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Poking holes in high-tech culture

July 27, 2000

By Aline McKenzie 
Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News

Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High-Tech 
(PublicAffairs, $24)
by Paulina Borsook

Radical ideas: In business: the survivors aren't always the ones with the best products, government is often useful and giving a bunch of computers to a school might not be the best thing for the kids.

In this extended essay, Paulina Borsook begins with the anarchist spirit of many high-tech people who express themselves at a personal level with funky clothes and at a national level with ultra-tree-market views

In this culture, someone who points out that government provides road, police protection and safe buildings is an extremist,

Much of the book is devoted to Bionomics, a sort of economic Darwinism in which the fittest product survives and tampering with the free market is akin to messing with the rain forest. Ms. Borsook thoughtfully analyzes the philosophy, then provides a few graphic examples of how change isn't necessarily good: "Black Death resulted in a major reforestation of Europe… but not before a lot of collateral damage."

Ms. Borsook pokes at other geek-establishment sacred cows as well, such as the price that women, older workers and immigrant engineers pay in a field where youth and flashy trends-of- the-moment prevail.

Ms. Borsook is at her best in her metaphors. Consider a cat, which brings you its most precious gift of a dead rat - whether or not you wanted one. And it can't understand why you're not happy. Now consider a computer firm that provides a computer system for a very poor school -never mind that no one there knows how to use it or that there's not enough room or the building is disintegrating.

With humor and grace, Ms. Borsook I provides a platform for those who look at the high-tech whirl and think, "Are those people nuts?"

paulina b.

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