical theory underlying the processes of life becomes more clear. This affords great promise and danger


Marshall McLuhan and Abbie Hoffman

193 – When technologies are decentralized, inexpensive, and easily accessible, unprecedented freedom in all aspects of life is possible. When they are under central control, or are scarce or costly, people can be restricted by them.

194 – All communication and interaction must occur through some medium. … In protecting and enhancing us, our technologies also reduce and replace the power of our bodies.

196 – The printing press eliminated anonymity … The concepts of originality, authenticity, and copyright arose. … The mass distribution of ideas created both personal individuality and societal homogeneity.

203 – the medium of communication determines how a message is understood

208 – Information is a potentially infinite resource. … The more that information is shared, the freer society is, the greater the potential is for cooperation.

209 – The underlying philosophy is that the governmental and corporate institutions that regulate society are unjust and arbitrary. … “Freedom of the press belongs to those that own the distribution system.” Hoffman, Steal This Book

212 – It was John Perry Barlow, in 1996, he posted a tract … titled “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” … “You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.”


Tim Berners-Lee

227 – Berners-Lee believes in the democratic, egalitarian ideals … that the resources of an empire should be at the fingertips of the common citizen.

229 – The World Wide Web and Xanadu had a few ideals in common: (1) universality and standardization; (2) the ability to publish, link to, and read any document in the system; (3) no centralized control


Richard Stallman and Larry Wall

251 – Stallman’s GNU (GNU not Unix) Manifesto established the free software movement as a social, political, and moral cause. … Without proprietary software, programmers have no reason not to work together, improving one another’s lives by improving the code. … working together creates the bond of friendship, respect, and love, while retaining the goad of competition; proprietary software means working against each other, which can lead to distrust, disrespect, and cynicism.

254 – greatest profits from the least effort are made by organizations that threaten direct violence

255 – When people do something useful, there’s money in it somewhere, no matter what the particulars of the law.

357 – The GPL (General Public License) states that if someone modifies or uses GPL-protected code in a new work, the new work must also be released under the GPL. Stallman dubbed this form of copyright protection “copyleft” since it uses copyright to protect the ability to copy, not prevent it. … The GPL forces people to admit that their work rests on the shoulders of others; that progress is collective.


Eric S. Raymond and L. Lawrence Lessig III

270 – Raymond [believes] that the open Internet can fuel the open market, which translates into personal freedoms and the obsolescence of government.

279 – In Raymond’s opinion, closed-source Microsoft is doomed because its profit incentive is founded on trade secrets, not improved software.

280 –political and legal doctrine is not a vague, impersonal theory but an architecture, lasting for generations, that can determine whether people live or die.

286 – The limits to corporate and governmental power lie in the transparency of intention. Regulation isn’t inherently wrong, Lessig argues, what is dangerous is invisible regulation. … The more code is open and available to the public, the more government and corporate power is constrained from abuse of power.

291 –Although U.S. law obviously cannot determine what happens abroad, it can and does set a precedent.


K. Eric Drexler

305 – In The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins was the first to popularize the notion that the genes of biological organisms are not the only information replicators. … He calls these units of meaning or ideas memes. … Memes are to culture what genes are to bodies.


Bill Joy and Jaron Lanier

317 – Powerful new technologies could widen the gap between the rich and poor—not only financially and culturally, but also physically or genetically.

324 – technology, no matter how well intended, is a double-edged sword

328 – Lanier believes cybernetics has spawned a limited and deterministic model of human reality. … we have reduced ourselves to the philosophical and physical level of computers.

329 – Lanier claims that software cannot keep up with hardware. … nature is much more incomprehensibly complex than the code we write.

12 / the concept of feedback allowed biological systems to be described in engineering terms, and mechanical devices in biological terms

18 / entropy reversal takes more than it gives – an air conditioner exhausts more heat than is offset by its cooling, and military order produces greater disorder outside its scope of influence

42-3 / info sharing leads to democracy, while info tyranny leads to autocracy

48 / info is a closed, self-defined systems – therefore there is no inherent, intrinsic meaning

81 / McLuhan revealed that our minds are not directly connected to the world – communication translates reality into perception

198 / Tet showed the power of the medium – military victory but political disaster

204 / all business becomes acquiring and using knowledge

206 / lack of access to the media equals lack of access to society

215-6 / the mind is non-linear, but traditional writing, speaking, and data presentation are linear, which limits thinking

240 / two methods of development: the bazaar (chaotic) and the cathedral (hierarchal)

326 / Lanier defies doomsdayers by noting that Moore’s law only applies to quantity, not quality


Implications for Strategy:

the key is that the “age” is different in how we deal with – operate in – handle the questions and problems

manipulation of information is increasingly important – Tet was a victory of info over military force

military is assumed to have superiority in other domains – not so in cyber domain

besides access, what is shown and what isn’t shown is a factor of control

civilian cyber is open, free, dangerous – military cyber is closed, secure, safe – and thus not as able to spawn the next great idea

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