Republic of Letters

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pages: 687 words: 189,243

A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy by Joel Mokyr


Andrei Shleifer, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, Copley Medal, creative destruction, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, Deng Xiaoping, Edmond Halley, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, framing effect, germ theory of disease, Haber-Bosch Process, hindsight bias, income inequality, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, land tenure, law of one price, Menlo Park, moveable type in China, new economy, phenotype, price stability, principal–agent problem, rent-seeking, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, South Sea Bubble, statistical model, survivorship bias, the market place, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, ultimatum game, World Values Survey, Wunderkammern

The duty of Rhetoric, he felt, was to apply reason to imagination (Bacon, [1605] 1996, pp. 237–38). The Republic of Letters, argues Schoeck, was based on a common foundation of rhetoric which “made possible free movement of ideas, genres and books” (Schoeck, 1982, p. 303). Eloquence was the means by which members of the Republic of Letters communicated and persuaded one another. Yet rhetorical bias had its limits: erudite and brilliant conversation taking place in the salons and coffeehouses of the Republic of Letters in the age of Enlightenment started to look pedantic to contemporaries, and were easy to make fun of, especially when taken on by a master-satirist like Jonathan Swift. The Republic of Letters anointed a new set of experts whose knowledge required more that just familiarity with an existing canon but also with the methods by which novel knowledge was to be validated.

In other societies, too, peaceful competition among religions, much like peaceful competition between states, encouraged intellectual innovation and progress.19 Despite the fierce competition among religions for the souls of believers, it is striking how blithely intellectuals bridged or ignored altogether the chasms between different religions. The Republic of Letters on the whole seems to have paid fairly little heed to the religious beliefs of its citizens. Grafton (2009a, p. 12) explains that it was regarded morally wrong to break off scholarly communication with people of different religious convictions, because such “restrictions could only hamper the flow of information and ideas.” Moreover, citizens of the Republic of Letters argued against religious persecution, a voice that became louder as wars of religion increasingly showed themselves to be destructive and pointless after 1562. Prominent citizens of the Republic of Letters, from Sebastian Castellio (1515–1563) to Spinoza to Voltaire, argued for religious tolerance and against the persecution of apostates (Zagorin, 2003).20 Even scholars of fundamentalist religious beliefs, such as the great Swiss Huguenot polymath Louis Bourguet (1678–1742), were able to develop what Barnett (2015, p. 149) has felicitously called a “strategy of toleration” in which deeply felt religious differences were papered over in scientific exchanges and a scholarly civility was maintained despite private outrage at the heretical opinions of “unbelievers.”

In that sense they neatly complemented the mobility of intellectuals. In the Age of Enlightenment, Amsterdam became the location for presses that published books prohibited elsewhere, “the central city of the Republic of Letters” in that limited sense (Eisenstein, 1979, p. 420). The most famous French authors of the age of Enlightenment were published primarily by printers outside France. As discussed below in chapter 15, formal academies and scientific societies represented the institutionalization of the Republic of Letters, but did not play a central role until the closing decades of the seventeenth century. Virtual or not, the Republic of Letters was the main institution behind the meteoric takeoff of useful knowledge in Europe during the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. In this context institutions should be seen as a set of rules by which the economic game is played.

pages: 57 words: 11,522

The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


Benoit Mandelbrot, Black Swan, commoditize, knowledge worker, Republic of Letters


– When I look at people on treadmills I wonder how alpha lions, the strongest, expend the least amount of energy, sleeping twenty hours a day; others hunt for them. Caesar pontem fecit.* – Every social association that is not face-to-face is injurious to your health. * Literally, “Caesar built a bridge,” but the subtlety is that it can also suggest that “he had a bridge built for him.” THE REPUBLIC OF LETTERS Writing is the art of repeating oneself without anyone noticing. – Most people write so they can remember things; I write to forget. – What they call philosophy I call literature; what they call literature I call journalism; what they call journalism I call gossip; and what they call gossip I call (generously) voyeurism. – Writers are remembered for their best work, politicians for their worst mistakes, and businessmen are almost never remembered

pages: 391 words: 105,382

Utopia Is Creepy: And Other Provocations by Nicholas Carr


Air France Flight 447, Airbnb, Airbus A320, AltaVista, Amazon Mechanical Turk, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Bernie Sanders, book scanning, Brewster Kahle, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, centralized clearinghouse, cloud computing, cognitive bias, collaborative consumption, computer age, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, deskilling, digital map, Donald Trump, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Elon Musk, factory automation, failed state, feminist movement, Frederick Winslow Taylor, friendly fire, game design, global village, Google bus, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Googley, hive mind, impulse control, indoor plumbing, interchangeable parts, Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, job automation, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, low skilled workers, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Menlo Park, mental accounting, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norman Mailer, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, Peter Thiel, Plutocrats, plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, SETI@home, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Singularitarianism, Snapchat, social graph, social web, speech recognition, Startup school, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, technoutopianism, the medium is the message, theory of mind, Turing test, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator

As ideas circulated through Europe and across the Atlantic during the eighteenth century, propelled by the technologies of the printing press and the post office, thinkers like Voltaire, Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson came to see themselves as citizens of a Republic of Letters, a freethinking meritocracy that transcended national borders. It was a time of great intellectual fervor and ferment, but the Republic of Letters was “democratic only in principle,” Darnton pointed out in an essay in the New York Review of Books: “In practice, it was dominated by the wellborn and the rich.” With the internet, we could at long last rectify that inequity. By putting digital copies of works online, Darnton has argued, the collections of the country’s great libraries could be made available to anyone with a computer and a link to the network. We could create a “Digital Republic of Letters” that would be truly free and open and democratic. The DPLA would allow us to “realize the Enlightenment ideals on which our country was founded.”

