MOTHS TO THE FLAME by Gregory J.E. Rawlins

MOTHS TO THE FLAME

The Seductions of Computer Technology
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 In eight essays, Rawlins (Mathematics/Indiana Univ.) speculates on the exciting, scary new world computers are bringing us. In some areas, such as military technology, Rawlins does not expand much on Howard Rheingold's study Virtual Reality (1991). And so much is written these days about the Internet that nothing Rawlins says, startling as it might have been even a year ago, seems surprising today. Rawlins's comments on book publishing, however, offer a fascinating scenario for the next 10 or 20 years. It is now cheaper to produce a book electronically than to print it, and publishers, Rawlins suggests, will soon offer inexpensive subscriptions to their lists of upcoming books, in much the way that the cable TV industry works. Many publishers will resist, as movie producers resisted video, but then will find that they cannot exist without electronic books. All that is needed to set this chain of events in motion is a cheap, user-friendly electronic reader. Rawlins is also insightful on the economics of computers: The frighteningly short cycle of invention and obsolescence, and the manner in which software climbs up the organizational charts, performing ever more complicated and vital functions, eliminating not just typists but executives, too. Careers will turn over and over, and few of us, he suggests, will know with any certainty what the rapidly evolving machines are doing. Rawlins also touches on the most vexing problem of all: the poor. Knowledge, expressed by technology, is power. The numbers of those left out of this equation are growing exponentially. Will the economic benefits of the computer ever trickle downward? Is there any way to avoid the creation of an increasingly small elite controlling access to many of technology's most important uses? Does utopia lie ahead--or endless poverty and war? Such questions have no answers, but Rawlins asks them brilliantly.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-262-18176-2
Page count: 187pp
Publisher: MIT
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1996