Counterculture and the Tech Revolution By RU Sirius on 10 Zen Monkeys
RU Sirius former editor of Mondo 2000 has a review of Fred Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism on 10 Zen Monkeys.
Here is a bit from the review:
[John Markof's book What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer covers] " … the intersection or convergence of two cultures around the Stanford campus in Palo Alto, California throughout the 1960s. One was a psychedelic counterculture and the other was the anti-war movement; and then you have the beginnings of computer technology intersecting them both.” Engelbart, in contrast to the mainstream in computer science back then, started thinking about computers as something that could augment and expand the capacity of the human mind. At the same time, another Palo Alto group was researching LSD as a tool for augmenting and expanding the capacity of the human mind. And then, along came the whole anti-war, anti-establishment movement of the sixties and all these tendencies become increasingly tangled as a “people’s” computing culture evolves in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.
What the Dormouse Said is a marvelous read that gives names and faces to an interesting dynamic that helped give birth to the PC. The story is mostly localized in Palo Alto in Silicon Valley, and it’s largely about how connections were made. In this sense, it’s a story that is as much based on proximity in physical space and time, as it is a story about the evolution of the cultural ideas that might be associated with that word: “counterculture.”
Fred Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism digs more deeply into how the seeds of a certain view of how the world works (cybernetics) was planted into the emerging 60s counterculture largely through the person of Stewart Brand, and how that seed has succeeded – and how it has continued to exfoliate in new and unexpected ways. While Markoff’s book blew the cultural lid off of a partly-suppressed truth — that computer culture was deeply rooted in psychedelic counterculture — Turner’s book takes a broader sweep and raises difficult questions about the ideological assumptions that undergird our counterculturally-inflected technoculture. They’re both wonderful reads, but Turner’s book is both more difficult and ultimately more rewarding.
Read the rest at the link at the top of this post.