., 64–65 contemplation, 241, 246 through work, 298–99 conversation, computer streaming of, 152–54 CopyBot controversy, 25–27 copyright laws: history of, 275–76 in online library controversies, 269–71, 275–78, 283 in virtual world, 25–27 Corporate Communalists, 83 corporate control, through self-tracking, 163–65 correspondence courses, 133–34 cosmetic surgery, 331, 334 Costeja González, Mario, 190–92, 194 Coupland, Douglas, 102, 103 Courant, Paul, 270, 272 courtesy: decline of, 157 inefficiency of, 152–54 Cowen, Tyler, 116 Crawford, Matthew, 265 creativity, 49, 64 before the virtual world, 60–61 economics of, 8–9 in music, 44–45, 294 stifled by iPad, 76–78 see also innovation “crisis of control,” 188–89 CRISPR, 334–35 crowdsourcing, 37 Cruz, Ted, 314 cultural memory, archiving of, 325–28 cutouts (remaindered record albums), 122 CyberLover, 55 cybernetics, 37–38, 214 cyberpunk, 113 cyberspace, xvii, 127 early idealism of, 85 “Cyborg Manifesto” (Haraway), 168–69 cyborgs, 131 cynicism, 158 Daedalus, 336, 340 Darnton, Robert, 270–75, 278 DARPA, 332 Dash Express, 56 data-mining, 186, 212, 255–59 data-protection agencies, 190–91 Data Protection Directive, 191, 193 Davidson, Cathy, 94 Davies, Alex, 195 Davies, William, 214–15 Dean, Jeff, 137 death, as hardware failure, 115 Declaration of Independence, 278, 325 “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” (Barlow), 85 deep reading, 241 deletionists, 18–20, 58 democratization, xvi, xviii, 28, 86, 89, 115, 208, 271 internet perceived as tool for, 319–20 depression, 304 Derry, N.H., 296–97 Descartes, René, 301, 330 Dewey, John, 304 “digital dualism,” 129 “digital lifestyle,” 32–33 digital memory, 327 digital preservation, 325–28 Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), 268, 271–78 “Digital Republic of Letters,” 271 discovery, adventure of, 13–15 Disenchanted Night (Schivelbusch), 229 displaced agency, 265 distraction, xix, 14, 316 in consumerism, 65 video games and, 19 diversity, 65 DNA, 69–70, 334–35 Doctorow, Cory, 76–77 “Does the ‘New Economy’ Measure Up to the Great Inventions of the Past?” (Gordon), 116–17 Doors, 126 dopamine, 332 dot-com crash, xvi Doudna, Jennifer, 335 driving, 195–98 Droit-Volet, Sylvie, 203–4 drones, 306 Drucker, Peter, 182 drugs, 119, 304, 331 psychoactive, 333–34 video games and, 262 virtual, 39–40 Drum, Kevin, 306 Dylan, Bob, 121, 294 dystopias, 108 ears, development and evolution of, 235 Earthlink, 280 “Easter, 1916” (Yeats), 88 Easton, David, 211 “E-book Reading Jumps; Print Book Reading Declines,” 140 ebooks, e-reader devices, 74, 122–23, 140–43, 225, 257, 274, 288, 290 reading experience transformed by, 252–54 economic gap, xix, 30–31, 176–77, 179 economy, effect of technology on, 174–77, 179–80 Edison, Thomas, xvii, 134, 229, 287 education, technological transformation of, 133–35 Edwards, Douglas, 280–82, 285 efficiency: in computer communication, 152–54 maximizing of, 84–85, 148, 164–65, 195–97, 209, 214, 234, 237–39, 303, 305 of robots, 321 Eiffel Tower, 341 e-learning fad, 134 election campaigns: of 2008, 314 of 2016, 314–20 transformed by technology, 314–20 Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The (Wolfe), 170 Eliot, T.

