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Broad and broad-brush but informative and balanced,
This review is from: 64 Things You Need to Know Now for Then: How to Face the Digital Future without Fear (Hardcover)The luxuriantly-mustachioed Hammersley is Editor-at-Large of "Wired" mazagine and mostly writes about the digital society with special emphasis on the Internet. As the title suggests, the structure of the book is 64 mini essays - typically just four pages - and this format, plus Hammersely's clear and lively style, make this a very easy read. On the other hand, the inclusion of two blank pages between each chapter makes the book a third thicker than it needs to be and there is no overarching analysis or theme. But Hammersley knows the Internet and quotes lots of actual instances or developments.
Since the focus is on the Net, most of the chapters are about being online with contributions on such themes as social networks, the online disinhibition effect, crowd sourcing, algorithmic trading, group buying, shanzhai (fake) goods, online copyright, digital rights management, digital currencies, collaborative learning, open government data, real-time mapping, gamification, anonymity, cryptography, hacktivism, personalisation of web experience (the echo chamber), online surveillance, the Cloud, Net Neutrality, the Semantic Web, the Internet of Things, cyber warfare, and the Dark Net.
Other chapters address different technological developments including Moore's Law (computers double in power every two years), Kryder's Law (the amount of data that can be fitted onto a disk of a given size doubles every year), cognitive improvement drugs, personal genetic testing, biohacking, space travel, 3D printing, fractional artificial intelligence, war robots, nanotechnolgy and geoengineering. And a few chapters are not really about technology as such but wider social and political issues such as the return to craft, the notion of charter cities, the nature of contemporary diplomacy, and what he calls Multiple Axis Politics.
Hammersley introduces the reader to such concepts as memes (the most basic form of idea), spimes (objects that gather information on their usage), doxing (matching of an individual's pseudonymous online identity with their real world one), and The Singularity the creation of an artificial intelligence that is smart enough to design its smarter descendent) as well as what he calls Technomadism (remote working), The Impossibity of Forgetting (the permanence of personal data online), The Quantified Self (the ability to generate and share personal behaviour online), and The Long Now (the need for incremental and sustainable businesses and projects).
If all this seems a very broad range of subjects, it is - and inevitably the treatment is broad-brush, but Hammersley is informed, thoughtful and balanced while being unfailingly optimistic. In so far as such a discursive set of short essays can have major themes, they are: the tendency of our digitised lives to generate vast amounts of data, the conflicting pressures for anonymity and identity online, and the the impact of iterative design with nothing ever perfect or finished. He argues: "If I were pushed to name the single most significant thing that the Internet allows us to do, I would probably say the forming of groups".
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