Blown to Bits Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2008-06-06
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
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"If you want to understand the future before it happens, yours"ll love this book. If you want to change the future before it happens to you, this book is required reading." Reed Hundt, former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission "There is no simpler or clearer statement of the radical change that digital technologies will bring, nor any book that better prepares one for thinking about the next steps." LawrenceLessig, Stanford Law School and Author ofCode and Other Laws of Cyberspace "Blown to Bitswill blow you away. In highly accessible and always fun prose, it explores all the nooks and crannies of the digital universe, exploring not only how this exploding space works but also what it means." Debora Spar, President of Barnard College, Author ofRuling the WavesandThe Baby Business "This is a wonderful bookprobably the best since Hal Varian and Carl Schultz wroteDigital Rules. The authors are engineers, not economists. The result is a long, friendly talk with the genie, out of the lamp, and willing to help you avoid making the traditional mistake with that all-important third wish." David Warsh, Author ofKnowledge and the Wealth of Nations "Blown to Bitsis one of the clearest expositions Irs"ve seen of the social and political issues arising from the Internet. Its remarkably clear explanations of how the Net actually works lets the hot air out of some seemingly endless debates. Yours"ve made explaining this stuff look easy. Congratulations!" David Weinberger, Coauthor ofThe Cluetrain Manifestoand Author ofEverything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. "Blown to Bitsis a timely, important, and very readable take on how information is produced and consumed today, and more important, on the approaching sea change in the way that we as a society deal with the consequences." Craig Silverstein, Director of Technology, Google, Inc. "This book gives an overview of the kinds of issues confronting society as we become increasingly dependent on the Internet and the World Wide Web. Every informed citizen should read this book and then form their own opinion on these and related issues. And after reading this book you will rethink how (and even whether) you use the Web to form your opinionshellip;" James S. Miller, Senior Director for Technology Policy and Strategy, Microsoft Corporation "Most writing about the digital world comes from techies writing about technical matter for other techies or from pundits whose turn of phrase greatly exceeds their technical knowledge. InBlown to Bits, experts in computer science address authoritatively the practical issues in which we all have keen interest." Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Author ofMultiple IntelligencesandChanging Minds "Regardless of your experience with computers,Blown to Bitsprovides a uniquely entertaining and informative perspective from the computing in

Author Biography


Hal Abelson is Class of 1922 Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, and an IEEE Fellow. He has helped drive innovative educational technology initiatives such MIT OpenCourseWare, cofounded Creative Commons and Public Knowledge, and was founding director of the Free Software Foundation. Ken Ledeen, Chairman/CEO of Nevo Technologies, has served on the boards of numerous technology companies. Harry Lewis, former Dean of Harvard College, is Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard. He is author of Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future? Together, the authors teach Quantitative Reasoning 48, an innovative Harvard course on information for non-technical, non-mathematically oriented students.


