This new volume, though it lacks the thrill of a detection plot, shows that Stoll the man has wisdom as well as ingenuity, and that Stoll the writer can be penetrating as well as full of life. His subject is the current mindless infatuation with computers, the shameless overselling of the Internet, and the damage our misunderstanding and overestimation of those pleasant inventions may be doing to our schools and our libraries, our businesses and our laboratories, even our minds and our spirits. As a certified, charming hero of the Internet, Stoll has considerable authority. Gently but with that authority, he administers a fatal grain of salt to all sorts of baloney: the plausible hokum of Artificial Intelligence entrepreneurs; the vague, semi-informed enthusiasm of converts like Al Gore; the gullibility of school boards and administrators who spend freely on faddish programs and flashy, obsolescent hardware that is more limited, less flexible than the more enduring, abused resources of books and teachers; the merry destruction of real libraries, with books and periodicals to read, in the name of hip technology; the inhumane underbelly of the Internet; its illusion of freedom and being free; New Age idiocy; the pervasive confusion that mistakes data for information and information for knowledge and knowledge for wisdom.
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Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. In Silicon Snake Oil , Clifford Stoll, the best-selling author of The Cuckoo's Egg and one of the pioneers of the Internet, turns his attention to the much-heralded information highway, revealing that it is not all it's cracked up to be. Yes, the Internet provides access to plenty of services, but useful information is virtually impossible to find and difficult to access.
Is being on-line truly useful? They're irrelevant to cooking, driving, visiting, negotiating, eating, hiking, dancing, speaking, and gossiping. You don't need a computer to A cautionary tale about today's media darling, Silicon Snake Oil has sparked intense debate across the country about the merits--and foibles--of what's been touted as the entranceway to our future.
Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published March 1st by Anchor first published More Details Other Editions 9. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Silicon Snake Oil , please sign up. I'm on the last page of the book where Cliff uses a substitution cryptogram to reveal how he wrote it. I'd like to solve it.
Any hints? See 1 question about Silicon Snake Oil…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. I first came across Clifford Stoll while reading the excellent Cuckoo's Egg. It's a griping real life story about how he discovered and chased down one of the early Internet hackers.
The subtitle, "Second Thoughts on the Information Highway" gives an indication about what it's about. The first thing to note is this is a book that really shows it age. Published in it was when the Internet was moving from a co I first came across Clifford Stoll while reading the excellent Cuckoo's Egg. Published in it was when the Internet was moving from a cosy academic network used by scientists to the first commercial ISPs and early influx of AOLers.
This when the World Wide Web was still know by the browser Mosaic. As will soon become apparent 13 years ago counts as ancient history when it comes to the 'net. The books central thesis is one of scepticism of the promises that the advocates of the so called Information Superhighway where making.
Stoll deals with the issues of information overload, signal to noise on Usenet and whether this technology will really turn people into infonauts or just passive consumers of the fire hose of information coming from another glowing box on our desks.
He saves most of his reservations for the trend at the time to computerise education and worries the educational benefits of computers and 'net access are being oversold. Time and again he worries we will turn into one dimensional beings denied the "authentic" experiences of actually seeing, touching, smelling and interacting with things in the real world.
There may be some interesting ideas that are still relevant for discussion today however it's hard to tell because of the numerous predictions that in hindsight completely wrong. I don't blame Stoll for this. Predicting the future is always a tricky business. The 'net has grown up so fast and is consistently surprising the world with new inovations growing out of it. He's also not a reactionary Luddite, he "looks forward to the time when our Internet reaches every town and trailer park".
However at the time he wrote this book he was clearly having a crisis of faith in what the futurists where promising. A few illustrative predictions are worth quoting. When discussing shopping he asserts "no electronic shopping can compare with the variety, quality, and experimental richness of a visit to even the most mundane malls". This is before Amazon gave the bricks and mortar book shops a serious run for their money.
