Republic of Letters

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pages: 687 words: 189,243

A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy by Joel Mokyr

"Robert Solow", Andrei Shleifer, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, business cycle, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, Copley Medal, creative destruction, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, Deng Xiaoping, Edmond Halley, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, framing effect, germ theory of disease, Haber-Bosch Process, hindsight bias, income inequality, information asymmetry, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, land tenure, law of one price, Menlo Park, moveable type in China, new economy, phenotype, price stability, principal–agent problem, rent-seeking, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, South Sea Bubble, statistical model, survivorship bias, the market place, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, ultimatum game, World Values Survey, Wunderkammern

The duty of Rhetoric, he felt, was to apply reason to imagination (Bacon, [1605] 1996, pp. 237–38). The Republic of Letters, argues Schoeck, was based on a common foundation of rhetoric which “made possible free movement of ideas, genres and books” (Schoeck, 1982, p. 303). Eloquence was the means by which members of the Republic of Letters communicated and persuaded one another. Yet rhetorical bias had its limits: erudite and brilliant conversation taking place in the salons and coffeehouses of the Republic of Letters in the age of Enlightenment started to look pedantic to contemporaries, and were easy to make fun of, especially when taken on by a master-satirist like Jonathan Swift. The Republic of Letters anointed a new set of experts whose knowledge required more that just familiarity with an existing canon but also with the methods by which novel knowledge was to be validated.

In other societies, too, peaceful competition among religions, much like peaceful competition between states, encouraged intellectual innovation and progress.19 Despite the fierce competition among religions for the souls of believers, it is striking how blithely intellectuals bridged or ignored altogether the chasms between different religions. The Republic of Letters on the whole seems to have paid fairly little heed to the religious beliefs of its citizens. Grafton (2009a, p. 12) explains that it was regarded morally wrong to break off scholarly communication with people of different religious convictions, because such “restrictions could only hamper the flow of information and ideas.” Moreover, citizens of the Republic of Letters argued against religious persecution, a voice that became louder as wars of religion increasingly showed themselves to be destructive and pointless after 1562. Prominent citizens of the Republic of Letters, from Sebastian Castellio (1515–1563) to Spinoza to Voltaire, argued for religious tolerance and against the persecution of apostates (Zagorin, 2003).20 Even scholars of fundamentalist religious beliefs, such as the great Swiss Huguenot polymath Louis Bourguet (1678–1742), were able to develop what Barnett (2015, p. 149) has felicitously called a “strategy of toleration” in which deeply felt religious differences were papered over in scientific exchanges and a scholarly civility was maintained despite private outrage at the heretical opinions of “unbelievers.”

In that sense they neatly complemented the mobility of intellectuals. In the Age of Enlightenment, Amsterdam became the location for presses that published books prohibited elsewhere, “the central city of the Republic of Letters” in that limited sense (Eisenstein, 1979, p. 420). The most famous French authors of the age of Enlightenment were published primarily by printers outside France. As discussed below in chapter 15, formal academies and scientific societies represented the institutionalization of the Republic of Letters, but did not play a central role until the closing decades of the seventeenth century. Virtual or not, the Republic of Letters was the main institution behind the meteoric takeoff of useful knowledge in Europe during the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. In this context institutions should be seen as a set of rules by which the economic game is played.


pages: 57 words: 11,522

The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Benoit Mandelbrot, Black Swan, commoditize, knowledge worker, Republic of Letters

PN6271.T35 2011 818′.602—dc22 2010036866 www.atrandom.com v3.1 To ALEXANDER N. TALEB CONTENTS Cover Other Books by This Author Title Page Copyright Dedication Procrustes PRELUDES COUNTER NARRATIVES MATTERS ONTOLOGICAL THE SACRED AND THE PROFANE CHANCE, SUCCESS, HAPPINESS, AND STOICISM CHARMING AND LESS CHARMING SUCKER PROBLEMS THESEUS, OR LIVING THE PALEO LIFE THE REPUBLIC OF LETTERS THE UNIVERSAL AND THE PARTICULAR FOOLED BY RANDOMNESS AESTHETICS ETHICS ROBUSTNESS AND FRAGILITY THE LUDIC FALLACY AND DOMAIN DEPENDENCE EPISTEMOLOGY AND SUBTRACTIVE KNOWLEDGE THE SCANDAL OF PREDICTION BEING A PHILOSOPHER AND MANAGING TO REMAIN ONE ECONOMIC LIFE AND OTHER VERY VULGAR SUBJECTS THE SAGE, THE WEAK, AND THE MAGNIFICENT THE IMPLICIT AND THE EXPLICIT ON THE VARIETIES OF LOVE AND NONLOVE THE END Postface Acknowledgments About the Author PROCRUSTES Procrustes, in Greek mythology, was the cruel owner of a small estate in Corydalus in Attica, on the way between Athens and Eleusis, where the mystery rites were performed.