Table of Contents

Prefacep. xiii
Digital Explosion: Why Is It Happening, and What Is at Stake?p. 1
The Explosion of Bits, and Everything Elsep. 2
The Koans of Bitsp. 4
Good and Ill, Promise and Perilp. 13
Naked in the Sunlight: Privacy Lost, Privacy Abandonedp. 19
1984 Is Here, and We Like Itp. 19
Footprints and Fingerprintsp. 22
Why We Lost Our Privacy, or Gave It Awayp. 36
Little Brother Is Watchingp. 42
Big Brother, Abroad and in the U.S.p. 48
Technology Change and Lifestyle Changep. 55
Beyond Privacyp. 61
Ghosts in the Machine: Secrets and Surprises of Electronic Documentsp. 73
What You See Is Not What the Computer Knowsp. 73
Representation, Reality, and Illusionp. 80
Hiding Information in Imagesp. 94
The Scary Secrets of Old Disksp. 99
Needles in the Haystack: Google and Other Brokers in the Bits Bazaarp. 109
Found After Seventy Yearsp. 109
The Library and the Bazaarp. 110
The Fall of Hierarchyp. 117
It Matters How It Worksp. 120
Who Pays, and for What?p. 138
Search Is Powerp. 145
You Searched for WHAT? Tracking Searchesp. 156
Regulating or Replacing the Brokersp. 158
Secret Bits: How Codes Became Unbreakablep. 161
Encryption in the Hands of Terrorists, and Everyone Elsep. 161
Historical Cryptographyp. 165
Lessons for the Internet Agep. 174
Secrecy Changes Foreverp. 178
Cryptography for Everyonep. 187
Cryptography Unsettledp. 191
Balance Toppled: Who Owns the Bits?p. 195
Automated Crimes-Automated Justicep. 195
NET Act Makes Sharing a Crimep. 199
The Peer-to-Peer Upheavalp. 201
Sharing Goes Decentralizedp. 204
Authorized Use Onlyp. 209
Forbidden Technologyp. 213
Copyright Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balancep. 219
The Limits of Propertyp. 225
You Can't Say That on the Internet: Guarding the Frontiers of Digital Expressionp. 229
Do You Know Where Your Child Is on the Web Tonight?p. 229
Metaphors for Something Unlike Anything Elsep. 231
Publisher or Distributor?p. 234
Neither Liberty nor Securityp. 235
The Nastiest Place on Earthp. 237
The Most Participatory Form of Mass Speechp. 239
Protecting Good Samaritans-and a Few Bad Onesp. 242
Laws of Unintended Consequencesp. 245
Can the Internet Be Like a Magazine Store?p. 247
Let Your Fingers Do the Stalkingp. 249
Like an Annoying Telephone Call?p. 251
Digital Protection, Digital Censorship-and Self-Censorshipp. 253
Bits in the Air: Old Metaphors, New Technologies, and Free Speechp. 259
Censoring the Presidentp. 259
How Broadcasting Became Regulatedp. 260
The Path to Spectrum Deregulationp. 273
What Does the Future Hold for Radio?p. 288
Conclusion: After the Explosionp. 295
Bits Lighting Up the Worldp. 295
A Few Bits in Conclusionp. 299
The Internet as System and Spiritp. 301
The Internet as a Communication Systemp. 301
The Internet Spiritp. 309
Endnotesp. 317
Indexp. 347
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Blown to Bits PrefaceFor thousands of years, people have been saying that the world is changing and will never again be the same. Yet the profound changes happening today are different, because they result from a specific technological development.It is now possible, in principle, to remember everything that anyone says, writes, sings, draws, or photographs.Everything.If digitized, the world has enough disks and memory chips to save it all, for as long as civilization can keep producing computers and disk drives. Global computer networks can make it available to everywhere in the world, almost instantly. And computers are powerful enough to extract meaning from all that information, to find patterns and make connections in the blink of an eye.In centuries gone by, others may have dreamed these things could happen, in utopian fantasies or in nightmares. But now they are happening. We are living in the middle of the changes, and we can see the changes happening.But we don't know how things will turn out.Right now, governments and the other institutions of human societies are deciding how to use the new possibilities. Each of us is participating as we make decisions for ourselves, for our families, and for people we work with. Everyone needs to know how their world and the world around them is changing as a result of this explosion of digital information. Everyone should know how the decisions will affect their lives, and the lives of their children and grandchildren and everyone who comes after.That is why we wrote this book.Each of us has been in the computing field for more than forty years. The book is the product of a lifetime of observing and participating in the changes it has brought. Each of us has been both a teacher and a learner in the field. This book emerged from a general education course we have taught at Harvard, but it is not a textbook. We wrote this book to share what wisdom we have with as many people as we can reach. We try to paint a big picture, with dozens of illuminating anecdotes as the brushstrokes. We aim to entertain you at the same time as we provoke your thinking.You don't need a computer to read this book. But we would suggest that you use one, connected to the Internet, to explore any topic that strikes your curiosity or excites your interest. Don't be afraid to type some of the things we mention into your favorite search engine and see what comes up. We mention many web sites, and give their complete descriptors, such as bitsbook.com, which happens to be the site for this book itself. But most of the time, you should be able to find things more quickly by searching for them. There are many valuable public information sources and public interest groups where you can learn more, and can participate in the ongoing global conversation about the issues we discuss.We offer some strong opinions in this book. If you would like to react to what we say, please visit the book's web site for an ongoing discussion.Our picture of the changes brought by the digital explosion is drawn largely with reference to the United States and its laws and culture, but the issues we raise are critical for citizens of all free societies, and for all people who hope their societies will become freer.Cambridge, MassachusettsJanuary 2008 Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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