He talks of the frustration of searching for information by keywords in titles of documents through various gopher services. This is before the all powerful Google "solved" the problem of search by using links to information to rank the usefulness of a page. One thing that becomes clear is many of the obstacles he mentions has either been solved or is in the process of improving. The ease of use of computers which is another bugbear of his, usability has been late in the game of software development but people like Apple take problems like getting Grandma on the 'net very seriously.
Humans have proved remarkably ingenious at solving seemingly insurmountable problems. There are some areas he flags for concern that may still be relevant today.
He wonders if the instant response of email is affecting our ability to write properly. If the ability to self publish will drown the 'net is a sea of dross. If social interactions on the screen can ever replace physically meeting people. However so much of this is mixed in with problems I know are now solved it's hard to not just write them off as excessive pessimism on Stoll's part.
In summary I would recommend reading the book if you want to remind yourself of where the 'net came from and what the early days looked like. However if your looking for a clear treatise on the potential downsides of the information world I suggest looking for a more recent book on the subject.
Jun 18, Brian rated it liked it. Charmingly outdated. Still worth considering. Jan 25, Timothy Bartholomew rated it really liked it. This book shows its age, but I'm so happy I read it. As part of the youtube generation, remembering a time when we had to dial in, and a simple HTML web page took minutes to load, was well worth it.
Yes it's easy to criticize his opinions about the Usenet 22 years later, but he still had perspective. Most people would not criticize the highway system but it's true that now This book shows its age, but I'm so happy I read it. Most people would not criticize the highway system but it's true that now we spend more time in traffic commuting than years ago when we had small communities.
Clifford Stoll is a treasure for the IT community and I highly recommend his book, yes even all these years later. Oct 31, Kurtbg rated it it was ok Shelves: fiction-non , technology. I've wanted to read this book about a wary view of the developing internet for a while. I read Cliff's book "The Cuckoo's egg" about tracking down a hacker.
This book is dated. In that I mean this was written pre-explosion of the WWW. The internet had grown in a text based, bulletin-board, that was dominated in academia by mainframes running UNIX. The multi-media driven web it is now. The author's aim was to offer an anti-view against the emerging Web as it robs individuals of real and true- I've wanted to read this book about a wary view of the developing internet for a while. The author's aim was to offer an anti-view against the emerging Web as it robs individuals of real and true-life experiences.
The humanity of activities is pared down - the aesthetics of living changed. For example, writing an email is not the same as sitting down to write a letter. For an email, your type up what your want, do some quick editing, and maybe do a spellcheck but hardly a grammar check.
You're done in 1 minute. Writing a physical letter implies a real commitment and desire to communicate with someone. Time is spent thinking about what to communicate and how. A mistake means eraser marks or cross-outs.
When done, there addressing and postage. When you may be waiting up to weeks the meaning of the letter becomes more important. He addresses e-books, online chat and role-playing games. He's definitely off on the majority of his predictions on where the internet and the web built on top is going.
Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway
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Silicon Snake Oil
Clifford Stoll believes that too little attention has been given to the bogus claims and hidden costs of new information technologies. In this "free-form meditation" on the future of electronic networking, he offers what he considers a much-needed critical perspective on the "popular fictions" and "pernicious myths" about the on-line world. Among these are the notions that electronic networking will "oil the wheels of commerce"; that electronic voting and on-line public discourse will remedy the shortcomings of representative democracy; that interactive multimedia represents the educational medium of the future; that electronic communication will bring about a "literary revival"; that e-mail and networks are great places to meet people; that the Internet will foster a new culture of telecommuters; that electronic communication is virtually instantaneous; that there is a vast population on-line; and that new data storage techniques will make traditional libraries obsolete. Each of these ideas, Stoll writes, is based on either speculation or "a technocratic belief that computers and networks will make a better society. It is an over promoted, hollow world, devoid of warmth and human kindness. The heavily promoted information infrastructure addresses few social needs or business concerns. At the same time, it directly threatens precious parts of our society, including schools, libraries, and social institutions.