Although the sciences are heavily represented among Mr. Brockman’s contributors, the volume ranges beyond the usual suspects (e.g., the ubiquitous technology booster Clay Shirky) to include visual artists, architects and musicians whose voices are all too often missing from discussions of technology and contemporary culture.
Whether poets or programmers, the book’s contributors write from the perspective not of “digital natives” but of creatures from an earlier age who have had to adapt to the changes wrought by the Internet. As members of a transitional generation, they are poised to address both practical and philosophical themes.
Most of the contributors are enthusiastic about the bounty that the Internet provides, particularly to scientific research, global communication and personal expression. Indeed, several contributors are disparaging of those who question the Internet’s costs, dismissing such people as “neophobic” or “curmudgeons and troglodytes.” Still, a few writers belie such easy caricature. The neuroscientist Joshua Greene suggests, in a blunt but apt metaphor, that the Internet, for all its revolutionary pretense, is “nothing more, and nothing less, than a very useful, and very dumb, butler.”