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Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-Tech by Paulina Borsook

2000; 276 pp. $24. Public Affairs, Perseus

Paulina Borsook took four years to expand a 1996 Mother Jones article into this book. Paulina had been around the evolving high-tech cultures of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, and she described the technologists she'd met there as "violently lacking in compassion, ravingly anti-government, and tremendously opposed to regulation," though they were "the inheritors of the greatest government subsidy of technology and expansion in technical education the planet has ever seen." The technolibertarians she described were so focused on their tiny entrepreneurial and immensely successful slice of the world that they couldn't see the complex forces that formed the infrastructure for their successes, and they were in danger of biting, gnawing, and ultimately destroying the hand that fed them.

She expressed her perspective on various technolibertarian camps and fascinations including bionomics, cypherpunks, Wired Magazine, and the lack of charitable contributions by the nouveau riche of the cyberculture. Having been there for some of the cybercultural evolution, I found areas where I disagree. (For instance, I think she overstates the impact and influence of the cypherpunks.) But this is an important book, a perspective you won't find elsewhere in the writings and rants of or about the digerati of the early technoculture era that shaped today's Internet. And Borsook's adrenaline prose always makes for a great read.

" In talking about the connection between computer folks and libertarianism, I don't mean only registered members of the official Libertarian Party....Classic libertarianism combines the traditional conservative right's aversion to government, with regard to laws, entitlements, and services, with the traditional left's insistence on individual liberty. But the ubiquitous free-form libertarianism of high-tech...shape-shifts into all manner of beasts, varying in form from socially conservative belief systems that would do Gary Bauer proud to those that look fondly on anarchy in personal and economic affairs. The Silicon Valley worldview contains within it all different colors of free-market/antiregulation/social Darwinist/aphilanthropic/guerilla/neo-pseudo-biological/atomistic threads.

" If you think about it, PC-based libertarianism can also be reframed as the mind-set of adolescents, with their deep wish for total rampaging autonomy and desire for simple, call-to-arms passionate politics, where Good and Bad are clearly delineated?taking for granted that someone else does the laundry and stocks the refrigerator....Like ungrateful adolescent offspring of immigrants who have made it in the new country, technolibertarians take for granted the richness of the environment they have flourished in and resent the hell out of the constraints that bind them."


ISBN: 1891620789

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