Rise of the Machines: A Cybernetic History

Rise of the Machines: A Cybernetic History - Thomas Rid This book deserves to be read and not ignored as this one seems to be. To understand where we are going sometimes one must first understand how we got there.

The author uses a chronological approach by decade and seamlessly ties each of the stories together as if he is a writing a brilliant work of fiction with an overriding narrative leading to a beautiful quilt made of many different tapestries.

He starts the story within WW II and the necessity for an artillery gun to anticipate the movement of manned airplanes and takes the listener through many other excursions such as L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics (and Scientology), Ashbey's Homeostasis contraption (a complicated machine that was said to be alive because of it's innate ability to reach complex state of equilibrium after systematic perturbations, a fascinating story and well told), LSD and Timothy Leary, Psycho Cybernetics (a book in almost everyone's house for all of the 1970s), The Whole Earth Catalog, "The Monkey's Paw Story" (you can watch a version on Youtube) and the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" and how they relate to our cybernetic advancements, PGP (Pretty Good Privacy, the default standard for encryption), and many other fascinating stories all seamlessly woven together.

The author does an amazing job of weaving the stories as a coherent whole and also does a summary chapter explaining how all the pieces fit together. Not to spoil it for the listener, but his theme is along the lines that humans first use tools (such as a peg leg on a pirate or a club in the hands of the baseball player) and slowly makes the tools interact more "magically" with the human, then the next step is the machine itself became the tool, and then the "network is the computer" (not his words, but a slogan from the 90s for Sun Microsystem that seems appropriate) and finally the community itself becomes completely connected and tends towards an organic system as a whole.

Overall, a fine book and deserves to have a larger audience than what it seems to be achieving, and is more satisfying than most of the recent pop science books I've been reading lately.