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  •                                 NETFUTURE
                       Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #68       Copyright 1998 Bridge Communications        March 31, 1998
                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    *** Quotes and Provocations
          Information Trumps Reality
          Good-bye Organic Food?
          The Computer as Teacher
    *** Beyond the Dreams of Avarice (Part 3) (Stephen L. Talbott)
          A Taste for Number Magic
    *** Who Said That?
    *** About this newsletter

    What Readers Are Saying about NETFUTURE

    "For all us tin men and straw men, NETFUTURE is a reminder to keep our hearts and heads about us in the challenge of a hugely seductive catastrophe."

    (For the identity of the speaker, who brought "technology refusal"
    to the consciousness of educators in a widely read 1993 essay,
    see "Who Said That?" below.)

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    *** Quotes and Provocations

    Information Trumps Reality

    You may have seen the story awhile back, but I'll bet you passed over its significance. Look again; what you're seeing in this little scenario is the perfect symbol of the Information Age:
    A young woman hobbles painfully onto the college basketball court and positions herself by her team's basket. The whistle sounds, a teammate throws her the ball, and -- while the opposing players stand and watch -- she puts the ball through the hoop. Then the young woman hobbles back off the court and the other team shoots a basket, similarly unopposed. With the score now 2-2, the real game begins. But the young woman, whose college career-ending injury had left her one point shy of the scoring record, now has her record. Everyone feels wonderful (with the possible exception of the previous record holder).
    There you see the mystical power of information. The fact in the database takes precedence over the brilliant, real-life career supposedly being honored. Of course, the career was actually being dishonored. The supporters of the pre-game exercise said, in effect, "The young lady's career lacked its own intrinsic meaning and value. None of us will sufficiently appreciate her without the additional two points in the database, however artificial and disconnected from her achievement they may be."

    The idea of it all is brutally clear: manipulate a human life so as to produce a bit of stored information, which then becomes the basis for appreciating the life. Information today less and less derives from real life; more and more it defines real life.

    The Net, of course, is the primary Kingdom of Information. Many of its current policy debates can be seen as expressions of the followin