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True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace…

True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier

by Vernor Vinge, James Frenkel (Editor)

Other authors: F. Randall Farmer (Contributor), Leonard N. Foner (Contributor), John M. Ford (Contributor), Danny Hillis (Contributor), Pattie Maes (Contributor)6 more, Timothy C. May (Contributor), Marvin Minsky (Afterword), Chip Morningstar (Contributor), Mark Pesce (Contributor), Richard M. Stallman (Contributor), Alan Wexelblat (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 5 of 5
A present for javaczuk one year, that now is being weaned from our library as we downsize. I can't remember it clearly enough to write a review.
  bookczuk | Jan 15, 2014 |
This update includes the original True names, and commentary by everyone from Timothy May to Marvin Minsky. ( )
  Lyndatrue | Nov 26, 2013 |
This book is, in a sense, two different things.

One is the 1981 story by Vernor Vinge. It is a little fantabulous, taking place partly in "cyberspace"--but a cyberspace that, despite its level of detail, acknowledges its dependence on the imagination of a community of users. The story revolves around one individual, a successful writer who is also a successful protester within cyberspace, who must deal with the myriad threats to the safety of this cyberspace, including both the government and "rogue" threats.

The rest--the bulk--of the volume is a number of essays written throughout the 1990's that respond to, critique, or extend the story from a socio-technological viewpoint. Reading this for the first time in 2008, I was amazed at the prescience of these essays and their importance for our time.

Danny Hillis takes a quick stab at a coming technological symbiosis, something that is coming true as certain white-collar groups are now always on, all the time, via cell phones, blackberries, Twitter linkages, etc. Timothy May describes several different applications of strong cryptography, and rants a bit. John M. Ford muses on what the computers of the future will think of us. Alan Wexelblat compares the datamining techniques of government and industry to a panopticon prison, where we do not own our own identity profiles. Pattie Maes mentions software agents.

The next few pieces are, to my mind, essential. RMS writes a beautiful parable on "the right to read," i.e. a right to be able to own anything that contains intellectual property--a right that has been limited in a post DMCA age where people no longer have physical books and the like but can only license individual access for a short time. Leonard Foner describes the history of cryptography policy and its pitfalls. Morningstar & Farmer give an account of the late-80's Habitat community, sharing the technological (separate content and presentation!) and social lessons (don't break the conventions) they learned.

Mark Pesce wraps up the essay section with a meditation on symbol, mearnings, and animism. Then the Vinge story is reprinted (with only typographical corrections made), followed by the 1983 afterword by Marvin Minsky, which tackles consciousness, language, and the human mind as computer. This is a whole topic of its own, but his piece was not a bad entrée into this area.

A couple of different essays point out that during and after crises, citizens usually lose rights, being watched more closely for tinier infringements (such as wrong-thinking) by more powerful governments. They further suggest that there are two attractor basins: one towards a free, possibly slightly anarchist, society where people have speech and privacy rights supported by high technology, the other towards a totalitarian society run by individuals who are terrified by high technology and strictly regulate its use. Optimists believed that we were heading towards the former; in the wake of the September 11, 2001 killings, it is not so clear. How can we preserve the rights of man in a post-human world?

Highly recommended. ( )
3 vote chellerystick | Jan 28, 2008 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vinge, VernorAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Frenkel, JamesEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Farmer, F. RandallContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Foner, Leonard N.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ford, John M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hillis, DannyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Maes, PattieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
May, Timothy C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Minsky, MarvinAfterwordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morningstar, ChipContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pesce, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stallman, Richard M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wexelblat, AlanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eshkar, ShelleyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312862075, Paperback)

Once in a great while a science fiction story is so visionary, yet so close to impending scientific developments that it becomes not only an accurate predictor, but itself the locus for new discoveries and development. True Names by Vernor Vinge, first published in 1981, is such a work.

Here is a feast of articles by computer scientists and journalists on the cutting edge of the field, writing about innovations and developments of the Internet, including, among others:

Danny Hillis: Founder of thinking machines and the first Disney Fellow.

Timothy C. May: former chief scientist at Intel--a major insider in the field of computers and technology.

Marvin Minsky: Cofounder of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab.

Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer: Codevelopers of habitat, the first real computer interactive environment.

Mark Pesce: Cocreator of VRML and the author of the Playful World: How Technology Transforms Our Imagination.

Richard M. Stallman: Research affiliate with MIT; the founder of the Free Software Movement.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:47 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Computer scientists and journalists write about innovations and developments of the Internet, their articles either inspired by or related to the 1981 science fiction novella True Names, which provided the first imaginative depiction of what the Internet could become.… (more)

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