– When I look at people on treadmills I wonder how alpha lions, the strongest, expend the least amount of energy, sleeping twenty hours a day; others hunt for them. Caesar pontem fecit.* – Every social association that is not face-to-face is injurious to your health. * Literally, “Caesar built a bridge,” but the subtlety is that it can also suggest that “he had a bridge built for him.” THE REPUBLIC OF LETTERS Writing is the art of repeating oneself without anyone noticing. – Most people write so they can remember things; I write to forget. – What they call philosophy I call literature; what they call literature I call journalism; what they call journalism I call gossip; and what they call gossip I call (generously) voyeurism. – Writers are remembered for their best work, politicians for their worst mistakes, and businessmen are almost never remembered


EuroTragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts by Ashoka Mody

"Robert Solow", Andrei Shleifer, asset-backed security, availability heuristic, bank run, banking crisis, Basel III, Berlin Wall, book scanning, Bretton Woods, call centre, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, Celtic Tiger, central bank independence, centre right, credit crunch, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, debt deflation, Donald Trump, eurozone crisis, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial intermediation, floating exchange rates, forward guidance, George Akerlof, German hyperinflation, global supply chain, global value chain, hiring and firing, Home mortgage interest deduction, income inequality, inflation targeting, Irish property bubble, Isaac Newton, job automation, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johannes Kepler, Kenneth Rogoff, Kickstarter, liberal capitalism, light touch regulation, liquidity trap, loadsamoney, London Interbank Offered Rate, Long Term Capital Management, low-wage service sector, Mikhail Gorbachev, mittelstand, money market fund, moral hazard, mortgage tax deduction, neoliberal agenda, offshore financial centre, oil shock, open borders, pension reform, premature optimization, price stability, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, rent-seeking, Republic of Letters, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, short selling, Silicon Valley, The Great Moderation, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, too big to fail, total factor productivity, trade liberalization, transaction costs, urban renewal, working-age population, Yogi Berra

Universities, academies, and learned societies “sprang up all over Europe,” which created a ferment of innovative excitement.42 Europe was successful then as a republic of letters, not as a political organization that tried to coordinate European nations through rules and committees. Europe must again be a republic of letters invigorated by competition among its nation-​states. It is time for Europeans to come together once again in the marketplace for ideas. In this marketplace, the currency must be the willingness to pursue excellence, and spirited intellectual exchange must advance the next generation of scientific methods and technologies. 452   e u r o t r a g e d y The question we need to ask today is how we can build a new republic of letters. A vibrant marketplace for ideas—​one that is adequate to the call of our time—​requires as building blocks much higher-​quality schools and universities.

I am thinking especially of Italian youth, whose trust in Europe has fallen distressingly. So let us each, according to our national genius, build our own outstanding schools and colleges. These will become the modern agora, the network within a new European Republic of Letters, where vast numbers of self-​confident European youth meet. The agora will be the foundation of a consistent and creative affirmation of European values, rooted in respect and fairness. The agora and the values it promotes will become the European identity. Our youth will be better prepared to face the forces of globalization, and they will be proud Europeans. Quite simply, if we create a European Republic of Letters, economic dynamism and political goodwill will give us the reserves to deal with financial and political crises. If we shrink now and stay preoccupied with minor changes to European governance, we will struggle to achieve progress, and new crises will continue to overwhelm us.

On reducing inequalities, as Nobel laureate Robert Solow recently said, the urgent need is to respond to the “so many, so many” who despair that life is not fair to them, who believe “that they’re being treated like dirt.”56 High quality education offers the best—​perhaps, only—​antidote to the hopelessness that breeds disaffection and a sense of unfairness. And European identity cannot continue to be defined by fiscal and monetary rules which, while emphasizing prudence and stability, are administered by officials who can never be held accountable for their decisions. Instead, a modern European Republic of Letters can create an identity based on collective aesthetic and intellectual aspirations that emerge through spontaneous interactions. The republic of letters scenario holds great promise. But even in this more hopeful Europe, the single currency area will always be subject to the one risk that finally undid the US monetary union as it existed before the Great Depression. That system survived with no central fiscal resources and relied instead on the states and their creditors sharing the costs of crises.


