Techdirt Reading List: From Counterculture To Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, The Whole Earth Network, And The Rise Of Digital Utopianism

from the internet-culture dept

We’re back again with another in our weekly reading list posts of books we think our community will find interesting and thought provoking. Once again, buying the book via the Amazon links in this story also helps support Techdirt.

If you haven’t spent much time deep within Silicon Valley, it’s often difficult to understand the culture here. People often try — and they frequently get it wrong, often by resorting to weak stereotypes. Some people focus on the supposedly hippy dippy idealism of making the world a better place and improving access to information. Others focus on the massive businesses, huge monetary rewards and disruptive competition to argue that it’s all about the money. And then people frequently talk about the very “libertarian” focus of Silicon Valley, often not realizing it’s quite different than the political libertarianism most people think about. And then there are others who focus on the massive quest for data, and worry about the potential authoritarian possibilities associated with it. And, in a weird way, the reality of Silicon Valley is a hard-to-grasp-until-you’ve-lived-it mix of all of that. And focusing solely on just one almost always misses the real story and the real motivations behind what happens here.

That’s why this week’s recommendation on the Techdirt Reading List is From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, which really does a great job illustrating just how Silicon Valley culture turned into what it is today. The book is a few years old, and I was only just reminded of it during an AMA by John Perry Barlow.

There are some other books that delve into the culture of Silicon Valley, but I still go back to this one as being the closest I’ve seen to really getting the overall mix right, and actually showing how these different concepts aren’t as contradictory as many people naturally assume. It shows how a technology that was originally focused on and designed for military uses, was quickly turned into a tool for freedom, liberation and expression. And, yes, with that came money and power as well. But the combination makes a lot more sense than most people think, and this book does a great job explaining how all of that came about.

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