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Om författaren

Thomas Rid is a professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and the author of Cyber War Will Not Take Place and War and Media Operations. He lives in Washington, DC. Follow him at @RIDT.

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This is a truly amazing summary of disinformation (especially early Soviet, US vs Soviet during the Cold War, and post-cold war Russian operations). Pretty amazing overview of everything. I was already very familiar with all the post-cold-war stuff, but learned an a lot about the earlier periods from this book.

I think there are really four core lessons here: 1) Intelligence agencies use disinformation extensively, and it wasn't solely the Russians -- the US was great at this in the 1950s too! 2) Wittingly and unwittingly, press and activists really are the critical enablers of this 3) A lot of the disinformation (and other intelligence ops) have been for really dubious value -- i.e. spending massive amounts of money and time to do something like "reduce the prestige of an adversary" -- perhaps the hardest part of this whole thing is measuring success, and in particular, having the right metrics in the first place 4) Technology, and especially social media, makes active measures "more active and less measured".

(I personally wasn't a huge fan of the postmodernism argument toward the very end, but the rest of the book was great.)
… (mer)
octal | 1 annan recension | Jan 1, 2021 |
This is a very interesting history of a very vague concept: the prefix "cyber" gets stuck onto a lot of words, and doesn't have a clear meaning other than "futuristic." The first few chapters mainly cover concepts of robotics ("cybermen"), but the later chapters focus on the internet and virtual reality. The history told in this book isn't as coherent as I might like (but then again, some of that is my bias as a medieval historian - I'm used to being able to step back and look at the big picture, and this history is too recent for that), but as someone who works with the internet for a living, I found it to be fascinating.

A lot of the book focuses on military technology vs. the needs of civilians. The whole idea of "cyber" first arose in WWII with military machines, especially anti-ballistic and aircraft weaponry. That first got people thinking about the relationship between man and machines, and about getting machines to do our thinking for us. In more recent years, we have realized that the internet can be used as a weapon, and have had to balance restrictions on military technology with the need for civilian freedom, and have had to deal with hackers.

Other parts of the book focus on the counter-culture of the 1960s, and how people like Timothy Leary and Stewart Brand (creator of the Whole Earth Catalog and the WELL, the first online community) saw the promise of the internet and virtual reality as a way to expand the human mind and human capabilities. These people had some amazing visions of what cyber-technology could enable us to do. Unfortunately, their visions haven't come true - they didn't anticipate late-stage capitalism.

One of the big takeaways from this book is that in the 80 or so years that humans have been developing the "cyber" relationship with machines, we have always had the same anxieties and dreams, and none of them have turned out to be true. Some of the passages written in the 1950s about how technology is going to take away all of our jobs sound exactly like op-eds written today. People have been dreaming about "Ready Player One" style virtual reality since the 1970s, and it still isn't here yet (although just as I was reading this book, Oculus Rift released hardware that promises to herald a new era of VR - we'll see what happens).

The book ends rather abruptly, partly because the events of the last chapter or so (international cyberwar) are still unfolding. Still, I expected at list a wrap-up chapter (something like the paragraph I just wrote above).
… (mer)
Gwendydd | 1 annan recension | Jun 14, 2018 |
This wasn't quite what I expected. Rather than a general overview, it focuses on three areas— military interests, stones fascinated by the possibilities of virtual reality trips, and anarchists looking to retain their anonymity—and how each of these cultural groups viewed cybernetics. My take away from it is that the promise of cybernetics seems to be continually undermined by those who wish to abuse it. So it goes.
DLMorrese | 1 annan recension | Aug 23, 2017 |

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