Sunday, October 5, 2008

Book #32, Content, Cory Doctorow

Highly enjoyable collection of non-fiction.

You can download the book for free under a CC license here (though I purchased the carbon copy first). Doctorow's informal style makes these pieces (some of them adapted from talks) easy to read, and adds some snap to his opinions. The on-line video version of his Microsoft DRM Research talk, the first piece, is worth watching; makes the book more interactive, plus you get the Q&As at the end (absent in the printed version).

I learned a ton of fascinating geek-stuff from this book. The interview piece with Ray Kurzweil was a standout. I was saddened to hear about the loss of Doctorow's friend ("Three mad kids followed my friend out of the Tube in London last year and murdered him on his doorstep." Snitchtown). Loved this line, regarding Emerging Techers, from the essay All Complex Ecosystems Have Parasites: "We’re the rich humus carpeting the jungle floor and the tiny frogs living in the bromeliads." Got a real Fight Club vibe to it. ("We are all part of the same compost heap." - FC). The only gripe would be that some of the essays are unnecessarily repetitive. I don't mind hearing various anti-DRM arguments or being exposed to trains of thought that bear resemblance, but the repetition of certain examples (Doctorow's barber comes to mind) could have been avoided easily. I suppose that's only a delta for someone who reads the whole book -- still, minor, but it irked me a bit (and probably more on the editor than on Doctorow).

I really dig the fervor behind a lot of Doctorow's stances. This, I think more than any specific idea or opinion, is what makes it worth one's time to interact with him via his writing. Genuine enthusiasm and knowledge about complex issues and articulate intelligence are not in over-abundance; that these qualities happen to be couched in technophilia is just an unexpected boon in Doctorow's case.
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