pages: 391 words: 105,382

Utopia Is Creepy: And Other Provocations by Nicholas Carr

Air France Flight 447, Airbnb, Airbus A320, AltaVista, Amazon Mechanical Turk, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Bernie Sanders, book scanning, Brewster Kahle, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, centralized clearinghouse, Charles Lindbergh, cloud computing, cognitive bias, collaborative consumption, computer age, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, deskilling, digital map, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Elon Musk, factory automation, failed state, feminist movement, Frederick Winslow Taylor, friendly fire, game design, global village, Google bus, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Googley, hive mind, impulse control, indoor plumbing, interchangeable parts, Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Joan Didion, job automation, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, low skilled workers, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, Menlo Park, mental accounting, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norman Mailer, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, SETI@home, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Singularitarianism, Snapchat, social graph, social web, speech recognition, Startup school, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, technoutopianism, the medium is the message, theory of mind, Turing test, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator

As ideas circulated through Europe and across the Atlantic during the eighteenth century, propelled by the technologies of the printing press and the post office, thinkers like Voltaire, Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson came to see themselves as citizens of a Republic of Letters, a freethinking meritocracy that transcended national borders. It was a time of great intellectual fervor and ferment, but the Republic of Letters was “democratic only in principle,” Darnton pointed out in an essay in the New York Review of Books: “In practice, it was dominated by the wellborn and the rich.” With the internet, we could at long last rectify that inequity. By putting digital copies of works online, Darnton has argued, the collections of the country’s great libraries could be made available to anyone with a computer and a link to the network. We could create a “Digital Republic of Letters” that would be truly free and open and democratic. The DPLA would allow us to “realize the Enlightenment ideals on which our country was founded.”

., 64–65 contemplation, 241, 246 through work, 298–99 conversation, computer streaming of, 152–54 CopyBot controversy, 25–27 copyright laws: history of, 275–76 in online library controversies, 269–71, 275–78, 283 in virtual world, 25–27 Corporate Communalists, 83 corporate control, through self-tracking, 163–65 correspondence courses, 133–34 cosmetic surgery, 331, 334 Costeja González, Mario, 190–92, 194 Coupland, Douglas, 102, 103 Courant, Paul, 270, 272 courtesy: decline of, 157 inefficiency of, 152–54 Cowen, Tyler, 116 Crawford, Matthew, 265 creativity, 49, 64 before the virtual world, 60–61 economics of, 8–9 in music, 44–45, 294 stifled by iPad, 76–78 see also innovation “crisis of control,” 188–89 CRISPR, 334–35 crowdsourcing, 37 Cruz, Ted, 314 cultural memory, archiving of, 325–28 cutouts (remaindered record albums), 122 CyberLover, 55 cybernetics, 37–38, 214 cyberpunk, 113 cyberspace, xvii, 127 early idealism of, 85 “Cyborg Manifesto” (Haraway), 168–69 cyborgs, 131 cynicism, 158 Daedalus, 336, 340 Darnton, Robert, 270–75, 278 DARPA, 332 Dash Express, 56 data-mining, 186, 212, 255–59 data-protection agencies, 190–91 Data Protection Directive, 191, 193 Davidson, Cathy, 94 Davies, Alex, 195 Davies, William, 214–15 Dean, Jeff, 137 death, as hardware failure, 115 Declaration of Independence, 278, 325 “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” (Barlow), 85 deep reading, 241 deletionists, 18–20, 58 democratization, xvi, xviii, 28, 86, 89, 115, 208, 271 internet perceived as tool for, 319–20 depression, 304 Derry, N.H., 296–97 Descartes, René, 301, 330 Dewey, John, 304 “digital dualism,” 129 “digital lifestyle,” 32–33 digital memory, 327 digital preservation, 325–28 Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), 268, 271–78 “Digital Republic of Letters,” 271 discovery, adventure of, 13–15 Disenchanted Night (Schivelbusch), 229 displaced agency, 265 distraction, xix, 14, 316 in consumerism, 65 video games and, 19 diversity, 65 DNA, 69–70, 334–35 Doctorow, Cory, 76–77 “Does the ‘New Economy’ Measure Up to the Great Inventions of the Past?” (Gordon), 116–17 Doors, 126 dopamine, 332 dot-com crash, xvi Doudna, Jennifer, 335 driving, 195–98 Droit-Volet, Sylvie, 203–4 drones, 306 Drucker, Peter, 182 drugs, 119, 304, 331 psychoactive, 333–34 video games and, 262 virtual, 39–40 Drum, Kevin, 306 Dylan, Bob, 121, 294 dystopias, 108 ears, development and evolution of, 235 Earthlink, 280 “Easter, 1916” (Yeats), 88 Easton, David, 211 “E-book Reading Jumps; Print Book Reading Declines,” 140 ebooks, e-reader devices, 74, 122–23, 140–43, 225, 257, 274, 288, 290 reading experience transformed by, 252–54 economic gap, xix, 30–31, 176–77, 179 economy, effect of technology on, 174–77, 179–80 Edison, Thomas, xvii, 134, 229, 287 education, technological transformation of, 133–35 Edwards, Douglas, 280–82, 285 efficiency: in computer communication, 152–54 maximizing of, 84–85, 148, 164–65, 195–97, 209, 214, 234, 237–39, 303, 305 of robots, 321 Eiffel Tower, 341 e-learning fad, 134 election campaigns: of 2008, 314 of 2016, 314–20 transformed by technology, 314–20 Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The (Wolfe), 170 Eliot, T.