., 261–62 see also books reading skills, changes in, 232–34, 240–41 Read Write Web (blog), 30 Reagan, Ronald, 315 real world: digital media intrusion in, 127–30 perceived as boring and ugly, 157–58 as source of knowledge, 313 virtual world vs., xx–xxi, 36, 62, 127–30, 303–4 reconstructive surgery, 239 record albums: copying of, 121–22 jackets for, 122, 224 technology of, 41–46 Redding, Otis, 126 Red Light Center, 39 Reichelt, Franz, 341 Reid, Rob, 122–25 relativists, 20 religion: internet perceived as, 3–4, 238 for McLuhan, 105 technology viewed as, xvi–xvii Republic of Letters, 271 reputations, tarnishing of, 47–48, 190–94 Resident Evil, 260–61 resource sharing, 148–49 resurrection, 69–70, 126 retinal implants, 332 Retromania (Reynolds), 217, 292–95 Reuters, Adam, 26 Reuters’ SL bureau, 26 revivification machine, 69–70 Reynolds, Simon, 217–18, 292–95 Rice, Isaac, 244 Rice, Julia Barnett, 243–44 Richards, Keith, 42 “right to be forgotten” lawsuit, 190–94 Ritalin, 304 robots: control of, 303 creepy quality of, 108 human beings compared to, 242 human beings replaced by, 112, 174, 176, 195, 197, 306–7, 310 limitations of, 323 predictions about, xvii, 177, 331 replaced by humans, 323 threat from, 226, 309 Rogers, Roo, 83–84 Rolling Stones, 42–43 Roosevelt, Franklin, 315 Rosen, Nick, 52 Rubio, Marco, 314 Rumsey, Abby Smith, 325–27 Ryan, Amy, 273 Sandel, Michael J., 340 Sanders, Bernie, 314, 316 Sansom, Ian, 287 Savage, Jon, 63 scatology, 147 Schachter, Joshua, 195 Schivelbusch, Wolfgang, 229 Schmidt, Eric, 13, 16, 238, 239, 257, 284 Schneier, Bruce, 258–59 Schüll, Natasha Dow, 218 science fiction, 106, 115, 116, 150, 309, 335 scientific management, 164–65, 237–38 Scrapbook in American Life, The, 185 scrapbooks, social media compared to, 185–86 “Scrapbooks as Cultural Texts” (Katriel and Farrell), 186 scythes, 302, 304–6 search-engine-optimization (SEO), 47–48 search engines: allusions sought through, 86 blogging, 66–67 in centralization of internet, 66–69 changing use of, 284 customizing by, 264–66 erroneous or outdated stories revived by, 47–48, 190–94 in filtering, 91 placement of results by, 47–48, 68 searching vs., 144–46 targeting information through, 13–14 writing tailored to, 89 see also Google searching, ontological connotations of, 144–46 Seasteading Institute, 172 Second Life, 25–27 second nature, 179 self, technologies of the, 118, 119–20 self-actualization, 120, 340 monitoring and quantification of, 163–65 selfies, 224 self-knowledge, 297–99 self-reconstruction, 339 self-tracking, 163–65 Selinger, Evan, 153 serendipity, internet as engine of, 12–15 SETI@Home, 149 sexbots, 55 Sex Pistols, 63 sex-reassignment procedures, 337–38 sexuality, 10–11 virtual, 39 Shakur, Tupac, 126 sharecropping, as metaphor for social media, 30–31 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 88 Shirky, Clay, 59–61, 90, 241 Shop Class as Soulcraft (Crawford), 265 Shuster, Brian, 39 sickles, 302 silence, 246 Silicon Valley: American culture transformed by, xv–xxii, 148, 155–59, 171–73, 181, 241, 257, 309 commercial interests of, 162, 172, 214–15 informality eschewed by, 197–98, 215 wealthy lifestyle of, 16–17, 195 Simonite, Tom, 136–37 simulation, see virtual world Singer, Peter, 267 Singularity, Singularitarians, 69, 147 sitcoms, 59 situational overload, 90–92 skimming, 233 “Slaves to the Smartphone,” 308–9 Slee, Tom, 61, 84 SLExchange, 26 slot machines, 218–19 smart bra, 168–69 smartphones, xix, 82, 136, 145, 150, 158, 168, 170, 183–84, 219, 274, 283, 287, 308–9, 315 Smith, Adam, 175, 177 Smith, William, 204 Snapchat, 166, 205, 225, 316 social activism, 61–62 social media, 224 biases reinforced by, 319–20 as deceptively reflective, 138–39 documenting one’s children on, 74–75 economic value of content on, 20–21, 53–54, 132 emotionalism of, 316–17 evolution of, xvi language altered by, 215 loom as metaphor for, 178 maintaining one’s microcelebrity on, 166–67 paradox of, 35–36, 159 personal information collected and monitored through, 257 politics transformed by, 314–20 scrapbooks compared to, 185–86 self-validation through, 36, 73 traditional media slow to adapt to, 316–19 as ubiquitous, 205 see also specific sites social organization, technologies of, 118, 119 Social Physics (Pentland), 213 Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise, 243–44 sociology, technology and, 210–13 Socrates, 240 software: autonomous, 187–89 smart, 112–13 solitude, media intrusion on, 127–30, 253 Songza, 207 Sontag, Susan, xx SoundCloud, 217 sound-management devices, 245 soundscapes, 244–45 space travel, 115, 172 spam, 92 Sparrow, Betsy, 98 Special Operations Command, U.S., 332 speech recognition, 137 spermatic, as term applied to reading, 247, 248, 250, 254 Spinoza, Baruch, 300–301 Spotify, 293, 314 “Sprite Sips” (app), 54 Squarciafico, Hieronimo, 240–41 Srinivasan, Balaji, 172 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 68 Starr, Karla, 217–18 Star Trek, 26, 32, 313 Stengel, Rick, 28 Stephenson, Neal, 116 Sterling, Bruce, 113 Stevens, Wallace, 158 Street View, 137, 283 Stroop test, 98–99 Strummer, Joe, 63–64 Studies in Classic American Literature (Lawrence), xxiii Such Stuff as Dreams (Oatley), 248–49 suicide rate, 304 Sullenberger, Sully, 322 Sullivan, Andrew, xvi Sun Microsystems, 257 “surf cams,” 56–57 surfing, internet, 14–15 surveillance, 52, 163–65, 188–89 surveillance-personalization loop, 157 survival, technologies of, 118, 119 Swing, Edward, 95 Talking Heads, 136 talk radio, 319 Tan, Chade-Meng, 162 Tapscott, Don, 84 tattoos, 336–37, 340 Taylor, Frederick Winslow, 164, 237–38 Taylorism, 164, 238 Tebbel, John, 275 Technics and Civilization (Mumford), 138, 235 technology: agricultural, 305–6 American culture transformed by, xv–xxii, 148, 155–59, 174–77, 214–15, 229–30, 296–313, 329–42 apparatus vs. artifact in, 216–19 brain function affected by, 231–42 duality of, 240–41 election campaigns transformed by, 314–20 ethical hazards of, 304–11 evanescence and obsolescence of, 327 human aspiration and, 329–42 human beings eclipsed by, 108–9 language of, 201–2, 214–15 limits of, 341–42 master-slave metaphor for, 307–9 military, 331–32 need for critical thinking about, 311–13 opt-in society run by, 172–73 progress in, 77–78, 188–89, 229–30 risks of, 341–42 sociology and, 210–13 time perception affected by, 203–6 as tool of knowledge and perception, 299–304 as transcendent, 179–80 Technorati, 66 telegrams, 79 telegraph, Twitter compared to, 34 telephones, 103–4, 159, 288 television: age of, 60–62, 79, 93, 233 and attention disorders, 95 in education, 134 Facebook ads on, 155–56 introduction of, 103–4, 159, 288 news coverage on, 318 paying for, 224 political use of, 315–16, 317 technological adaptation of, 237 viewing habits for, 80–81 Teller, Astro, 195 textbooks, 290 texting, 34, 73, 75, 154, 186, 196, 205, 233 Thackeray, William, 318 “theory of mind,” 251–52 Thiel, Peter, 116–17, 172, 310 “Things That Connect Us, The” (ad campaign), 155–58 30 Days of Night (film), 50 Thompson, Clive, 232 thought-sharing, 214–15 “Three Princes of Serendip, The,” 12 Thurston, Baratunde, 153–54 time: memory vs., 226 perception of, 203–6 Time, covers of, 28 Time Machine, The (Wells), 114 tools: blurred line between users and, 333 ethical choice and, 305 gaining knowledge and perception through, 299–304 hand vs. computer, 306 Home and Away blurred by, 159 human agency removed from, 77 innovation in, 118 media vs., 226 slave metaphor for, 307–8 symbiosis with, 101 Tosh, Peter, 126 Toyota Motor Company, 323 Toyota Prius, 16–17 train disasters, 323–24 transhumanism, 330–40 critics of, 339–40 transparency, downside of, 56–57 transsexuals, 337–38 Travels and Adventures of Serendipity, The (Merton and Barber), 12–13 Trends in Biochemistry (Nightingale and Martin), 335 TripAdvisor, 31 trolls, 315 Trump, Donald, 314–18 “Tuft of Flowers, A” (Frost), 305 tugboats, noise restrictions on, 243–44 Tumblr, 166, 185, 186 Turing, Alan, 236 Turing Test, 55, 137 Twain, Mark, 243 tweets, tweeting, 75, 131, 315, 319 language of, 34–36 theses in form of, 223–26 “tweetstorm,” xvii 20/20, 16 Twilight Saga, The (Meyer), 50 Twitter, 34–36, 64, 91, 119, 166, 186, 197, 205, 223, 224, 257, 284 political use of, 315, 317–20 2001: A Space Odyssey (film), 231, 242 Two-Lane Blacktop (film), 203 “Two Tramps in Mud Time” (Frost), 247–48 typewriters, writing skills and, 234–35, 237 Uber, 148 Ubisoft, 261 Understanding Media (McLuhan), 102–3, 106 underwearables, 168–69 unemployment: job displacement in, 164–65, 174, 310 in traditional media, 8 universal online library, 267–78 legal, commercial, and political obstacles to, 268–71, 274–78 universe, as memory, 326 Urban Dictionary, 145 utopia, predictions of, xvii–xviii, xx, 4, 108–9, 172–73 Uzanne, Octave, 286–87, 290 Vaidhyanathan, Siva, 277 vampires, internet giants compared to, 50–51 Vampires (game), 50 Vanguardia, La, 190–91 Van Kekerix, Marvin, 134 vice, virtual, 39–40 video games, 223, 245, 303 as addictive, 260–61 cognitive effects of, 93–97 crafting of, 261–62 violent, 260–62 videos, viewing of, 80–81 virtual child, tips for raising a, 73–75 virtual world, xviii commercial aspects of, 26–27 conflict enacted in, 25–27 language of, 201–2 “playlaborers” of, 113–14 psychological and physical health affected by, 304 real world vs., xx–xxi, 36, 62, 127–30 as restrictive, 303–4 vice in, 39–40 von Furstenberg, Diane, 131 Wales, Jimmy, 192 Wallerstein, Edward, 43–44 Wall Street, automation of, 187–88 Wall Street Journal, 8, 16, 86, 122, 163, 333 Walpole, Horace, 12 Walters, Barbara, 16 Ward, Adrian, 200 Warhol, Andy, 72 Warren, Earl, 255, 257 “Waste Land, The” (Eliot), 86, 87 Watson (IBM computer), 147 Wealth of Networks, The (Benkler), xviii “We Are the Web” (Kelly), xxi, 4, 8–9 Web 1.0, 3, 5, 9 Web 2.0, xvi, xvii, xxi, 33, 58 amorality of, 3–9, 10 culturally transformative power of, 28–29 Twitter and, 34–35 “web log,” 21 Wegner, Daniel, 98, 200 Weinberger, David, 41–45, 277 Weizenbaum, Joseph, 236 Wells, H.

