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Sally Carson

Without having seen the WSJ article, I still feel compelled to comment on it. I think the enthusiasm that you convey in your writing is one of the things that engages me and makes me feel even more enthusiastic about the subject matter myself. Hehe, maybe my mirror-nuerons are firing when I read enthusiasm!

_oh

One comment I heard lately about the world wide web and it's early development seems appropriate on this subject. The Next computers, from steve jobs company in the 1980s/90s were wonderful computers. They were the machines that Tim Berners Lee used to start off his web project. The web was this idea to combine hypertext and networks to create a new medium.

Apparently though, the Next computer company didn't have the best of marketing. Someone said, that Next machines were first rate machines with second rate marketing. The machines we use today, are second rate machines with first rate marketing.

Why do people always have trouble with this? That poor inventions, poor products and bad ideas, with the right kind of 'marketing' can always succeed. Even where superior products have failed? It goes for almost everything, for supersonic air travel, architectural design, computers, food,.... you name it.

Brian O' Hanlon.

Carl Carpenter

Feedback appears to be essential to intelligence. In his recent book, Jeff Hawkins redefines intelligence as the ability to accurately predict the future based on memories of the past. In the human neocortex, he points out, feedback projections outnumber feedforward projections nearly 10 to 1. So wherever we see feedback introduced in a system we're likely to see fresh intelligence emerging. Tim O'Reilly is now identifying collective intelligence as the essence of Web 2.0, which is of course all about feedback. Regardless of manifestation, whether Long Tail, Sleeper Curve, or Web 2.0, there seems to be a common neural model beneath.

Perhaps the increased complexity you write about represents greater intelligence in the Hawkinsian sense, that is, the ability to better predict, while not necessarily producing 'elevated artistic or intellectual achievement.' This might also explain the puzzlement of your readers. Their intuition tells them something good has to come of it all, and something does, even if it's just the ability to better predict in a context far out on the Tail.

I have an idea for a book along these lines I think you might be interested in, something on the order of Tracy Kidder's, Soul of a New Machine. I'd be happy to share it with you if you like.

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I'm a father of three boys, husband of one wife, and author of nine books, host of one television series, and co-founder of three web sites. We split our time between Brooklyn, NY and Marin County, CA. Personal correspondence should go to sbeej68 at gmail dot com. If you're interested in having me speak at an event, drop a line to Wesley Neff at the Leigh Bureau (WesN at Leighbureau dot com.)

My Books

  • Steven Johnson: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

    Steven Johnson: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
    A history of innovation accompanied by a 6-part TV series on PBS and the BBC, this was the first of my books to crack the top 5 on the NY Times bestseller list. Appropriately for a book that celebrates diverse networks, this was the most collaborative of any of my books. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age

    Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age
    My first book-length attempt to organize my writings about emergence and networks into something resembling a political philosophy, which I called Peer Progressivism. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

    Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
    An exploration of environments that lead to breakthrough innovation, in science, technology, business, and the arts. I conceived it as the closing book in a trilogy on innovative thinking, after Ghost Map and Invention. But in a way, it completes an investigation that runs through all the books, and laid the groundwork for How We Got To Now. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : The Invention of Air

    The Invention of Air
    The story of the British radical chemist Joseph Priestley, who ended up having a Zelig-like role in the American Revolution. My version of a founding fathers book, and a reminder that most of the Enlightenment was driven by open source ideals. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : The Ghost Map

    The Ghost Map
    The story of a terrifying outbreak of cholera in 1854 London 1854 that ended up changing the world. An idea book wrapped around a page-turner. I like to think of it as a sequel to Emergence if Emergence had been a disease thriller. You can see a trailer for the book here. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter

    Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
    The title says it all. This one sparked a slightly insane international conversation about the state of pop culture -- and particularly games. There were more than a few dissenters, but the response was more positive than I had expected. And it got me on The Daily Show, which made it all worthwhile. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life

    Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life
    My first best-seller, and the only book I've written in which I appear as a recurring character, subjecting myself to a battery of humiliating brain scans. The last chapter on Freud and the neuroscientific model of the mind is one of my personal favorites. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

    Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
    The story of bottom-up intelligence, from slime mold to Slashdot. Most of my books sold more copies than this one, but Emergence has influenced the most eclectic mix of fields: political campaigns, web business models, urban planning, the war on terror. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate

    Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate
    My first. The book I wrote instead of finishing my dissertation, predicting the growing cultural significance of interface and information design. Still relevant, I think. But I haven't read it in a while, so who knows what's in there! (Available from IndieBound here.)

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