The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose between Privacy and Freedom?

By David Brin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
THE AGE OF
KNOWLEDGE

But all the conservatism in the world does not afford even a token resistance to the ecological sweep of the new electronic media.

MARSHALL MCLUHAN, UNDERSTANDING MEDIA

Although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it.

PERICLES OF ATHENS


TRANSFORMING TECHNOLOGIES OF THE PAST AND FUTURE

Each human generation seems to have a fulcrum -- a pivot around which fateful transformations revolve. Often, this has less to do with the struttings of kings and statesmen than with technology. We speak of Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages. There were eras of steam and coal. Some historians already look back with nostalgia on the brief, glorious "petroleum century."

These epithets benefit from hindsight, but it is quite another thing to speak accurately about the future. Shortly after the discovery of nuclear fission, enthusiasts gushed that the atomic era would produce energy too cheap to meter. That promise fizzled, along with the early advent of a space age. Yet pundits seem undeterred, always moving to the next glittering bauble.

Nowadays, yet another alluring, emblematic phrase heralds a new social epoch: "The Information Age". Almost daily, another book or article

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