pages: 369 words: 80,355

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger


airport security, Alfred Russel Wallace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, book scanning, Cass Sunstein, commoditize, corporate social responsibility, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, David Brooks, Debian, double entry bookkeeping, double helix,, Exxon Valdez, Fall of the Berlin Wall, future of journalism, Galaxy Zoo, Hacker Ethic, Haight Ashbury, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, invention of the telegraph, jimmy wales, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, linked data, Netflix Prize, New Journalism, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, openstreetmap, P = NP, Pluto: dwarf planet, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Republic of Letters, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, semantic web, slashdot, social graph, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize

We clustered experts into think tanks and academic departments because we recognized that they’re smarter when together. In the eighteenth century, the great Western thinkers constituted what they called a “Republic of Letters,” in which they shared their ideas in correspondence, arguing back and forth at the speed of ponies and sailing ships. Even in ancient Greece, where the idea of knowledge was invented, the most famous thinker reached toward knowledge exclusively through dialogue with others. But there used to be a natural size to such networks. Few people were admitted to the Republic of Letters, and it really helped to be a leisured white man. University departments are small enclaves. Books and then radio and TV are one-way media, and only a small group of people get to broadcast through them.

Technodeterminism is no different for those who think that the Internet inevitably makes us stupid—rewiring our brains, as Nicholas Carr argues. Anti-technodeterminists such as the sociologist Eszter Hargittai and the social media researcher danah boyd point to the ways our social class, age, and subculture affect how we use the Internet and what it means to us. To some, the Net may be an electronic Republic of Letters, but others feel excluded because they don’t have the technical skills, the free time, or the aggressive personality so many Net forums favor. For entire countries, the Net is not an open marketplace of ideas so much as a source of carefully controlled propaganda. On the other hand, there are some basic elements of the Net experience shared by almost anyone who encounters it through a Web browser.

See also Books and book publishing Paper-based tools Parenting experts Patent Office, US Pavement performance Peer-review journals Perception, facts and Permission-free knowledge Philosophy defining and quantifying knowledge information overload reality unresolved knowledge Pinker, Steven Planetary Skin initiative Plato PLoS One online journal Pogue, David Polio vaccine Politics Popper, Karl Population growth, Malthusian theory of Pornography Postmodernism Pragmatism Primary Insight Principles of Geology (Lyell) Prize4Life Protein folding Pseudo-science Public Library of Science (PLoS) Punchcard data Pyramid, knowledge Pyramid of organizational efficiency Quora Racial/ethnic identity Ramanujan, Srinivasa RAND Corporation Random Hacks of Kindness Rauscher, Francis Raymond, Eric Reagan, Ronald Reality Reason as the path to truth and knowledge critical debate on unresolved knowledge Reliability Repositories, open access Republic of Letters Republican Party (Sunstein) Revolution in the Middle East Rheingold, Howard Richards, Ellen Swallow Riesman, David Robustness “The Rock” (Eliot) Rogers, William Rorty, Richard Rosen, Jay Roskam, Peter Rushkoff, Douglas Russia: Dogger Bank Incident Salk, Jonas Sanger, Larry Schmidt, Michael School shootings Science amateurs in crowdsourcing expertise failures in goals of hyperlinked inflation of scientific studies interdisciplinary approaches media relations Net-based inquiry open filtering journal articles open-notebook overgeneration of scientific facts philosophical and professional differences among scientists public and private realms scientific journals transformation of scientific knowledge Science at Creative Commons Science journal Scientific journals Scientific management Scientific method Self-interest: fact-based knowledge Semantic Web Seneca Sensory overload Sexual behavior The Shallows (Carr) Shapiro, Jesse Shared experiences Shilts, Randy Shirky, Clay Shoemaker, Carolyn Simplicity in scientific thought Simulation of physical interactions Sloan Digital Sky Survey Smart mobs “Smarter planet” initiative Smith, Arfon Smith, Richard Soccer Social conformity Social networks crowdsourcing expertise Middle East revolutions pooling expertise scaling social filtering Social policy: social role of facts Social reform Dickens’s antipathy to fact-based knowledge global statistical support for Bentham’s ideas Social tools: information overload Society of Professional Journalists Socrates Software defaults Software development, contests for Sotomayor, Sonia Source transparency Space Shuttle disaster Spiro, Mary Sports Sprinkle, Annie Standpoint transparency Statistics emergence of Stopping points for knowledge The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kuhn) Stupidity, Net increasing Sub-networks Suel, Gurol Sunlight Foundation Sunstein, Cass Surowiecki, James Systems biology Tag cloud Tagging Tatalias, Jean Taylor, Frederick Wilson TechCamps Technodeterminism Technology easing information overload Television, homophily and Temptation of hyperlinks Think tanks Thoreau, Henry David The Tipping Point (Gladwell) Todd, Mac Toffler, Alvin TopCopder Topic-based expertise Torvalds, Linus Traditional knowledge Tranche Transparency hyperlinks contributing to objectivity and of the Net Open Government Initiative Transparency and Open Government project Triangular knowledge Trillin, Calvin Trust: reliability of information Trust-through-authority system Truth elements of knowledge reason as the path to value of networked knowledge Twitter Tyme, Mae Unnailing facts Updike, John USAID UsefulChem notebook Vaccinations Verizon Vietnam Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Wales, Jimmy Wallace, Alfred Russel Walter, Skip Washington Post Watson, James Welch, Jack Welfare The WELL (The Whole Earth’Lectronic Link) Whole Earth Catalog Wikipedia editorial policy LA Times wikitorial experiment policymaking Virginia Tech shootings Wikswo, John Wilbanks, John Wired magazine The Wisdom of Crowds (Surowiecki) Wise crowds Wittgenstein, Ludwig Wolfram, Stephen World Bank World Cup World War I Wurman, Richard Saul Wycliffe, John York, Jillian YourEncore Zappa, Frank Zeleny, Milan Zettabyte Zittrain, Jonathan Zuckerman, Ethan a I’m leaving this as an unsupported idea because it’s not the point of this book.