., 261–62 see also books reading skills, changes in, 232–34, 240–41 Read Write Web (blog), 30 Reagan, Ronald, 315 real world: digital media intrusion in, 127–30 perceived as boring and ugly, 157–58 as source of knowledge, 313 virtual world vs., xx–xxi, 36, 62, 127–30, 303–4 reconstructive surgery, 239 record albums: copying of, 121–22 jackets for, 122, 224 technology of, 41–46 Redding, Otis, 126 Red Light Center, 39 Reichelt, Franz, 341 Reid, Rob, 122–25 relativists, 20 religion: internet perceived as, 3–4, 238 for McLuhan, 105 technology viewed as, xvi–xvii Republic of Letters, 271 reputations, tarnishing of, 47–48, 190–94 Resident Evil, 260–61 resource sharing, 148–49 resurrection, 69–70, 126 retinal implants, 332 Retromania (Reynolds), 217, 292–95 Reuters, Adam, 26 Reuters’ SL bureau, 26 revivification machine, 69–70 Reynolds, Simon, 217–18, 292–95 Rice, Isaac, 244 Rice, Julia Barnett, 243–44 Richards, Keith, 42 “right to be forgotten” lawsuit, 190–94 Ritalin, 304 robots: control of, 303 creepy quality of, 108 human beings compared to, 242 human beings replaced by, 112, 174, 176, 195, 197, 306–7, 310 limitations of, 323 predictions about, xvii, 177, 331 replaced by humans, 323 threat from, 226, 309 Rogers, Roo, 83–84 Rolling Stones, 42–43 Roosevelt, Franklin, 315 Rosen, Nick, 52 Rubio, Marco, 314 Rumsey, Abby Smith, 325–27 Ryan, Amy, 273 Sandel, Michael J., 340 Sanders, Bernie, 314, 316 Sansom, Ian, 287 Savage, Jon, 63 scatology, 147 Schachter, Joshua, 195 Schivelbusch, Wolfgang, 229 Schmidt, Eric, 13, 16, 238, 239, 257, 284 Schneier, Bruce, 258–59 Schüll, Natasha Dow, 218 science fiction, 106, 115, 116, 150, 309, 335 scientific management, 164–65, 237–38 Scrapbook in American Life, The, 185 scrapbooks, social media compared to, 185–86 “Scrapbooks as Cultural Texts” (Katriel and Farrell), 186 scythes, 302, 304–6 search-engine-optimization (SEO), 47–48 search engines: allusions sought through, 86 blogging, 66–67 in centralization of internet, 66–69 changing use of, 284 customizing by, 264–66 erroneous or outdated stories revived by, 47–48, 190–94 in filtering, 91 placement of results by, 47–48, 68 searching vs., 144–46 targeting information through, 13–14 writing tailored to, 89 see also Google searching, ontological connotations of, 144–46 Seasteading Institute, 172 Second Life, 25–27 second nature, 179 self, technologies of the, 118, 119–20 self-actualization, 120, 340 monitoring and quantification of, 163–65 selfies, 224 self-knowledge, 297–99 self-reconstruction, 339 self-tracking, 163–65 Selinger, Evan, 153 serendipity, internet as engine of, 12–15 SETI@Home, 149 sexbots, 55 Sex Pistols, 63 sex-reassignment procedures, 337–38 sexuality, 10–11 virtual, 39 Shakur, Tupac, 126 sharecropping, as metaphor for social media, 30–31 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 88 Shirky, Clay, 59–61, 90, 241 Shop Class as Soulcraft (Crawford), 265 Shuster, Brian, 39 sickles, 302 silence, 246 Silicon Valley: American culture transformed by, xv–xxii, 148, 155–59, 171–73, 181, 241, 257, 309 commercial interests of, 162, 172, 214–15 informality eschewed by, 197–98, 215 wealthy lifestyle of, 16–17, 195 Simonite, Tom, 136–37 simulation, see virtual world Singer, Peter, 267 Singularity, Singularitarians, 69, 147 sitcoms, 59 situational overload, 90–92 skimming, 233 “Slaves to the Smartphone,” 308–9 Slee, Tom, 61, 84 SLExchange, 26 slot machines, 218–19 smart bra, 168–69 smartphones, xix, 82, 136, 145, 150, 158, 168, 170, 183–84, 219, 274, 283, 287, 308–9, 315 Smith, Adam, 175, 177 Smith, William, 204 Snapchat, 166, 205, 225, 316 social activism, 61–62 social media, 224 biases reinforced by, 319–20 as deceptively reflective, 138–39 documenting one’s children on, 74–75 economic value of content on, 20–21, 53–54, 132 emotionalism of, 316–17 evolution of, xvi language altered by, 215 loom as metaphor for, 178 maintaining one’s microcelebrity on, 166–67 paradox of, 35–36, 159 personal information collected and monitored through, 257 politics transformed by, 314–20 scrapbooks compared to, 185–86 self-validation through, 36, 73 traditional media slow to adapt to, 316–19 as ubiquitous, 205 see also specific sites social organization, technologies of, 118, 119 Social Physics (Pentland), 213 Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise, 243–44 sociology, technology and, 210–13 Socrates, 240 software: autonomous, 187–89 smart, 112–13 solitude, media intrusion on, 127–30, 253 Songza, 207 Sontag, Susan, xx SoundCloud, 217 sound-management devices, 245 soundscapes, 244–45 space travel, 115, 172 spam, 92 Sparrow, Betsy, 98 Special Operations Command, U.S., 332 speech recognition, 137 spermatic, as term applied to reading, 247, 248, 250, 254 Spinoza, Baruch, 300–301 Spotify, 293, 314 “Sprite Sips” (app), 54 Squarciafico, Hieronimo, 240–41 Srinivasan, Balaji, 172 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 68 Starr, Karla, 217–18 Star Trek, 26, 32, 313 Stengel, Rick, 28 Stephenson, Neal, 116 