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» » Being Digital

Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte

Being Digital
Being Digital
Nicholas Negroponte
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Vintage (1996)
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Being Digital is both a guide to the present state of our rapidly-changing digital age and a map for the future--how our lives will be shaped and enhanced by computer-related technology. Negroponte--Wired Magazine columnist and founding director of the MIT Media Lab--describes how advancements in computer technology and telecommunications will transform workplaces, households, and educational institutions. He explains how this revolution will change the way we live, think, and interact with one another and with technology, and foresees the challenges that lie ahead in developing truly global systems for delivering multimedia and other forms of digitally based information. Negroponte characterizes the development of future information delivery systems as a battle between atoms, the components of books and other physical resources, and bits, the basic building blocks of information. nnThe digital age is coming, Negroponte says, and it "cannot be denied or stopped....We're discussing a fundamental cultural change: Computing is not about computers, it's about life; being digital is not just being a geek or Internet surfer or mathematically savvy child, it's actually a way of living and is going to impact absolutely everything."
  • Narder
This book is still worth reading (again) 20+ years later. Negroponte didn't get too many things wrong, and while he didn't anticipate self-driving cars (in the section on smart cars) or ad stalking and other surveillance on the I-Net, or Bitcoin, there's enough here that was still relevant that I was glad I got a copy to re-read. Negroponte did a better job of pointing out the important issues and where we might be twenty years later than, say, Gates did in "The Road Ahead", given that the I-Net for the masses was brand new in 1995.
  • Clever
I read this book, partly based on the implied challenge of one of my professors. After finishing it, I can only say I'm glad I didn't pay full price for it.

For starters, you can't blame Negroponte for the dated material in the book. After all, it was published in 1995. One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was reading some of the predictions made by Negroponte back then, and how they turned out. The "atoms vs. bits" argument was arguably revolutionary at the time and I think it is a relevant method of discussing the digital revolution with students who were born either during or shortly before the book being published. Dinosaurs such as I can remember the days before the internet and when we had to use typewriters to work on papers. I remember how completely freaked out I was the first time I heard my computer "speak" in 1994, after installing a sound card and CD ROM drive - so the concept of interactive computing and hence moving bits vs. moving atoms is a bit of an eye-opener to an old timer. To those who come of age post-Internet, its a good way of grounding you in the history and function of digital life. The best arguments in the book show up in the introduction and in the conclusion - I think that's where Negroponte is at his best. He pontificates (as well as predicts!) very well in these sections - much better than in the rest of the book.

Between the intro and conclusion... well... there seems to be a lot of rambling. Kind of reminds me of a guy at work who won't stop talking once he starts. And then its scattershot from one topic to another, blah de blah de blah, with no real substance. The best part between the opening and closing is when Negroponte goes off about the stupidity of fax technology. Quite frankly I agree - why type something on a computer, print it out, put it in another machine, send it electronically to wherever, so that someone at the other end can print out another copy? Complete waste of paper, to say the least. Makes me wonder if the lumber/timber industry isn't involved somehow... but other than that, there just isn't much there.

That said, this isn't really a bad book. At times I found myself nodding in agreement, other times nodding off to sleep, and other times laughing out loud either at the foolishness of some predictions or the uncanny accuracy of others. Overall however, I wasn't too terribly impressed.
  • Celore
  • snowball
  • Villo
Love it!!!! too awesome!!!
  • Rrd
The product itself with great great deliver in speed but the book was hard as hell to read if it wasn't for a required class I was suggested he in circles back on himself very.
  • Lightwind
A classic of tech writing.
Negroponte's "Being Digital" is one of the best books to get an overview on the impact technology is having on our everyday lives. One of the keys of its success is the fact that it has been written to be enjoyed by all kinds of public. Newcomers to the world of technology will find it incredibly illustrating and easy to understand; experts in any of the fields referred to in the book will find it hard to make better explanations of many of the topics covered throughout the book's 250 pages. A complete masterpiece.