pages: 1,351 words: 385,579

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker


1960s counterculture, affirmative action, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, availability heuristic, Berlin Wall, Bonfire of the Vanities, British Empire, Broken windows theory, California gold rush, Cass Sunstein, citation needed, clean water, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, Columbine, computer age, conceptual framework, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, crack epidemic, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, delayed gratification, demographic transition, desegregation, Doomsday Clock, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Glaeser,, European colonialism, experimental subject, facts on the ground, failed state, first-past-the-post, Flynn Effect, food miles, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, fudge factor, full employment, George Santayana, ghettoisation, Gini coefficient, global village, Henri Poincaré, Hobbesian trap, humanitarian revolution, impulse control, income inequality, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, lake wobegon effect, libertarian paternalism, long peace, loss aversion, Marshall McLuhan, mass incarceration, McMansion, means of production, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral panic, mutually assured destruction, open economy, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Singer: altruism, QWERTY keyboard, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, Republic of Letters, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, Saturday Night Live, security theater, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, South China Sea, statistical model, stem cell, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, Turing machine, ultimatum game, uranium enrichment, V2 rocket, Vilfredo Pareto, Walter Mischel, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

Whether or not novels in general, or epistolary novels in particular, were the critical genre in expanding empathy, the explosion of reading may have contributed to the Humanitarian Revolution by getting people into the habit of straying from their parochial vantage points. And it may have contributed in a second way: by creating a hothouse for new ideas about moral values and the social order. THE REPUBLIC OF LETTERS AND ENLIGHTENMENT HUMANISM In David Lodge’s 1988 novel Small World, a professor explains why he believes that the elite university has become obsolete: Information is much more portable in the modern world than it used to be. So are people.... There are three things which have revolutionized academic life in the last twenty years . . . : jet travel, direct-dialing telephones and the Xerox machine....

Two decades after his words were written, they have been superseded by e-mail, digital documents, Web sites, blogs, teleconferencing, Skype, and smartphones. And two centuries before they were written, the technologies of the day—the sailing ship, the printed book, and the postal service—had already made information and people portable. The result was the same: a global campus, a public sphere, or as it was called in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Republic of Letters. Any 21st-century reader who dips into intellectual history can’t help but be impressed by the blogosphere of the 18th. No sooner did a book appear than it would sell out, get reprinted, get translated into half a dozen languages, and spawn a flurry of commentary in pamphlets, correspondence, and additional books. Thinkers like Locke and Newton exchanged tens of thousands of letters; Voltaire alone wrote more than eighteen thousand, which now fill fifteen volumes.143 Of course this colloquy unfolded on a scale that by today’s standards was glacial—weeks, sometimes even months—but it was rapid enough that ideas could be broached, criticized, amalgamated, refined, and brought to the attention of people in power.

The human mind is adept at packaging a complicated idea into a chunk, combining it with other ideas into a more complex assembly, packaging that assembly into a still bigger contrivance, combining it with still other ideas, and so on.144 But to do so it needs a steady supply of plug-ins and subassemblies, which can come only from a network of other minds. A global campus increases not only the complexity of ideas but their quality. In hermetic isolation, all kinds of bizarre and toxic ideas can fester. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and exposing a bad idea to the critical glare of other minds provides at least a chance that it will wither and die. Superstitions, dogmas, and legends ought to have a shorter half-life in a Republic of Letters, together with bad ideas about how to control crime or run a country. Setting fire to a person and seeing whether he burns is a dumb way to determine his guilt. Executing a woman for copulating with devils and turning them into cats is equally inane. And unless you are a hereditary absolutist monarch, you are unlikely to be persuaded that hereditary absolutist monarchy is the optimal form of government.

pages: 1,197 words: 304,245

The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wootton


agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, British Empire, clockwork universe, Commentariolus, commoditize, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, double entry bookkeeping, double helix,, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, germ theory of disease, Google X / Alphabet X, Hans Lippershey, interchangeable parts, invention of gunpowder, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, knowledge economy, lone genius, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Philip Mirowski, placebo effect, QWERTY keyboard, Republic of Letters, spice trade, spinning jenny, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Browne, even while dismissing testimony as relevant only to morality, rhetoric, law and history, and irrelevant to natural philosophy, summed up the basic principle: ‘in Law both Civill and Divine, that is only esteemed legitimum testimonium, or a legall testimony, which receives comprobation from the mouths of at least two witnesses; and that not onely for prevention of calumny, but assurance against mistake.’124 His problem with admitting testimony to natural philosophy was that it would then be necessary to accept what he called ‘aggregated testimony’ – in other words, the indirect experience of people who simply voice what everyone believes to be the case. He could not imagine turning the republic of letters into a vast law court. Thus, before the invention of the fact an appeal to testimony was seen as an appeal to authority (even Digby, writing in 1658, had thought of eyewitnesses as authorities): witnesses, we might say, were thought of as character witnesses, not as eyewitnesses. After the fact, eyewitness testimony became a form of virtual witnessing, hence Boyle’s insistence that he did not appeal ‘to other Writers as to Judges, but as to Witnesses’.

Pascal in 1651 insisted that scientists should have ‘complete liberty’.137 The epigraph to Salusbury’s Mathematical Collections (1661) is ‘inter nullos magis quam inter PHILOSOPHOS esse debet aequa LIBERTAS’ (‘between none more than philosophers ought there to be an equal liberty’). There is something inherently egalitarian and liberating about the new inter-related worlds of the book and of the fact. Indeed, we may say that the new science aspired to the creation of that social sphere which was idealized in the seventeenth century as ‘the republic of letters’ and which the eighteenth century was to label ‘civil society’.138 Bruno Latour, in an important essay entitled ‘Visualization and Cognition: Drawing Things Together’, which originally appeared in 1986, claimed that the printing press made facts ‘harder’; before printing, facts were too soft to be reliable.139 What made the Scientific Revolution, Latour argues, is not the experimental method, or commercial society – both had been around for centuries – but the printing press, which turned private information into public knowledge, private experience into communal experience.

