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Aramis, or the Love of Technology
by Bruno Latour
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0674043235, Paperback)Packet switching works well for moving data -- why not use it for moving humans? In a nutshell, the French Aramis transit project proposed packet switching as a solution to human transport problems (though, so far as I can tell, neither the author nor any reviews I have yet read have made this connection).
With all the brouhaha about moving bytes around on the information superhighways, moving people around real cities has become less glamorous -- after all, the current mythology is that telecommuting will render the automobile obsolete, right? With the prevailing American tendency to think in terms of technological manifest destiny, stories about superior technologies failing miserably are usually glossed over in an obsession with teleology (history is an inevitable march toward greater perfection).
In contrast, this book describes an extraordinarily well-designed and highly superior semi-personal robotic transit system developed by the French government -- and then squashed by the French government. It is written in a style that only a Gallic scientist could conceive (for example, in a passage about project complexity, Latour writes: ...The monkey is readily identified as a creature of desire...). Because of such stylistic excrescences, I personally I found this book somewhat difficult to read at times, but I recommend it very highly to anyone interested in the history of technology, cross-cultural studies, telecommunications -- or the burgeoning application of packet switching principles to mass transit.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:08 -0400)
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