THE MEDIA LAB: Inventing the Future at MIT by Stewart Brand

THE MEDIA LAB: Inventing the Future at MIT

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From the originator of The Whole Earth Catalog and CoEvolution Quarterly, a magical mystery tour of the MIT laboratory that's spearheading the future of communications technology. Housed in a five-story building in Cambridge, Mass., the Media Lab sponsors scores of ongoing projects, each with the capability--according to Brand--of revolutionizing the way we communicate, and thus the way we live. Brand begins his dense, chatty/lively survey of the Lab with its tamest corner, The Terminal Garden, home of experiments in ""personal newspapers"" and ""personal television""--media edited to reflect each subscriber's interests and needs. More heady are the Garden's cousins--the Advanced Television Research Station (where scientists work on virtual imaging and ""paperback movies"") and the Spatial Imaging Office (breaking new ground in holography); and headiest of all is the Computers and Entertainment area, home of the Vivarium, the Lab's ""loosest and potentially most ambitious activity,"" where hackers sweat towards such Grails as enabling ""school kids to invent and then unleash realistic organisms in whole 'living' computerized ecologies."" And then there's the Hennigan School, a grade school connected to the lab where of 600 kids, the 220 involved with computers find learning a love, not a labor. Is the Lab the ultimate toy store? Not quite, answers Brand. Sure its products are fun--but the implications, he argues in a long conclusion, are profound: he envisions a near-future world molded by communications, responsive to individuals' wishes, a sort of interactive high-tech church with information as the sacramental bread. Brand's carnival mix of information theory, humanism, and hard technology makes for abstruse, sometimes swampy reading--but as provocative speculation, this work fascinates.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1987
Publisher: Viking