In Questions of Evidence: Proof, Practice and Persuasion across the Disciplines. Ed. J Chandler, AI Davidson and H Harootunian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994: 282–9. ———. ‘The History of Emergences: The Emergence of Probability’. Isis 98: 801–8 (2007). ———. ‘History of Science in an Elegiac Mode: E. A. Burtt’s Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science Revisited’. Isis 82 (1991): 522–31. ———. ‘The Ideal and Reality of the Republic of Letters in the Enlightenment’. Science in Context 4 (1991): 367–86. ———. ‘The Language of Strange Facts in Early Modern Science’. In Inscribing Science: Scientific Texts and the Materiality of Communication. Ed. T Lenoir. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997: 20–38. ———. ‘Marvelous Facts and Miraculous Evidence in Early-Modern Europe’. Critical Inquiry 18 (1991): 93–124. ———. ‘Perché i fatti sono brevi?’

pages: 484 words: 120,507

The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel by Nicholas Ostler


barriers to entry, BRICs, British Empire, call centre,, European colonialism, Internet Archive, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, mass immigration, open economy, Republic of Letters, Scramble for Africa, statistical model, trade route, upwardly mobile

Instead, innovative thinkers such as Petrarch went back to the Latin classics of the ancient world to seek inspiration, and critics such as Lorenzo Valla sought out textual evidence of how best to express ideas in the classical language. Although still actively deployed in the Roman Church and all its works, Latin was no longer exclusively Roman, but had become the language rather of a European “republic of letters.” Copernicus, Erasmus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Descartes all published most of their key works in Latin. For the last time (as it turned out), Latin had found a new and influential community to serve as lingua-franca. * Admittedly, this usually happens with the collusion, witting or unwitting, of their parents. * Explicitly argued in Beckwith 2009, 369– 74. CHAPTER 8 Ruin and Relegation Beorht woeron burgroeced, burnsele monige, Bright borough-buildings, bath-halls many, heah hordgestreon, heresweg micel, high the treasure hoards, hubbub was mighty, meodoheall monig mondreama full, mead-halls many, man-dreams aplenty, oþþoet þoet onwende wyrd seo swiþe. until it was upturned by Destiny doughty. —“ The Ruin,” an eighth-century lament, probably for Bath’s vanished Roman glories PERSIAN, SANSKRIT, AND LATIN had all become, in their different subcontinental societies, standardized written languages with massive literatures and succeeded, over many centuries, in transcending the par tic-u lar circumstances from which they had First arisen and expanded.

Ouch.24 The origin of vernacularism is widely and traditionally understood in India as having been a kind of revolt against the ancient dominance of the Brahman elite in religion, and in society at large.25 Sir George Grierson, the great surveyor of Indian languages, memorably said of Sanskrit, “This sacred language, jealously preserved by the Brahmans in their schools, had all the prestige that religion and learning could give it.”26 A reading of Patanjali, a grammarian in the second century BC, suggests that, in his day, full competence in Sanskrit was restricted to Brahman males.27 Sanskrit snobbery does indeed go back a long way, even if for long periods in the First millennium AD it may have been mitigated in an open-minded cosmopolis.28 The idea of a revolt against this snobbery fits snugly with the idea of Sanskrit’s decline as one more instance of a lingua-franca lost to Resignation. More recently, it has been contended that the clear association of Sanskrit with Brahman possessiveness is a result of the switch to vernaculars rather than a provocation for it, a kind of defensive drawing-in, entirely comparable with the way that the Roman Catholic Church became distinctively associated with Latin after the language was abandoned by a wider republic of letters in Europe.29 But the two approaches are in fact quite compatible, especially if one accepts the likely dynamics of reaction (by Brahmans) in the face of social change. To neutralize the parallel with the Church’s role in the decline of Latin— just as the Brahmans had their early association with Sanskrit— the Catholic Church had (in the second half of the First millennium AD) played a vital role in the spread of Latin across Europe, giving the prime motive for using it until it became useful for secular communication.* Whatever the precise order of events (which probably differed in the many different language areas), Brahman power declined along with the use of Sanskrit.

pages: 259 words: 73,193

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris


4chan, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Andrew Keen, augmented reality, Burning Man, Carrington event, cognitive dissonance, crowdsourcing, dematerialisation,, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Google Glasses, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, Loebner Prize, Marshall McLuhan, McMansion, moral panic, Nicholas Carr, pattern recognition, pre–internet, Republic of Letters, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social web, Steve Jobs, the medium is the message, The Wisdom of Crowds, Turing test

When Clifton Fadiman, a midcentury literary lion and member of Encyclopædia Britannica’s board of editors, realized in the 1990s that the Internet would outdo Britannica, the octogenarian said, “I guess we will just have to accept the fact that minds less educated than our own will soon be in charge.” Fadiman was, in his elitist way, making the same point T. S. Eliot made in 1934 when he wrote, “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” Where is the signal amid this noise? In a remarkably short period of time, we’ve moved from the eighteenth century’s “Republic of Letters”—a self-selected group of intellectuals talking among themselves and generally ignoring the masses—to what we might call a “Crowd of Letters” today. I don’t know whether Fadiman was overreacting (or how we might test his assertion), but as beleaguered newspapers (and the rest of us) turn increasingly to Wikipedia as a fact-checking source, it’s worth wondering how an encyclopedia devoid of traditional authority structures goes about ascertaining that slippery thing we end up calling “truth.”

pages: 636 words: 202,284

Piracy : The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates by Adrian Johns


active measures, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, business intelligence, commoditize, Corn Laws, demand response, distributed generation, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, full employment, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Marshall McLuhan, Mont Pelerin Society, new economy, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, pirate software, Republic of Letters, Richard Stallman, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, software patent, South Sea Bubble, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, traveling salesman, Whole Earth Catalog

Exactly the same problem plagued attempts to demonstrate perpetual motion experimentally – witnesses convinced beforehand of its impossibility would refuse to believe their eyes. And he prefaced his account of the rotator with a violent attack on “philosophical criticks” who banded together to reinforce such complacencies, reprinting his tracts at length in order to ridicule them. This was business as usual in the republic of letters, Kenrick sighed; the natural state of that republic was a civil war fought by “pirates by profession.” In Kenrick’s view, Donaldson v. Becket mattered because it finally made apparent this shared plight of the Grub Street author and the projecting inventor. “The inventor of a machine, or art useful in life,” he noted, “is now almost universally admitted to stand precisely on the same footing with the author of a book.”

