In 2005 I went to South by Southwest for the first time. It was quite an experience. Not only did I get to meet lots of people with whom I had previously only interacted with online, but I also got to meet lots of lots of new people. Many of my strongest friendships today started in Austin that year.
Back before it got completely unmanageable, Southby was a great opportunity to mix up planned gatherings with serendipitous encounters. Lunchtime, for example, was often a chaotic event filled with happenstance: you could try to organise a small group to go to a specific place, but it would inevitably spiral into a much larger group going to wherever could seat that many people.
One lunchtime I found myself sitting next to a very nice gentleman and we got on to the subject of network theory. Back then I was very obsessed with small-world networks, the strength of weak ties, and all that stuff. I’m still obsessed with all that stuff today, but I managed to exorcise a lot my thoughts when I gave my 2008 dConstruct talk, The System Of The World. After giving that magnum opus, I felt like I had got a lot of network-related stuff off my chest (and off my brain).
Anyway, back in 2005 I was still voraciously reading books on the subject and I remember recommending a book to that nice man at that lunchtime gathering. I can’t even remember which book it was now—maybe Nexus by Mark Buchanan or Critical Mass by Philip Ball. In any case, I remember this guy making a note of the book for future reference.
It was only later that I realised that that “guy” was David Isenberg. Yes, that David Isenberg, author of the seminal Rise of the Stupid Network, one of the most important papers ever published about telecommunications networks in the twentieth century (you can watch—and huffduff—a talk he gave called Who will run the Internet? at the Oxford Internet Institute a few years back).
I was reminded of that lunchtime encounter from seven years ago when I was putting together a readlist of visionary articles today. The list contains:
- As We May Think by Vannevar Bush
- Information Management: A Proposal by Tim Berners-Lee (vague but exciting!)
- Rise of the Stupid Network by David Isenberg
- There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom by Richard Feynman
- The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era by Vernor Vinge
There are others that should be included on that list but there’s are the ones I could find in plain text or HTML rather than PDF.
Feel free to download the epub file of those five articles together and catch up on some technology history on your Kindle, iPad, iPhone or other device of your choosing.