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Digerati reads

14 August 2000 07:00AM

''We are gods, and we might as well get good at it,'' trumpets Kevin Kelly, ex-editor of Wired magazine. As the hype would have you believe, them damned digeratis are Nietzschean ubermensch, who believe that the fettering of a free man's will with troublesome external controls such as pesky government or evil big businesses is to deny the will of natural man.

Doers, thinkers, writers, inventors - what next, the Prince of Denmark? The digerati are supposed to be the ones who hold the (biological and electronic) keys that allow mankind to tinker with itself. They are responsible for creating buzzy words and catch-phrases that define and control the future of semiotics and structure/meaning. As this new economic and cultural elite would have everyone believe, they are not on the frontier, they are the frontier.

However, the digerati are equally criticised for their ''wilful obtuseness'' about ecological concerns, their ''giddy indifference'' to public policy and perhaps most damningly, their tendency to mistake new tools for new worlds.

These books, then, have been selected with the digerati in mind. Some, like John Naisbitt's High Tech, High Touch, and Matt Ridley's Geonome are issue-based works dealing with the most immediate topics of the day: technology and bionomics.

Paulina Borsook's Cyberselfish and Jane Tidbury's Zen Style each suggest their own ways of stepping back from the frenzy and reassessing some of the attitudes and philosophies of today.

Even digerati need some diversions, so the other two fiction works have been selected for their range of cultural and technologically-based jibes and references. Digerati, enjoy. Wannabes, these are good reads anyway.

by Paulina Borsook
Public Affairs, 256 pages, $39.99

Technolibertarianism, says Borsook, is pro-market sensibility co-existing with an obliviousness to the value of social contract and governance. This is what the new digital elite are guilty of behind their anti-government, pro-freedom rhetoric. Pure selfishness! she announces with a clash of her ideological cymbals.

A regular contributor to Wired Magazine, Borsook has down pat the dyspeptic sharpness of a commentator for and of the ''I'm-so-cool-I-can't-stand-myself'' generation. Her references range from Thomas Pynchon to Michael Rothschild, and drop like so many flies throughout the pages. The issues she covers range from bionomics to cypher-punks to anarchic capitalism

Borsook raises many interesting points about the attitudes and arrogance of the new cultural elite, but her unabashed and extreme leftism arouses some suspicions about the fairness of her statements, especially as some of them are so acid. What is the other side, the reader is led to wonder. For digeratis who still have a bit of soul and feel like having a good shelling. - Sam I-shan

paulina b.

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