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Stuart Brand, Global Earth Catalog and the Birth of the New Age

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Computerization is often seen as a clear sign of the decline of civilization, however, and the notion that technologies can spawn new structures for new projects—those of collective progress—has gained ground.

In the seventies, a turning point occurred in the world. The PC is becoming more mainstream and the hippie movement, Skilled in a Better World, seems to be one of the driving forces of it. Silicon Valley, home of the 1960s counterculture, subtly emphasizes this rupture: computers are gradually becoming a symbol of a kind of individual freedom where technology, art, and music mingle.

In this vein was Stewart Brand[1] To embody this fusion between hippies and technophiles. He has positioned himself at the center of various cultural currents. In 1995, he wrote an article for The Times titled Counterculture disdain for centralized authority provided the philosophical underpinnings for the entire PC revolution… We owe it all to hippies… Communism and liberalism to hippies formed the roots of the modern electronic revolution […] Most people of our generation despised computers as the epitome of centralized control. But a small group of us – later called “hackers” – have embraced computers and set out to turn them into editing tools. What turns out to be the true royal path to the future […] Juvenile programmers who deliberately steer the rest of civilization away from large mainframe computer systems.”

Stewart Brand has lived at the intersection of many cultural movements, an exciting intersection between technology and performance art. So he was the master of ceremonies in California, mixing technology and engineering sound and light during the huge shows he organized, including rock concerts, a kind of prophet of the new age. Furthermore, already at this time innovation and rock are often shaped by the crossbreeding of mutual influences. It’s a bit like the Rolling Stones. In 1970, they invented the concept of a portable recording studio. They are the first to use the 45 as a teaser. Finally, they are the first to conceive of interest in video, long before the creation of MTV. The promotional film (we haven’t yet talked about a clip at the time) for “Jumpin Jack Flash” is still an exemplar of its kind! We can clearly see how a period of history blends music and innovation into a perfect crossbreed, just as in the work of Stewart Brand.

Stewart Brand has also succeeded in marrying mysticism and technology to create a new form of communication. Technology has had to foster creativity, including music. This period was particularly exceptional: it was a period of exuberance and an abundance of ideas. A period when geeks also began to gain power over institutions. It was the right line for the precursors of Techno-Romanticism, a movement that combined both art and technology, in the words of Walter Isaacson: “The innovations of digital if one draws inspiration from the life of Ada Lovelace (Countess of Lovelace, 1815-1852, daughter of computer science pioneer Lord Byron) people who can connect beauty with geometry, humanity with technology, and poetry with wizards.”He will come from creators who are able to flourish where arts and letters meet science, and give a rebellious sense of wonder…”.

In San Francisco, the idea of ​​connection quickly became synonymous with free spirit. Brand, for his part, dreamed of spreading the techno spirit inherited from the hippies. He even managed to get an image of Earth by NASA that would symbolize liberation, freedom, and discovery of the world as opposed to bureaucracy, an institution that only considers technology in the spirit of secrecy and closed networks. Meanwhile, Brand was kicked out of Berkeley and wondered why no one had seen a picture of the entire Earth yet. The most unusual element is that NASA pretty much has the means to implement it. With its unwavering ambition, NASA gave in in November 1967 and its ATS-3 satellite took a picture of the Earth from an altitude of 34,000 km. The latter also served as the front cover of the book he wanted to write “The Whole Earth Catalog”.

the first casing Whole Earth Catalog

In his book, Brand dreamed of a completely liberated and complete world, devoid of consumerism, joyful in technology. Earth was the symbol of this completed and liberated world. Earth and technology can coexist. Therefore, the hippies could ally themselves, partner, and make common cause with the Engineers because the world to come was to become multi-linked. Originally, it wasn’t about criticizing consumerism in a grotesque way, but rather about rising from it by explaining that the future of the world depended on the engineer and hippie marrying. From there the most beautiful promises of computer design were born! Then the computer was introduced on the occasion of the sound and light shows, as if to announce a huge new era. Then it’s Douglas Engelbart[2] who would have contributed to help him find the means of human progress through the computer. Douglas Engelbart was an American computer engineer who is best known for inventing the mouse, which well symbolizes the complementary link between man and machine. The concept of human-machine interface evolves in unison, almost playfully and creatively.

Today, do we live in a world close to that of the 1960s in California?

As in the 1960s in California, recent disruptive innovations including artificial intelligence have struggled to take hold. It is seen primarily as a tool in the service of crowd tracking and the financial bureaucracy. We also see that in the 1960s many groups of technology lovers were formed, but isn’t this also the case in the current period with the group of think tanks, speakers and events dedicated to human innovation? social. If it is true that the tech-obsessed hippies of the 1960s in California had a certain disdain for bureaucracy, today we can make an interesting relationship with the startup ecosystem that, if we remove the startup system, remains quite protestant. , a kind of counterculture. In general, the shifting phenomenon is not ultimately a protest movement and against the realizations generated by situational rents.

Because in this general movement of humanity applied to technology, ecology and green are never far away. As such, Stewart Brand’s World Earth catalog also contained a list of products, “useful and green” businesses. So it is quite clear that we live in approximately a similar time. When we say that artificial intelligence must be environmentally friendly, and that artificial intelligence must first enrich professions, we are saying that we want to undo the traditional Fordism of the capitalist world, so today there is also a little Stewart Brand spirit today. As for the Californian celebrations, the technology enthusiast with the sound and light engineer, the prophet of the new age, we also witnessed this recently. Some of Munira’s teachers of the time may have had a “turn on, tune in, and pull out” vibe.[3], but we do not have in France, Jean-Michel Jarre in synthesized music! Today, moreover, the latter will work with major e-car brands in order to design a new generation of sounds for these vehicles. He also brings all his knowledge of designing hybrid vehicles with sounds that are original, engaging and specially adapted according to where one is at and the speed one is driving. Just like in the 1960s, geeks also began to seize power over the institutions, all they said: freedom of spirit, liberation, freedom to discover the world, the image of planet Earth that Stewart Brand requested and granted by NASA, doesn’t it all resonate in our modern world: everything It refers to a more or less identical world with similar principles as well as the image of Earth in the past, and today the Internet is soon symbolized in 3D with the Metaverse! Just like the principle of the intermarriage of technology and man so well symbolized by Douglas Engelbart with the invention of the mouse, these ideas remain thoroughly contemporary with the evolution of the principles of technology inclusion and the role of passion and art in professional learning.

[1] Born December 14, 1938 in Rockford (Illinois), he is an American author, publisher, and author of The Whole Earth Catalog (French-language resource catalog). Steward Brand has founded several organizations including The Well, one of the oldest virtual communities.

[2] Douglas Carl Engelbart (1925-2013) was an American engineer and great pioneer in computer science. He is particularly known for inventing the mouse and developing human-machine interfaces.

[3] Four technology gurus have managed to impose themselves, not in lectures as one might think, but in university dorms. They are Norbert Weiner, Richard Buckminster Fuller, and Herbert Marshall McLuhan. In the 1980s, they were joined by Timothy Leary, a famous evangelist known by his motto: “ Turn on, listen, stop to be understood as Connect, configure and login Is technology finally a creative and poetic movement? This is where Stewart Brand comes in.

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