[The Rise and Fall of Wired] [Stephen Downes]

6. The Sell-Out

The edge is about revolution.

What we were dreaming about was profound global transformation. We wanted to tell the story of the companies, the ideas, and especially the people making the Digital Revolution. Our heroes weren't politicians and generals or priests and pundits, but those creating and using technology and networks in their professional and private lives - you.

Louis Rossetto in Wired 6.01

The report from Silicon Valley tells us the edge is still there:

"Why do people who have more personal and business and financial success than is even conceivable keep working so hard? Any rational analysis would say it's time to retire, give your money away. It's because they're driven to change the world. That shared belief is what drives our passion. It's what drives me. On any given day, I feel I have failed if I haven't made progress along one of those initiatives."

Eric Schmidt in Wired 6.01

But is the vision fading?

Is the Revolution Over? Wired 6.01 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.01/bronson.html Luis's moon-pie face wrinkled up, and his eyebrows pinched. "What is this computer revolution?"

Wired 6.01 featured a major format change, most obviously in the layout and design of the magazine, but also in the focus. The editors really want to convince us that they haven't lost their edgy roots. They give it a good show:

"The highest joy of man is creativity," Boris told me with that complete and somewhat paralyzing Russian sincerity. "No power, or wealth, or drugs can match that. There are three great sources of happiness in life: friends, love, and the work. Take care of those three, and you can forget the rest. There is no cure for poverty of the spirit."

Bruce Sterling, in Wired 6.01

Art and Corruption. Wired 6.01 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.01/sterling.html America may not be up for this. We might just chew this stuff up, spit it out, and use it to sell running shoes. But the Russians understand...

Africa Rising. Wired 6.01 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.01/barlow.html In Africa, God knows, there is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. But now I can get on my plane feeling like I'm part of the solution. And that is all I really want from anything I do.

The Big Picture. Wired 6.01 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.01/hillis.html There's something coming after us, and I imagine it is something wonderful.

Technocracy R.I.P. Wired 6.01 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.01/postrel.html And they have to find what they are for: not just the Internet, or free trade, or the "new economy," but a world of richness and variety where people are free to experiment and learn, to challenge themselves and each other, to cherish the wisdom of the past and create the wisdom of the future.

Bye-Bye. Wired 6.01 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.01/rothenberg.html The Net's precision accountability will kill not only traditional advertising, but its parasite, Big Media. Sniff.

Power to the People. Wired 6.01 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.01/browning.html Power is diffusing.

Let's face it. Wired 6.01 was a good issue, reviving and trumpeting the basic tenets of the digital revolution. Wired 6.01 was about reclaiming the edge, about reasuring Wired readers that the magazine's values were still their values.

It didn't last.

In Wired 6.02 we got James Cameron, "Che is dead", an album review, venture capitalists, and wallstret.com. And one good article. Wired 6.03 brings us a current fad (cloning), DOOM (how long has that been around?), and Disney. Oh yes, and the Enclyclopedia of the New Economy. Dig deeper to find the good stuff. It's slim pickings from here on in...

Freeman Dyson's Brain. Wired 6.02 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.02/dyson.html Biotechnology has moved ahead so fast that it makes nanotechnology old hat. This and other heady ideas from the master.

Breaking the Law of Gravity. Wired 6.03 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.03/antigravity.html "We've been building antigravity machines since day one - it's just that they're not as efficient as we'd like them to be." NASA's Whitt Brantley is a little bit sceptical. So is the author.

Reverse-Engineering the Psyche. Wired 6.03 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.03/pinker.html Traditional evolutionary explanations of the mind have been very crude, relying on things like "territorial imperative" and "sex drive." Given the complexity and richness of human thought, that's not a satisfactory answer. This is a nice step forward from AI 101. Too bad it's just a snippet.

The Televisionspace Race. Wired 6.04 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.04/mstv.html From Microsoft's perspective, however, the best thing about the Internet may be that it spawned WebTV OK, it's about Microsoft. But the interface between the web and TV is interesting.

Whose Internet Is It, Anyway? Wired 6.04 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.04/kashpureff.html The alternative registry became operational on April Fool's Day 1996 and began introducing such new TLDs as .xxx, .med, .nic, .ltd, .lnx, and .exp. Net rebellions.

The Hot New Medium Is ... Email . Wired 6.04 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.04/es_lists.html I don't make any money off Meme. The newsletter is free. What counts is who reads it. But... that's not grabbing the quick profit and running! Bennahum is at his best when he's analysing, at his worst when he's interviewing. Check out the list of email pubs. And subscribe to Meme: Send email to listserv@maelstrom.stjohns.edu with message "subscribe meme first name last name."

The Promise of One to One (A Love Story) Wired 6.05 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.05/one_to_one.html The problem is data glut. This article looks into the depths of one-to-one marketing. Good analysis.

Killers Have More Fun. Wired 6.05 http://www.wired.com/wired/6.05/ultima.html These groups - tribes, clans, families, or guilds - are what Britannian culture, and perhaps online culture in general, is really all about. An exploration into online communities, where the main enemy is... lag.

In four issues we get about the same amount of readable content that we would get in one issue from Wired 2.x. Yes, the good stuff is still there, no question. But the magazines are as thick as ever - what's creating the fill? It's The New Economy, of course. And it's the film features. The drooling over popular culture, such as Titanic and Godzilla. Far from being a doomsayer for traditional media, Wired has found a way of marching in lockstep with them.

It's not a sell-out if you evolve over time. It's a sell-out if you know what you should be doing, but go ahead and do the other thing anyways. Wired 6.01 shows that the editors still have a pretty clear idea of the vision. They might even believe in it. But the product they put out on the street more often than not contradicts that vision.