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The Future Does Not Compute by Stephen L. Talbott

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Selected Reviews of

The Future Does Not Compute

Where “fulltext” is indicated, follow the link; otherwise, only fair-use excerpts are provided here.

The library journal, Choice (January, 1997) selected The Future Does Not Compute as one of its six “Outstanding Academic Books” for 1996 in the field of Information and Computer Science.”

J. Mayer, Choice, May, 1996

Talbott's important, seminal work should be read by everyone working with computers....His penetrating discussions of works by H. Rheingold, G. Gilder, and S. Papert are models of dispassionate analysis. This short review cannot do justice to the scope and depth of this first critical study of computers since J. Weizenbaum's Computer Power and Human Reason.

Stephen Horvath, Logos--The Journal of the World Book Community, vol. 11, issue 2, 2000

There are many words--complex, eccentric, thoughtful, stimulating, perplexing, penetrating--suitable to describe this challenging book, suitable but inadequate. It is a deep exegesis (at times very deep) of the problem of man's relationship to computer-based technology and its manifestations--the Internet, digital images, virtual reality and as a medium of entertainment and communication. The author sums up his brief early on: “We and our mechanical offspring are bound together in an increasingly tight weave. To substantially modify the larger pattern -- rather than simply be carried along by it -- requires profound analysis of things not immediately evident, and a difficult effort to change things not easily changed.”

Miles O'Neal, Unix Review's “Best Books of 1995,” January, 1996

Talbott tears apart all the standard conceptions and misconceptions and gets down to basics -- the meaning of things; the differences between data, information, and wisdom; how people communicate and interact -- and builds his discussion logically and artfully.

While I disagree with some of his conclusions, Talbott challenged many of my assumptions and long-held feelings about the roles of the Internet and computers in my life. He does this better than anyone has in a long time.

Philomena O'Brien, New Scientist, August 19, 1995

There is a sense of excitement in books of this type: they are accessible to nonscientists without sacrificing essential rigor. Like Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, we read them with the same enthusiasm with which we once read journals of literature and the arts....

Talbott shows an impressive grasp of the breathless pace of change in our society that computers have wrought. He discusses their application against an array of questions concerning human relations, cultural identity, the machine/mind interface, and the future of computer science....

A very thoughtful book, if a pessimistic one.

Stephanie Syman, Rolling Stone, November, 1995

Every revolution has its detractors, and the digital revolution has spawned a cottage industry of anti-technology polemics. While some of these smack of sentimentalism or, worse, posit a rose-tinted vision of predigital society, [The Future Does Not Compute] takes a more balanced look at the downside of information technologies. Stephen L. Talbott...is interested in how computers reflect our values, and his essays revolve around such questions as: Can human ideals survive the Internet? Is artificial intelligence raising machines to a human level, or are we descending to the machines' level?...[This book] should be required reading for both Netheads and neophytes.

William T. Walker, History Computer Review, Spring, 1996

In this important and provocative book Stephen Talbott advances a myriad of substantive questions relating to the ascendancy of technology, its impact on the individual and society, and, most importantly, the interrelationship between man and machines....The scope of Talbott's study and his formulation of reasoned and culturally aware arguments is a tribute to his intelligence and the range of his interests.

Eric Celeste, Journal of Academic Librarianship, July-August, 1996

Talbott takes a long, hard, deep look at the computer's threat to society. Perhaps it is no surprise that such a penetrating examination leads back to ourselves. Talbott's book is not just a warning, it is a vision of hope. Talbott argues that we must awaken to the ways our thinking have been formed and deformed by our close association with computers. Only if we are awake can we reconnect with oursleves, and transform our world.

Don Dugdale, UniForum's IT Solutions, February, 1996

Talbott's view is both chilling and inspiring....The curious reader will become so wrapped up in [his] penetrating analysis that it will be impossible not to finish the book....Without considering [this] analysis, no one who is serious about the future can consider himself or herself as advancing with open eyes into the Information Age.

M. E. (Peggy) Cathcart, Technical Communication, Second Quarter, 1996

Talbott's book should be read for the insights it brings, the beauty of the language, and its references to other literature on language and technology.

Richard Mateosian, IEEE Micro, December, 1995

Talbott's ideas aren't all new, but many of them are new to me. It makes the book slow reading. My review doesn't begin to do justice to it.

Talbott has thought hard about problems we all face but few of us want to think about. Take some time out of your busy life to read this book.

James Dalziel, CMC Magazine, December 1, 1995

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Ray Duncan, Dr. Dobb's Journal, December, 1995

Talbott's book is the philosophical descendant of Joseph Weizenbaum's landmark work, Computer Power and Human Reason....It is thoughtful, learned, and provocative....

I will say before anything else that I strongly urge all of you to buy and read this book.

I was especially impressed with Talbott's analysis of computer-based education in general, and Seymour Papert in particular.

C Vu, September, 1995

This is not the type of book that I have come to expect from O'Reilly & Associates but it well deserves its place beside the technical books on which they have built their reputation. This is one of those books that generate a sense of disquiet in the reader where all was previously bliss....

Make the time to read this book, you owe it to yourself as well as to the future.

Cliff Stoll, author of Silicon Snake Oil

Why do computers frustrate instead of satisfy? What do we lose when we sign onto the net? How come the Internet doesn't deliver the goods? With a careful eye to detail, Stephen Talbott looks over the culture of computing, finding both aggravation and comfort; hope and despair.”

Kevin Hunt, CMC Magazine

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Judi K-Turkel and Franklynn Peterson, Arizona Business Gazette, August 31, 1995

We can count on two or three fingers the times, in our 1200 columns, that we've devoted an entire article to reviewing one book. But Stephen L. Talbott's The Future Does Not Compute is such an important book. It needs to be read and discussed by business leaders, parents, educators and everyone else who lets the computer on the desk touch or inform or govern decision-making.

Business Life (Europe), October, 1995

Stephen Talbott's The Future Does Not Compute is an antidote to much of the triumphalism of techno-enthusiasts. Firmly rooted in the real world, Talbott does not suffer fools....Talbott's breadth of thought -- from Jung to obscure zoologists -- makes for a demanding, but worthwhile, read.

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