Review of 'Release 2.1'

Release 2.1 by Esther Dyson

release_2_1.jpg The former author of the monthly newsletter “Release 1.0”, Esther Dyson here turns her focus away from the technical industry but to talking to the public about the implications and issues regarding the Internet. Now this is somewhat dated with things moving so quickly in the intervening years but a number of things she has to say are just as relevant now as they were then. Much of the book discusses what the various individuals, groups, companies and agencies that Dyson has been involved with over the years have led her to believe in regards to the industry.

The book is divided into chapters such as “Intellectual Property”, “Community” and “Privacy” in which she describes the issues and her perspective on them. Dyson's general opinion is that the Internet should be kept out of the hands of government as it will regulate itself arguing that as a user, you should “use your own judgement” when using it. Furthermore she is a strong proponent of the freedom of Internet users to communicate as they wish but also agrees that there should be filtering mechanisms for those that want to use them (though it should not be imposed on all of us). It is interesting to see the now somewhat dated topics of spam and filtering being so strongly emphasized - They are still issues but now they certainly are not as high on the list.

On the topic of “Education” it is interesting to read about the lack of Internet in the schools of the time something that seems now almost unbelievable to imagine in the era of Internet being available to pretty much everyone at any time. It is interesting to think back to the time, not that long ago, where this was far from the case, where Internet was largely accessed by technical nerds using modems connected to telephone lines…Regarding “work” she dismisses the idea that people will want to always “telecommute” but rather that they will seek out the social aspects that a workplace provides - something that seems oddly prescient now.

Some of Dyson's comments here are quite amusing and interesting but generally this book is quite dry and often difficult to read. Often the chapters ramble with little sense of real direction. The quotes and small articles inserted into the chapters are distracting, requiring the reader to stop at some point to go back to read or interrupt the flow of the chapter to read immediately, indeed, most of the time these elements are inserted in the middle of paragraphs…very distracting! I can't say I found any of the information here particularly disagreeable but my eyes did gloss over with some of the American-specific elements are discussed in detail, of interest perhaps only to historians or Americans themselves.

While some of the specifics may be dated, Dyson has some valid points to make here despite being somewhat wordy.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2016-05-21

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: Broadway Books

Publication Date: 1998

ISBN: 076790012X