Sterling, Bruce, 113 Stevens, Wallace, 158 Street View, 137, 283 Stroop test, 98–99 Strummer, Joe, 63–64 Studies in Classic American Literature (Lawrence), xxiii Such Stuff as Dreams (Oatley), 248–49 suicide rate, 304 Sullenberger, Sully, 322 Sullivan, Andrew, xvi Sun Microsystems, 257 “surf cams,” 56–57 surfing, internet, 14–15 surveillance, 52, 163–65, 188–89 surveillance-personalization loop, 157 survival, technologies of, 118, 119 Swing, Edward, 95 Talking Heads, 136 talk radio, 319 Tan, Chade-Meng, 162 Tapscott, Don, 84 tattoos, 336–37, 340 Taylor, Frederick Winslow, 164, 237–38 Taylorism, 164, 238 Tebbel, John, 275 Technics and Civilization (Mumford), 138, 235 technology: agricultural, 305–6 American culture transformed by, xv–xxii, 148, 155–59, 174–77, 214–15, 229–30, 296–313, 329–42 apparatus vs. artifact in, 216–19 brain function affected by, 231–42 duality of, 240–41 election campaigns transformed by, 314–20 ethical hazards of, 304–11 evanescence and obsolescence of, 327 human aspiration and, 329–42 human beings eclipsed by, 108–9 language of, 201–2, 214–15 limits of, 341–42 master-slave metaphor for, 307–9 military, 331–32 need for critical thinking about, 311–13 opt-in society run by, 172–73 progress in, 77–78, 188–89, 229–30 risks of, 341–42 sociology and, 210–13 time perception affected by, 203–6 as tool of knowledge and perception, 299–304 as transcendent, 179–80 Technorati, 66 telegrams, 79 telegraph, Twitter compared to, 34 telephones, 103–4, 159, 288 television: age of, 60–62, 79, 93, 233 and attention disorders, 95 in education, 134 Facebook ads on, 155–56 introduction of, 103–4, 159, 288 news coverage on, 318 paying for, 224 political use of, 315–16, 317 technological adaptation of, 237 viewing habits for, 80–81 Teller, Astro, 195 textbooks, 290 texting, 34, 73, 75, 154, 186, 196, 205, 233 Thackeray, William, 318 “theory of mind,” 251–52 Thiel, Peter, 116–17, 172, 310 “Things That Connect Us, The” (ad campaign), 155–58 30 Days of Night (film), 50 Thompson, Clive, 232 thought-sharing, 214–15 “Three Princes of Serendip, The,” 12 Thurston, Baratunde, 153–54 time: memory vs., 226 perception of, 203–6 Time, covers of, 28 Time Machine, The (Wells), 114 tools: blurred line between users and, 333 ethical choice and, 305 gaining knowledge and perception through, 299–304 hand vs. computer, 306 Home and Away blurred by, 159 human agency removed from, 77 innovation in, 118 media vs., 226 slave metaphor for, 307–8 symbiosis with, 101 Tosh, Peter, 126 Toyota Motor Company, 323 Toyota Prius, 16–17 train disasters, 323–24 transhumanism, 330–40 critics of, 339–40 transparency, downside of, 56–57 transsexuals, 337–38 Travels and Adventures of Serendipity, The (Merton and Barber), 12–13 Trends in Biochemistry (Nightingale and Martin), 335 TripAdvisor, 31 trolls, 315 Trump, Donald, 314–18 “Tuft of Flowers, A” (Frost), 305 tugboats, noise restrictions on, 243–44 Tumblr, 166, 185, 186 Turing, Alan, 236 Turing Test, 55, 137 Twain, Mark, 243 tweets, tweeting, 75, 131, 315, 319 language of, 34–36 theses in form of, 223–26 “tweetstorm,” xvii 20/20, 16 Twilight Saga, The (Meyer), 50 Twitter, 34–36, 64, 91, 119, 166, 186, 197, 205, 223, 224, 257, 284 political use of, 315, 317–20 2001: A Space Odyssey (film), 231, 242 Two-Lane Blacktop (film), 203 “Two Tramps in Mud Time” (Frost), 247–48 typewriters, writing skills and, 234–35, 237 Uber, 148 Ubisoft, 261 Understanding Media (McLuhan), 102–3, 106 underwearables, 168–69 unemployment: job displacement in, 164–65, 174, 310 in traditional media, 8 universal online library, 267–78 legal, commercial, and political obstacles to, 268–71, 274–78 universe, as memory, 326 Urban Dictionary, 145 utopia, predictions of, xvii–xviii, xx, 4, 108–9, 172–73 Uzanne, Octave, 286–87, 290 Vaidhyanathan, Siva, 277 vampires, internet giants compared to, 50–51 Vampires (game), 50 Vanguardia, La, 190–91 Van Kekerix, Marvin, 134 vice, virtual, 39–40 video games, 223, 245, 303 as addictive, 260–61 cognitive effects of, 93–97 crafting of, 261–62 violent, 260–62 videos, viewing of, 80–81 virtual child, tips for raising a, 73–75 virtual world, xviii commercial aspects of, 26–27 conflict enacted in, 25–27 language of, 201–2 “playlaborers” of, 113–14 psychological and physical health affected by, 304 real world vs., xx–xxi, 36, 62, 127–30 as restrictive, 303–4 vice in, 39–40 von Furstenberg, Diane, 131 Wales, Jimmy, 192 Wallerstein, Edward, 43–44 Wall Street, automation of, 187–88 Wall Street Journal, 8, 16, 86, 122, 163, 333 Walpole, Horace, 12 Walters, Barbara, 16 Ward, Adrian, 200 Warhol, Andy, 72 Warren, Earl, 255, 257 “Waste Land, The” (Eliot), 86, 87 Watson (IBM computer), 147 Wealth of Networks, The (Benkler), xviii “We Are the Web” (Kelly), xxi, 4, 8–9 Web 1.0, 3, 5, 9 Web 2.0, xvi, xvii, xxi, 33, 58 amorality of, 3–9, 10 culturally transformative power of, 28–29 Twitter and, 34–35 “web log,” 21 Wegner, Daniel, 98, 200 Weinberger, David, 41–45, 277 Weizenbaum, Joseph, 236 Wells, H.


