Steve Talbott

Steve Talbott

Steve Talbott is a Senior Researcher at The Nature Institute in Ghent, New York. He produces the Institute’s NetFuture newsletter, which was termed an “undiscovered national treasure” in a New York Times feature story on his work. His book, The Future Does Not Compute: Transcending the Machines in Our Midst, (O’Reilly, 1995) was named one of the “Outstanding Books of 1996” by the academic library journal, Choice.

Devices of the Soul Devices of the Soul
by Steve Talbott
April 2007
Ebook: $18.99

The Future Does Not Compute The Future Does Not Compute
by Steve Talbott
May 1995

PEXlib Reference Manual PEXlib Reference Manual
June 1992

Managing Projects with make Managing Projects with make
by Andy Oram, Steve Talbott
Second Edition October 1991

"This is a fine and valuable book. In it, the critic of the disorder of a technologically-enthralled society will find abundant material for consideration and refinement. He will find a judicious and knowledgeable ally whose experience in the heart of the Age of Machines will almost certainly exceed his own. He will find a man alive to a world beyond our immediate senses; and, though he is gentle and generous, a writer implacably hostile toward that insufferable reductionism which harangues us on the nothingness beyond: on the unreality of nonmaterial things. He will find much insight on varied subjects—yet all skillfully woven into the thematic narrative. He will find a philosopher whose discerning polemic gives flesh and bones to his own inchoate instincts and worries. Steve Talbott has a steady bead on the disease, and is ready to call on considerable resources to cure it—but his vision of health remains only a series of intimations."
--Paul J. Cella III, The New Atlantis

"Steve Talbott’s new book Devices of the Soul is, first, a careful and illuminating examination of technological society by a man conversant with its sources and mechanics; second, a calm, elegant but unrelenting polemic against the particular disorder and infirmity engendered by it; and third, a series of intimations toward the recovery of health. In all three guises, the book is a valuable contribution; in the last, it is most intriguing and provocative."
--Paul J. Cella III, The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society

"Author Steve Tablott is a software programmer and technical writer turned researcher and editor for The Nature Institute: here he presents a case for taking an objective look at technology and its influence on daily living. From how they affect physical social networking to choices new technology offers users who give up freedom to take on a computer's-eye view of the world, Devices of the Soul; Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines goes far beyond the usual assessment of technological impacts to consider how new technologies affect the human psyche itself. An essential contribution for any college-level collection strong in social issues and technology discussions."
--Diane Donovan, California Bookwatch - Social Issues Shelf

"The book explores some of the critical ways our lives have contracted, even as the tech universe expands. Imagination, vision, consciousness, experience; these qualities separate us from our shiny new toys with their exciting features. Devices of the Soul challenges us to resist becoming mere data-drones. We are, after all, mindful creators, inventors, and yes, digital tool-makers."
--Derek Pell, dingBat Magazine

"The issues that he discusses should be raised more often and more loudly, with broader acceptance and expansion of the debate and its importance. Otherwise, we will continue our robotic march deeper into a future that is controlled more by soulless devices, and less by skeptical humans. If we fail completely to change course, we may be saddled with a life that is intolerable to the human spirit. Devices of the Soul is an insightful, disturbing, imperfect, eloquent, and important contribution to what may ultimately become the most critical debate in the intensifying conflict between humans and our technological creations: Humans may survive, but will our humanity?"
--Michael J. Ross, Web Developer & Dan Sisson,

"Overall, Devices Of The Soul: Battling For Our Selves In An Age Of Machines is a good read...It is based on the premise that change in society must be rooted in the individual. That each one of us has to step back and take stock of what technology is and what it should mean to each of us. I think that perhaps this should be required study in high school and college, especially to those whose career paths wind through technology. While you may not agree with Talbot's take, it will give you pause to reflect, which is all one can really hope for."
--T. Michael Testi, Blogcritics Magazine

"I do suggest you take the time to read Steve Talbott's book. It's rather worth the trip...Is it technology and its effects that are dehumanizing our society and causing all of the personal and social issues defined by this author? No, not directly. Technology is just a tool. It's the people who control the tool that are doing the dehumanizing. This is nothing new. To make a buck, people have been exploiting other people for as long as humanity has existed. P.T. Barnum's famous quote "There's a sucker born every minute" applies of course. If you get anything out of Devices of the Soul, the next time you sit down at your PC, remember not to be a sucker."
--James Pyles, Cert Forums

