11.0152 Online items

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Sat, 5 Jul 1997 15:14:13 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 152.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Fri, 4 Jul 1997 14:06:52 +0100 (BST)
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: Online items

>From this week's Guardian Online, for which also see

(1) Apple shares sinking, now to their lowest level since 1985. Power
Computing (manufacturer of Mac clones) and Educational Access (leading
reseller in the U.S. educational market) are both diversifying to handle
PCs, and EA is dropping "real" Macs to sell Power Computing clones.

(2) Long Now, <http://www.longnow.org/>, is a foundation established to
foster long-term responsibility. "CIVILIZATION is revving itself into a
pathologically short attention span. The trend might be coming from the
acceleration of technology, the short-horizon perspective of market-driven
economics, the next-election perspective of democracies, or the distractions
of personal multi-tasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing
corrective to the short-sightedness is needed---some mechanism or myth which
encourages the long view and the taking of long-term responsibility, where
'long-term' is measured at least in centuries." The primary project of the
foundation is the Clock Library, whose mechanism is the Millenium Clock. It
is based on an idea of Daniel Hillis (who invented massively parallel
computing architecture): "When I was a child, people used to talk about what
would happen by the year 2000. Now, thirty years later, they still talk
about what will happen by the year 2000. The future has been shrinking by
one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a
long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of the
Millennium. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical
clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs
once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium." Stewart Brand's
diagrams are worth the visit.

(3) Douglas Rushkoff, "A potted history", about current hysteria concerning
the supposed pro-drug contents of the Internet. Why, he asks, does "all this
'pro-drug' information [seem] to travel much faster and wider on the
Internet than do anti-drug messages"? "The reasons are simple", he says.
"First... the kind of information that spreads most readily on the Internet
tends to be counter-cultural and anti-prohibitive. The Internet as an idea,
an experience and a complex of hardware, fights censorship and control....
And because the information that is crucial to those who have chosen to eat
or smoke illegal plants is not provided by the overground press, it is no
wonder that these communities have turned on to the Internet.... Even more
significantly, the reason why online culture appears so infused with
pro-psychedelic conversations is that today's Internet was, in many ways, an
achievement of psychedelic users.... The very conception of the almost
hallunicatory realm we call cyberspace required the imaginative capacities
of people who were familiar with navigating hallucinatory headspace. This is
why so many Silicon Valley forms eschew the employee drug testing of other
industries. If high-tech companies weeded out weed users, they'd have few
employees left. Instead of reviling the Internet's psychedelic members, we
should perhaps thank them...." You get the idea. People I knew used to say
that after "the revolution" they'd be the only ones to know how to survive.....

(4) Benign intervention. The U.S. government, specifically the White House,
has "unveiled its first comprehensive policy statement on the Internet,
coming out firmly in favour of a hands-off approach to the new medium." This
is known as the Framework for Global Electronic Commerce. In combination
with the recent Supreme Court ruling on the infamous Communications Decency
Act, it represents a highly significant victory for those who advocate
unrestricted (or rather self-regulating) approach to online communications.
"Attorney Bruce Ennis, who represented the coalition opposing the
[Communications Decency Act] has described the ruling as 'The legal birth
certificate of the Internet'." For more information on the Supreme Court
decision see, for example, the homepage of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, <http://www.eff.org/>. One wonders, once again, about peer
review; is the online medium the place for it?

(5) Posting for a Senior Systems Communications Analyst, King's College
London, Computing Centre, 25K - 30K pounds sterling, inclusive of the London
allowance. E-mail Louisa de Beaufort, <louisa.de_beaufort@kcl.ac.uk>.
(King's has been known to hire foreigners.)


Dr. Willard McCarty
Senior Lecturer, Centre for Computing in the Humanities
King's College London
London WC2R 2LS
+44 (0)171 873 2784 voice; 873 5081 fax