pages: 369 words: 80,355

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger

airport security, Alfred Russel Wallace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, book scanning, Cass Sunstein, commoditize, corporate social responsibility, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, David Brooks, Debian, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, Exxon Valdez, Fall of the Berlin Wall, future of journalism, Galaxy Zoo, Hacker Ethic, Haight Ashbury, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, invention of the telegraph, jimmy wales, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, linked data, Netflix Prize, New Journalism, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, openstreetmap, P = NP, Pluto: dwarf planet, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Republic of Letters, RFID, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, semantic web, slashdot, social graph, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize

We clustered experts into think tanks and academic departments because we recognized that they’re smarter when together. In the eighteenth century, the great Western thinkers constituted what they called a “Republic of Letters,” in which they shared their ideas in correspondence, arguing back and forth at the speed of ponies and sailing ships. Even in ancient Greece, where the idea of knowledge was invented, the most famous thinker reached toward knowledge exclusively through dialogue with others. But there used to be a natural size to such networks. Few people were admitted to the Republic of Letters, and it really helped to be a leisured white man. University departments are small enclaves. Books and then radio and TV are one-way media, and only a small group of people get to broadcast through them.

Technodeterminism is no different for those who think that the Internet inevitably makes us stupid—rewiring our brains, as Nicholas Carr argues. Anti-technodeterminists such as the sociologist Eszter Hargittai and the social media researcher danah boyd point to the ways our social class, age, and subculture affect how we use the Internet and what it means to us. To some, the Net may be an electronic Republic of Letters, but others feel excluded because they don’t have the technical skills, the free time, or the aggressive personality so many Net forums favor. For entire countries, the Net is not an open marketplace of ideas so much as a source of carefully controlled propaganda. On the other hand, there are some basic elements of the Net experience shared by almost anyone who encounters it through a Web browser.