"Steve Talbott helps us realize that technology is designed to help us and not replace us, but we need to not relinquish all thought-processes to machines and take responsibility for our actions and inactions regarding how we use technology. Do we use computers to make things better or are we letting evil tendencies take over? Everything in this book can be read on Steve Talbott’s website, but if you would like to have it all in one place and you would like to sit down and read a book "offline", then this one might be one you might enjoy regarding how we may put computer technology into proper perspective."
--Robert Pritchett, MacCompanion

"In this book, the author maintains that we are forgetting ourselves in this Age of Machines. From my perspective, the key question raised by the book is: "How can we achieve balance between technology and nature, between technology and ourselves?" If you are interested in that question (and IMO most everyone should be), I strongly recommend reading this book. The book is short, compelling, and well-written."
--George Woolley,

"In a world where many of the popular books and blogs revolve around technology and marketing through technology, Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines is Steve Talbott's voice from the wilderness - a clear and example rich exploration of the connection between technology and and the human experience. Clearly written with thoughtful anecdotes, this powerful book is needed most who advocate technology in any human setting. To the mature person who has dealt with technology for decades, this book should resonate. To those less experienced, the questioning can be the start of a guide. And for future generations, this book may well be more needed than the Wikipedia. After much debate with myself, I am forced to give the highest rating I can for this book - a 10/10. This book will stand the tests of time and technology, but not humanity."
--Taran Rampersad, KnowProSE

"This book is a must for anyone working on the social-machine interface, from someone in the field."
--Alan Sondheim, Nettime-|

"From the very first chapter, which presents a creative re-reading of Homer’s Odyssey, author and professor Talbott (In the Belly of the Beast) takes his elegant treatise on technology and humanity in some surprising, discipline-hopping directions. With one part Aristotelian rigor, one part transcendental humanism and a healthy dollop of indignation, Talbott examines the often troubling relationships among people, technology and society from a number of angles, including education, toys, ecological management, artificial intelligence, bioengineering and disability. Talbott’s thoughtful analysis gets readers thinking less about technology’s value than technology’s values—the principles it supports. Hanging in the balance, Talbot claims, is the fate of humanity: “a hellish, counter-human, machine-like society” or “a humane society in which the machine…reflects back to us our own inner powers.” Talbott is upfront about his biases and assumptions, giving him the freedom to steer his arguments into strange, sometimes contentious territory. His enormous range of literature references and responses keep things lively; combined with a dearth of technical details, Talbott’s work should find readers among non-specialists, but his fresh ideas are sure to intrigue techies of all kinds."
--Web-Exclusive Reviews, Publisher's Weekly Online

"As any great teacher should do, Steve does not spoon feed us answers and solutions along the way. He much prefers for us to seek those personal and global solutions on our own. (I know from personal experience as a teacher, that students always prefer to be handed the answer, since having to think for yourself is so painful.) But, you see, finding the answer for yourself is part of the path to self-awareness and self-discovery. There are no shortcuts here...Far from dwelling on doomsday scenarios or Luddite distopias, as so many similar works seem to do, Steve's book is a keeper, and one I am glad I found. I believe you will find Devices Of The Soul both an excellent read, and a reference you will want to keep on your short shelf, along with your other most beloved books and novels."
--Roger Born, MyMac

"The dangers the author tries to illuminate in this most excellent book arise, above all, when technology fulfills one's fondest expectations. Perhaps more importantly though, as you wield these tools, the resulting factor will be the mechanization of the entire society."
--John Vacca,

"In his new book, Devices Of The Soul, Steve Talbott sets out to examine how our relationship with technology, especially in recent years, has changed us. The subtle manner in which we have gone from an intuitive being who draws upon all the elements at our disposal to make a decision to being dependant on bodies of information that we access on purpose...Devices Of The Soul challenges our conception of our self in an effort to make us examine our relationship with technology and how it has changed us. While change is inevitable, and there is nothing wrong with it intrinsically, blinkered acceptance of all aspects of it can be dangerous. Steve Talbott has rung an alarm bell that is well worth our while to pay attention to and that we ignore at our own peril. "
--Richard Marcus,