Not even the German states had a common literary regime at this time (although it was commonly believed in America and Britain that they did). The only real precedent, moreover, was that resulting from the union of Ireland and Britain, which was hardly an auspicious example given its effect on the Dublin industry. And many publishers, and especially printers, would be against it. Philadelphia’s in particular protested that it would price “honest farmers” out of America’s “reading community,” destroying the nation’s republic of letters. Clay hit upon the strategy of a “manufacturing clause” in a bid to head off their opposition. He would make the prompt printing of an edition in America a condition of a foreigner’s holding a U.S. copyright. This, he hoped, would align the copyright quest with Careyite political economy. Much of the contest that ensued derived from this attempt. Two manifestos issued at this time set the terms for that contest.

pages: 325 words: 99,983

Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language by Robert McCrum


Alistair Cooke, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, British Empire, call centre, colonial rule, credit crunch, cuban missile crisis, Deng Xiaoping, Etonian, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, invention of movable type, invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, jimmy wales, knowledge economy, Livingstone, I presume, Martin Wolf, Naomi Klein, Norman Mailer, Parag Khanna, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, sceptred isle, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, Steven Pinker, the new new thing, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, upwardly mobile

‘I have protracted my work’, he told Boswell sadly, ‘till most of those whom I wished to please have sunk into the grave; and success and miscarriage are empty sounds.’ After many vicissitudes, and the constant money worries familiar to freelance writers, Johnson’s Dictionary was finally published on 15 April 1755. It was instantly recognized as a landmark. ‘This remarkable work’, wrote one leading Italian lexicographer, ‘will be a perpetual monument of Fame to the Author, an Honour to his own Country, and a general Benefit to the Republic of Letters throughout Europe.’ The English could also celebrate the fact that Johnson had taken on the academies of Europe and beaten them at their own game (forty French academicians had just spent forty years producing the first French national dictionary). Johnson’s friend, David Garrick, summarized the metropolitan view: And Johnson, well armed, like a hero of yore Has beat forty French, and will beat forty more.

pages: 397 words: 102,910

The Idealist: Aaron Swartz and the Rise of Free Culture on the Internet by Justin Peters


4chan, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Bayesian statistics, Brewster Kahle, buy low sell high, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, disintermediation, don't be evil, global village, Hacker Ethic, hypertext link, index card, informal economy, information retrieval, Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, John Markoff, Lean Startup, moral panic, Paul Buchheit, Paul Graham, profit motive, RAND corporation, Republic of Letters, Richard Stallman, selection bias, semantic web, Silicon Valley, social web, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, strikebreaker, Vannevar Bush, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator

“My income barely supports my family, and I want five hundred dollars’ worth of books from England which I cannot obtain here, and which I cannot afford to purchase,” he wrote to Barlow in 1807.51 Webster eventually condemned the primacy of partisan political chatter in the nation’s cultural conversation. Little room was left for more scholarly debates, he complained to Oliver Wolcott Jr.: “vast sums of money [are] expended in donations to support a party or a newspaper—when not a cent can be obtained for very valuable purposes.”52 The Copyright Act of 1790 had portended the arrival of a republic of letters. But its citizens seemed primarily interested in the poison pen. Under these circumstances, Noah Webster began the project that would be his legacy: the American Dictionary of the English Language. His plan was madly presumptuous. Webster proposed to improve upon the work of Samuel Johnson, the celebrated British lexicographer and coffee wit whose own Dictionary of the English Language had been well beloved since its first publication in 1755.

pages: 396 words: 107,814

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything by David Bellos


Clapham omnibus, Claude Shannon: information theory, Douglas Hofstadter, Etonian, European colonialism, haute cuisine, invention of the telephone, invention of writing, natural language processing, Republic of Letters, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, speech recognition

Ralph Manheim (New York: Arcade, 1998), is a good example of how an imitation of Proust’s “inimitable” French style can be represented as such in another language. Adam Thirlwell, The Delighted States (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008). Henri Godin, Les Ressources stylistiques du français contemporain (1948; 2nd ed., Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1964), 2, 3. R. A. Sayce, Style in French Prose: A Method of Analysis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953), 5. 27. TRANSLATING LITERARY TEXTS Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters, trans. M. B. De-Bevoise (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999). Spanish could plausibly take over the role of “first interlanguage” in literary translation, but I see no sign of that happening yet. See Ibid. English-language rights may be acquired for the entire world and they are then called WELR (World English Language Rights) or else, for one or another of its territories, “U.K. and Commonwealth” or “North America,” sometimes further subdivided into “U.S.A.” and “Canada.”

pages: 357 words: 110,017

Money: The Unauthorized Biography by Felix Martin


bank run, banking crisis, Basel III, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bretton Woods, British Empire, call centre, capital asset pricing model, Carmen Reinhart, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, creative destruction, credit crunch, David Graeber,, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Financial Instability Hypothesis, financial intermediation, fixed income, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Hyman Minsky, inflation targeting, invention of writing, invisible hand, Irish bank strikes, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kenneth Rogoff, mobile money, moral hazard, mortgage debt, new economy, Northern Rock, Occupy movement, Plutocrats, plutocrats, private military company, Republic of Letters, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Scientific racism, seigniorage, Silicon Valley, smart transportation, South Sea Bubble, supply-chain management, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail

France in the mid-eighteenth century was ripe for such a catalytic role. Politically, it remained the bastion of the Ancien Régime—an unreconstructed feudal monarchy in a continent long since disturbed by the winds of constitutional change. Financially, France was one of the most backward states in Western Europe, but intellectually it was the centre of the world. The extraordinary contrast between its dazzling republic of letters and its moribund bodies politic and financial meant that it was the thinkers of the French Enlightenment who first fully articulated the link between money, banking, and politics. The most brilliant analysis of all appeared in the masterwork of the greatest constitutional thinker of the age: Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu. Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws was a crowning achievement of the French Enlightenment—a masterful blend of history, anthropology, and political analysis that argued for the establishment of constitutional government on the English model.

pages: 290 words: 94,968

Writing on the Wall: Social Media - the First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage


Bill Duvall, British Empire, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, invention of the printing press, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, knowledge worker, Leonard Kleinrock, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Mohammed Bouazizi, New Journalism, packet switching, place-making, Republic of Letters, sexual politics, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, yellow journalism

Giffard, C. A. “Ancient Rome’s Daily Gazette.” Journalism History 2 (1975): 106–132. Gladwell, M. “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted.” New Yorker, October 4, 2010. Goebbels, J. “D attacks on the corrup coffee to beer Rundfunk als achte Großmacht.” Signale der neuen Zeit. 25 ausgewählte Reden von Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1938. Goodman, D. The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994. Gough, H. The Newspaper Press in the French Revolution. London: Routledge, 1988. Habermas, J. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989. Haines-Eitzen, K. Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature.

pages: 326 words: 103,170

The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks by Joshua Cooper Ramo


Airbnb, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, British Empire, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, defense in depth, Deng Xiaoping, drone strike, Edward Snowden, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Firefox, Google Chrome, income inequality, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, job automation, market bubble, Menlo Park, Metcalfe’s law, natural language processing, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, Oculus Rift, packet switching, Paul Graham, price stability, quantitative easing, RAND corporation, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, road to serfdom, Robert Metcalfe, Sand Hill Road, secular stagnation, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social web, sovereign wealth fund, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, Vernor Vinge, zero day

