Two weeks ago, a handful of adaptations of the argument ran in a few different venues. In The Wall Street Journal, I laid out the basic argument for "peer progressive" politics, and in the NY Times Magazine, I discussed the question of who invented the Internet, and why we should care. Interestingly, Deepak Chopra asked me to write a post for his site on the "power of peers."
Reviewing the book for The Wall Street Journal, John Horgan wrote, "If you're a pessimist—and chances are you are—you should read 'Future Perfect' by the technophilic science writer Steven Johnson. In fact, read it even if you're an optimist, because Mr. Johnson's book will give you lots of material to brighten the outlook of your gloomy friends." Horgan then wrote a follow-up post for Scientific American, called, "Comrades, Join the “Peer Progressive” Movement!" It included this criticism from his colleague, Andy Russell, a historian of technology at Stevens Institute of Technology: "Andy objects to Johnson’s claim that the Internet is itself the product of a peer network. Johnson calls Arpanet, the Pentagon-funded network that gave rise to the Internet, a 'radically decentralized system' and a 'network of peers, not a hierarchy.' Wrong, says Andy, who has done lots of research on the development of standards for the Internet. 'The evidence is pretty clear that the Arpanet and Internet were designed and built through a hierarchical process,' Andy writes. 'In fact its hierarchy (and well-heeled sponsor, the Department of Defense) was the single factor most responsible for the Internet’s success: it kept at bay the factions unleashed by democracy in international standards committees.'" (I will try to dive into this more deeply when I have a bit more time, as it's a very important point.)
Writing for the SF Chronicle, Glenn C. Altschuler ends his review with these lines: "Johnson knows that direct democracies sometimes elect corrupt or incompetent leaders and spend money on trivial, dangerous or damaging policies. He recognizes that market-based economies sometimes produce grotesque income inequalities and catastrophic bubbles. And yet, despite an analysis that can be rather facile, "Future Perfect" serves the estimable service of arguing persuasively that direct democracy is more feasible in a networked age than it has been for a very long time - and prompting one to ask whether, despite its imperfections, it beats the alternatives." Reviewing the book for Reuters, Bernard Vaughan calls the book "a refreshing tonic to fears that the Web is dehumanizing." The Boston Globe called it a "buoyant and hopeful book" though included this one "quibble": "Johnson’s notion of armies of peer progressives changing the world sounds mighty familiar. They’ve had a less-flashy name for decades: grass-roots community organizers." Maria Popova at Brain Pickings called it "an absorbing, provocative, and unapologetically optimistic vision."
Future Perfect was designed from the beginning to be a conversation starter, so it's appropriate that the tour has included a series of delightful public discussions with some of my favorite thinkers and makers. (More to come in the next month or two.) For starters, Richard Florida interviewed me for AtlanticCities, which was a real treat given how much I respect Richard's work. We have video of almost all the public discussions, starting with this panel discussion sponsored by Personal Democracy Media, featuring Beth Noveck, Tina Rosenberg, and Clay Shirky. Last week, I talked about the personal and social impact of networks with MIT's Sherry Turkle at the New York Public Library. There's an entertaining pre-debate chat between us, conducted by The Verge's Paul Miller. And then this week, I had the great pleasure of appearing on BookTV's Author In-Depth series, where we talked about all of my books (and many other topics) for three hours!