I got my first Whole Earth Catalog in 1971. After great effort, risk, and finagling, I had finally scored my first nickel bag (five dollars-worth) of pot. I went over to a friend's house to smoke a joint of it. While we were struggling to roll it up, to make a "table," he pulled out this fat, unwieldy catalog his brother had brought home from college. I was instantly more enthralled with the book than the weed. I'd never seen anything like it. We lived in a small redneck, bible-thumpin' town outside Richmond, Virginia - people didn't think about such things as "whole systems," "nomadics," and "Zen Buddhism." I traded my friend the pot for the catalog, also priced at $5, BTW. (We did manage to smoke that first joint, awkwardly rolled in strawberry Zig-Zag papers).
The Whole Earth Catalog changed my life. It was my doorway to Bucky Fuller, Gregory Bateson, whole systems, communities, and lots of other things that formed the foundation to a world model I've been building on top of ever since.
Whole Earth Catalog is still around, always tinkering with my modeling software. This quarterly magazine is like a visit to a really smart, friendly coffee house or book store. It still maintains the same basic format as the catalogs: thought-provoking articles followed by reviews of books, magazines, and resources. Each review includes a series of excerpts from the material and ordering information.
WER is run by a staff of curious eccentrics who consistently manage to keep their fingers on the pulse of cultural and scientific innovation.
Here is the TEXT POPUP for Whole Earth Review...
Several issues of special interest are:
(No. 57) Signal. This issue was the main inspiration for my zine Going Gaga and was my introduction to the whole mail art/zine culture. It is now out of print, but an expanded book version is available. (see Links)
(No. 63) Is the Body Obsolete? Co-edited by Jeanne Carstensen and c-punk author Richard Kadrey, this issue presents views on the future of the body from William Burroughs, Marvin Minsky, Kathy Acker, Nina Hartley, Bruce Sterling, and others. Also has a section on cyberpunk. $7 postpaid.
(No. 67) Another exceptional issue. Articles on the Biosphere II project, Desktop Genetic Engineering, and a debate on Nanotechnology. Also a good introductory reading list on Neuro-computing. $7 postpaid.
"A robot of this design could be self-constructing. Tiny bushes, only a few millionths of the width of the final device, would be "seeded" to start the process. These would work in groups to build the next larger sprigs from available raw materials, then join themselves to their constructions. The resulting larger bushes would join to build even larger branches, and so on until a small crew (of large members) met to assemble the stem. At the other end of the scale, a sufficiently large bush should be able to organize the necessary resources to build the tiny seeds to start the process all over again (or simply to repair or extend itself). It could make the smallest parts with methods similar to the micro-machining techniques of current integrated circuitry. If its smallest branchlets were a few atoms in scale (with lengths measured in nanometers), a robot bush could grab individual atoms of raw material and assemble them one by one into new parts."
- Issue 63
[Editor's note: This scheme for a bush-type robot figures heavily in Robert Forward's novel The Flight of the Dragonfly.]
"Legal rights and responsibilities will then be needed to protect humans and robots alike. This need should give rise to a new legal specialty, like environmental law - robotic law. With this new specialty we may find lawyers defending the civil rights of self-aware robots, which could take the following form: "to protect the super-robot from total irreversible loss of power ("life"); to free the robot from slave labor ("liberty"); and allow it to choose how it spends its time ("the pursuit of happiness")."
The Rights of Robots - No. 59