The Pentagon organized: On the establishment and background of JIEDDO: US House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization: DOD’s Fight Against IEDs Today and Tomorrow (Washington, DC: US House of Representatives, 2008); “IEDs: The Home-Made Bombs That Changed Modern War,” Strategic Comments 18, no. 5 (2012); Lieutenant Colonel Richard F. Ellis, USA, Major Richard D. Rogers, USAF, and Lieutenant Commander Bryan M. Cochran, USN, “Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO): Tactical Successes Mired in Organizational Chaos; Roadblock in the Counter-IED Fight” (research report, Joint Forces Staff College, March 2007). A few days before Christmas: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776–1826, ed. James Morton Smith (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995), 1:457–59. Jefferson was then forty-four: Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson Abroad, ed. Douglas L. Wilson (New York: Modern Library, 1999), 131 (letter to Madame de Tesse of March 20, 1787). “The boisterous sea of liberty”: Thomas Jefferson, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 29, 1 March 1796 to 31 December 1797 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), 81–83.

pages: 481 words: 125,946

What to Think About Machines That Think: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Age of Machine Intelligence by John Brockman


3D printing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, algorithmic trading, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, bitcoin, blockchain, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, constrained optimization, corporate personhood, cosmological principle, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, Danny Hillis, dark matter, discrete time, Douglas Engelbart, Elon Musk, Emanuel Derman, endowment effect, epigenetics, Ernest Rutherford, experimental economics, Flash crash, friendly AI, functional fixedness, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, information trail, Internet of things, invention of writing, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, job automation, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, loose coupling, microbiome, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, natural language processing, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, planetary scale, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, RFID, Richard Thaler, Rory Sutherland, Satyajit Das, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart contracts, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, Turing machine, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

If the welter of prognostications about AI and machine learning tells us anything, I don’t think it’s about how a machine will emulate a human mind anytime soon. We can do that easily enough just by having more children and educating them. Rather, it tells us that our appetites are shifting. We’re understandably awed by what sheer computation has achieved and will achieve; I’m happy to jump on the driverless virtual-reality bandwagon that careens off into that overpredicted future. But this awe is leading to a tilt in our culture. The digital republic of letters is yielding up engineering as the thinking metaphor of our time. In its wake lies the once complacent, now anxious figure with a more literary, less literal cast of mind. We’re cleaning up our act, embarrassed by the fumbling inconclusiveness of messy thinking. It’s unsurprising to hear that the United Kingdom’s education secretary recently advised teenagers to steer away from arts and humanities in favor of STEM disciplines if they’re to flourish.

pages: 651 words: 180,162

Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


Air France Flight 447, Andrei Shleifer, banking crisis, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable, commoditize, creative destruction, credit crunch, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, discrete time, double entry bookkeeping, Emanuel Derman, epigenetics, financial independence, Flash crash, Gary Taubes, George Santayana, Gini coefficient, Henri Poincaré, high net worth, hygiene hypothesis, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, informal economy, invention of the wheel, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, Jane Jacobs, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, knowledge economy, Lao Tzu, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, Marc Andreessen, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, money market fund, moral hazard, mouse model, Myron Scholes, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Paul Samuelson, placebo effect, Ponzi scheme, principal–agent problem, purchasing power parity, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, Ralph Nader, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, rent control, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, selection bias, Silicon Valley, six sigma, spinning jenny, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, stochastic process, stochastic volatility, The Great Moderation, the new new thing, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, transaction costs, urban planning, Vilfredo Pareto, Yogi Berra, Zipf's Law

., 1992, Epistemics and Economics: A Critique of Economic Doctrines. Transaction Publishers. Shah, A. K., and D. M. Oppenheimer, 2007, “Easy Does It: The Role of Fluency in Cue Weighting.” Judgment and Decision Making 2(6): 371–379. Sharpe, Virginia A., and Alan I. Faden, 1998, Medical Harm: Historical, Conceptual, and Ethical Dimensions of Iatrogenic Illness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Shelford, April G., 2007, Transforming the Republic of Letters: Pierre-Daniel Huet and European Intellectual Life, 1650–1720. Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press. Shimabukuro, M., et al., 1998, “Lipoapoptosis in Beta-Cells of Obese Prediabetic Fa/Fa Rats. Role of Serine Palmitoyltransferase Overexpression.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 273: 32487–32490. Silverman, William A., 1999, Where’s the Evidence: Debates in Modern Medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

pages: 709 words: 191,147

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg


A. Roger Ekirch, back-to-the-land, British Empire, California gold rush, colonial rule, Copley Medal, desegregation, Donald Trump, feminist movement, full employment, indoor plumbing, invisible hand, joint-stock company, land reform, land tenure, mass immigration, New Urbanism, Norman Mailer, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, trade route, transcontinental railway, trickle-down economics, upwardly mobile, urban renewal, War on Poverty, working poor, Works Progress Administration

“Jefferson’s Reply to the Representations of Affairs in America by British Newspapers” [before November 20, 1784], PTJ, 7:540–45; Wallace Evan Davies, “The Society of Cincinnati in New England, 1783–1800,” William and Mary Quarterly 5, no. 1 (January 1948): 3–25, esp. 3, 5. 31. Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, February 22, 1787, PTJ, 11:174–75; Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, January 30 and February 5, 1787, in The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Madison, 1776–1826, ed. James Morton Smith, 3 vols. (New York: Norton, 1994), 1:461; Burstein and Isenberg, Madison and Jefferson, 146–48, 168; Woody Holton, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution (New York: Hill & Wang, 2007), 145–48, 155, 159; and David P. Szatmary, Shays’ Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980), 66. 32.

pages: 1,773 words: 486,685

Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century by Geoffrey Parker


agricultural Revolution, British Empire, Climatic Research Unit, colonial rule, creative destruction, currency manipulation / currency intervention, Defenestration of Prague, Edmond Halley,, European colonialism, failed state, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, friendly fire, Google Earth, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, Joseph Schumpeter, Khyber Pass, mass immigration, Mercator projection, moral hazard, mortgage debt, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Thiel, Republic of Letters, sexual politics, South China Sea, the market place, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, unemployed young men, University of East Anglia, World Values Survey, zero-sum game

In Naples, they attended some of the weekly meeting of the ‘Academici Investigantes’, joining about sixty others to hear a paper that ‘defended the Lord Verulam's [Bacon's] opinion’ and to watch an ‘experiment’. Everyone, they found, was ‘well acquainted with writings of all the learned and ingenious men’ of Europe, whether dead (such as Bacon, Harvey, Galileo and Descartes) or alive (they named Robert Boyle, Thomas Hobbes and Robert Hooke).61 The ‘Republic of Letters’ also included practitioners who lived east of the Elbe and south of the Pyrenees. The Danzig brewer and astronomer Johannes Hevelius, who in 1647 published the lavishly illustrated Selenographia, the first lunar atlas (see Plate 1), had studied at Leiden and met scholars in England and France; became a Fellow of the Royal Society; and welcomed Edmond Halley and other prominent scientists to his impressive observatory in Danzig.