See also Books and book publishing Paper-based tools Parenting experts Patent Office, US PatientsLikeMe.com Pavement performance Peer-review journals Perception, facts and Permission-free knowledge Philosophy defining and quantifying knowledge information overload reality unresolved knowledge Pinker, Steven Planetary Skin initiative Plato PLoS One online journal Pogue, David Polio vaccine Politics Politifact.com Popper, Karl Population growth, Malthusian theory of Pornography Postmodernism Pragmatism PressThink.org Primary Insight Principles of Geology (Lyell) Prize4Life Protein folding ProteomeCommons.org Pseudo-science Public Library of Science (PLoS) Punchcard data Pyramid, knowledge Pyramid of organizational efficiency Quora Racial/ethnic identity Ramanujan, Srinivasa RAND Corporation Random Hacks of Kindness Rauscher, Francis Raymond, Eric Reagan, Ronald Reality Reason as the path to truth and knowledge critical debate on unresolved knowledge Reliability Repositories, open access Republic of Letters Republican Party Republic.com (Sunstein) Revolution in the Middle East Rheingold, Howard Richards, Ellen Swallow Riesman, David Robustness “The Rock” (Eliot) Rogers, William Rorty, Richard Rosen, Jay Roskam, Peter Rushkoff, Douglas Russia: Dogger Bank Incident Salk, Jonas Sanger, Larry Schmidt, Michael School shootings Science amateurs in crowdsourcing expertise failures in goals of hyperlinked inflation of scientific studies interdisciplinary approaches media relations Net-based inquiry open filtering journal articles open-notebook overgeneration of scientific facts philosophical and professional differences among scientists public and private realms scientific journals transformation of scientific knowledge Science at Creative Commons Science journal Scientific journals Scientific management Scientific method Self-interest: fact-based knowledge Semantic Web Seneca Sensory overload Sexual behavior The Shallows (Carr) Shapiro, Jesse Shared experiences Shilts, Randy Shirky, Clay Shoemaker, Carolyn Simplicity in scientific thought Simulation of physical interactions Slashdot.com Sloan Digital Sky Survey Smart mobs “Smarter planet” initiative Smith, Arfon Smith, Richard Soccer Social conformity Social networks crowdsourcing expertise Middle East revolutions pooling expertise scaling social filtering Social policy: social role of facts Social reform Dickens’s antipathy to fact-based knowledge global statistical support for Bentham’s ideas Social tools: information overload Society of Professional Journalists Socrates Software defaults Software development, contests for Sotomayor, Sonia Source transparency Space Shuttle disaster Spiro, Mary Sports Sprinkle, Annie Standpoint transparency Statistics emergence of Hunch.com Stopping points for knowledge The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kuhn) Stupidity, Net increasing Sub-networks Suel, Gurol Sunlight Foundation Sunstein, Cass Surowiecki, James Systems biology Tag cloud Tagging Tatalias, Jean Taylor, Frederick Wilson TechCamps Technodeterminism Technology easing information overload Technorati.com Television, homophily and Temptation of hyperlinks Think tanks Thoreau, Henry David The Tipping Point (Gladwell) Todd, Mac Toffler, Alvin TopCopder Topic-based expertise Torvalds, Linus Traditional knowledge Tranche Transparency hyperlinks contributing to objectivity and of the Net Open Government Initiative Transparency and Open Government project Triangular knowledge Trillin, Calvin Trust: reliability of information Trust-through-authority system Truth elements of knowledge reason as the path to value of networked knowledge Twitter Tyme, Mae Unnailing facts Updike, John USAID UsefulChem notebook Vaccinations Verizon Vietnam Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Wales, Jimmy Wallace, Alfred Russel Walter, Skip Washington Post Watson, James Welch, Jack Welfare The WELL (The Whole Earth’Lectronic Link) Whole Earth Catalog Wikipedia editorial policy LA Times wikitorial experiment policymaking Virginia Tech shootings Wikswo, John Wilbanks, John Wired magazine The Wisdom of Crowds (Surowiecki) Wise crowds Wittgenstein, Ludwig Wolfram, Stephen WolframAlpha.com World Bank World Cup World War I Wurman, Richard Saul Wycliffe, John York, Jillian YourEncore Zappa, Frank Zeleny, Milan Zettabyte Zittrain, Jonathan Zuckerman, Ethan a I’m leaving this as an unsupported idea because it’s not the point of this book.


