Marc Stiegler’s Earthweb (price check, Amazon) is an answer to his last final exam question in the form of a science fiction novel. It looks at a future where the token evil aliens attempt to destroy the people of Earth every five years, causing humans to unite using the next-generation Web, each person contributing their own unique talents in a last-ditch effort to save the planet.

As a story, Earthweb is relatively uninspired. It has a plot reminiscent of Ender’s Game, along with the usual mix of action/adventure, love and evil aliens in a giant spaceship attempting to colonize Earth. But this storyline is an entertaining backdrop against which Steigler describes the future of technology.

The major technology topics of the book are: smart contracts (capabilities and ecommerce), digital signatures (brands), reputation systems, idea futures (‘castpoints) and the Semantic Web (bidirectional links, typed links, filters, detectors). All of these are exciting stuff, and seeing them presented as such obvious things makes me even more angry that we don’t have them yet. (I’m working as fast as I can!)

These technology advances lead to political changes: governments, journalists and other exclusive groups are replaced with free-market systems filtered by reputation systems. Totalitarian regimes are overthrown after tiny talking computers, with Web connections are airdropped.

All in all, the book is a great explanation to technology that I and others are developing, and I highly recommend it to folks curious what the Web will look like five years from now.

posted February 16, 2002 11:53 PM (Books) #


My First Drive
Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card
The Decline and Fall of ArsDigita
My Flamboyant Grandson
EarthWeb by Marc Stiegler
Students, Teachers and Dragons
CSS: Client-side rendering rules
CodeCon Wrapup
The Copyright Tax
Goodbye, Brent.

Aaron Swartz (