By LEE SIEGEL
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Extra info for Against The Machine: Being Human in the Era of the Electronic Mob
The simple fact is that more and more people are able to live in a more comfortable and complete self-enclosure than ever before. THE BIG LIE Since the rise of the Internet just ten years ago, the often irrational boosterism behind it has been for the most part met by criticism that is timid, defensive, and unfocused. The Internet is possibly the most radical transformation of private and public life in the history of humankind, but from the way it is publicly discussed, you would think that this gigantic jolt to the status quo had all the consequences of buying a new car.
Tom Wolfe got his start by mocking the slow diffusion of subversive aesthetic energies into conventional society; Tom Frank’s The Conquest of Cool is the most recent updating of this idea. But for the many differences between them, all these figures agreed that creativity and iconoclasm were transformed in the hands of financiers and merchants. A vast gulf of meaning separated the assimilated from the assimilators. In our time, that has changed. The critique of conventionalized subversion or iconoclasm has gone from indictment, to lament, to mockery, to the celebration of a new symbiosis.
Brand had discovered computers at Stanford University in the early 1960s. Unlike some of his fellow communalists, though, he didn’t see cybernetics (or technology in general) as a plague on the human spirit. He would not have agreed with another countercultural figure at the time, a very young Robert Stone—who later became a celebrated novelist—that the landing on the moon represented an “industrialization” of that heretofore romantic orb. No, Brand admirably envisioned computers as a potent instrument in the creation of an egalitarian, antihierarchical society.