Steve Talbott: Technopoly's eloquent critic

I often describe myself as a technoparanoaic, or a technoskeptic, or a neoluddite, or whatever. I’ve used an excerpt from the Unabomber Manifesto as epigrams to my books, and I’ve called my Acts of the Apostles “Bill Joy’s Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us in convenient thriller format, with fewer pictures and more sex and car chases.” But although I might use a Kaczynski quotation in order to be provacative, and although I obsess on dystopian visions of the future, I really don’t have a consistent point of view.

To read somebody who does have a consistent point of view, see Netfuture:Technology and Human Responsibility, the occasional newsletter put out by Steve Talbott.

I don’t always agree with everything Steve says (although I usually agree with most of it), and once in a while his writing style gets a little floral for my taste. But he is a wise man and a thoughtful writer. I highly recommend him.

I may claim to be a technoparanoiac, but I have a fair amount of geek in me. I still make my living in high tech, and jet between Boston and San Francisco regularly. Steve, who was an organic farmer for a dozen years before becoming a technical writer and editor, is a true technoskeptic. Although he was at one point a very competent programmer (C, assembler) he has since pretty much abandoned high tech all together. For example, Steve stopped using email a few years ago, and I believe he may not use a telephone.

I used to know Steve pretty well: we were cubiclemates from 1983 to 1986 at a startup called Masscomp that made Unix machines based on the Motorola 68K line, some custom hardware, and a real-time kernel. The third worker bee in our tiny documentation group was a contractor named Tim O’Reilly, whose writer-for-hire company O’Reilly and Associates was just branching out into publishing.

Steve left Masscomp to take a job at O’Reilly where he was an editor for a few years. His book Managing Projects with Make is still in print. Anyway, as I said, Steve left O’Reilly’s employ a long time ago. But if you do check out the Netfuture site you’ll notice that it’s hosted by O’Reilly, and now you know why.

In other posts, from time to time, if I ever get my act together, I’ll perhaps try to examine my own muddled philosophy on the socio-technology nexus. In the meantime, read Netfuture. It’s probably better than anything I’ll ever come up with anyway.


  1. Wonder if any of the folks I work with now will entwine in a story like that. Thanks for sharing Johnny.


  2. Apparently, Steve Talbott started using e-mail again, because he just sent me a reply e-mail. His e-mail address is included in his columns at

    He doesn’t strike me as a (stereotypical) luddite as much as someone who wants to take technology and reductionism off their thrones, because they are secondary to a kind of science and knowledge that involve wholes and qualities. Analysis by parts and purely quantitative methods are both incomplete ways of knowledge.

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