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Book Review: 'Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts On the Information Highway'

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Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts On the Information Highway

Current Status:
In Season
Clifford Stoll
Science and Technology

We gave it a C+

Whew. In between describing how to nail Jell-O to the wall and how to simulate the composition of meteorites (basically by making chocolate chip cookies), Stoll, a computer security expert, whines. A lot. His beef? Life on the digital highway isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: It cuts you off from other people; it’s ultimately unreliable; virtual reality has nothing on real reality; yadda, yadda, yadda. His basic premise is absolutely right: Too often, too many people make the mistake of thinking that information is knowledge. Unfortunately, Stoll’s self-indulgent meditation amounts to little more than navel gazing. His anecdotes about his astronomer friends are pretty amusing, but his lectures on unplugging modems and going rock sitting instead are unbearable. It’s all very well to point out the danger zones of technology, but this particular reprimand — for all its good intentions — falls flat. C+