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Age of Anger: A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra

anti-communist, Asian financial crisis, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, British Empire, colonial rule, continuation of politics by other means, creative destruction, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Fellow of the Royal Society, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, George Santayana, global village, Gunnar Myrdal, informal economy, invisible hand, liberal capitalism, Mahatma Gandhi, Marshall McLuhan, Martin Wolf, mass immigration, Nelson Mandela, Peter Thiel, Philip Mirowski, planetary scale, plutocrats, Plutocrats, precariat, Republic of Letters, Scientific racism, Silicon Valley, smart cities, Snapchat, stem cell, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, traveling salesman, urban planning, Vilfredo Pareto, wage slave, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

The spokesmen of the new class consisted of les hommes à talents, men of talent, who no longer depended on military or bureaucratic service, and who ‘conquered’, in Madame de Staël’s words, ‘by their talents that liberty of the press which was not accorded by statute’. Each of these men, Tocqueville claimed, ‘felt hindered daily in his fortune, person, well-being, or pride by some old law, some ancient political custom, some relic of the old powers’. Through their friendships, shared interests and resources, they formed a network – the first of its kind anywhere in the world. A typical representative of the new Republic of Letters was Voltaire, the son of a lawyer. As a quick-witted young man, he had contemptuously won an argument with an aristocrat, and then found himself publicly flogged by the latter’s lackeys, and forced to flee to England in 1726. He soon became an Anglo-maniac, adoring his refuge as the shining example of a commercial society that enshrined individual liberty. ‘As trade enriched the citizens in England,’ Voltaire wrote, ‘so it contributed to their freedom.’

When the publication of the Encyclopédie was forbidden in Paris, she offered to move the entire operation to St Petersburg. She gave Diderot a lifetime sinecure by purchasing his library for a handsome sum. In the very first year of her reign, at the age of thirty-four, she asked D’Alembert to become the tutor of her heir, and opened a mutually flattering correspondence with Voltaire, who at nearly seventy was the patriarch of the European republic of letters. Voltaire was soon turned, with Catherine’s encouragement, into a patron saint for the secular Russian aristocracy. Voltairianism, vaguely signifying rationalism, scepticism and reformism, became her official ideology. Almost all of Voltaire was translated into Russian; no library was deemed complete if it did not contain a collection of Voltaire’s works in the original French. The high-backed easy chair on which Voltaire was often depicted sitting was much imitated among Russian aristocrats.

But the Enlightenment philosophes had already shown, in their blind adherence to Catherine, how reason could degenerate into dogma and new, more extensive forms of domination: authoritarian state structures, violent top-down manipulation of human affairs (often couched in terms of humanitarian concern) and indifference to suffering. The trahison des clercs of the Enlightenment philosophes seems to have helped Rousseau identify a whole schema of modernity in which power flows unequally to a networked elite, especially a smug Republic of Letters that actively accentuates social differences at home while pursuing fantasies of universal transformation abroad. Rousseau of course never had much time for enlightened absolutism. He also had the advantage of knowing that the age of the masses was at hand. ‘We are approaching a state of crisis and the age of revolutions,’ he wrote in 1762 in Émile. ‘I hold it impossible that the great monarchies of Europe still have long to survive.’


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The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

1960s counterculture, affirmative action, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, availability heuristic, Berlin Wall, Bonfire of the Vanities, British Empire, Broken windows theory, business cycle, California gold rush, Cass Sunstein, citation needed, clean water, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, Columbine, computer age, conceptual framework, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, crack epidemic, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, delayed gratification, demographic transition, desegregation, Doomsday Clock, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, experimental subject, facts on the ground, failed state, first-past-the-post, Flynn Effect, food miles, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, fudge factor, full employment, George Santayana, ghettoisation, Gini coefficient, global village, Henri Poincaré, Hobbesian trap, humanitarian revolution, impulse control, income inequality, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, lake wobegon effect, libertarian paternalism, long peace, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Marshall McLuhan, mass incarceration, McMansion, means of production, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral panic, mutually assured destruction, Nelson Mandela, open economy, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Singer: altruism, QWERTY keyboard, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, Republic of Letters, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, Saturday Night Live, security theater, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, South China Sea, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Stanford prison experiment, statistical model, stem cell, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, transatlantic slave trade, Turing machine, twin studies, ultimatum game, uranium enrichment, Vilfredo Pareto, Walter Mischel, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

Whether or not novels in general, or epistolary novels in particular, were the critical genre in expanding empathy, the explosion of reading may have contributed to the Humanitarian Revolution by getting people into the habit of straying from their parochial vantage points. And it may have contributed in a second way: by creating a hothouse for new ideas about moral values and the social order. THE REPUBLIC OF LETTERS AND ENLIGHTENMENT HUMANISM In David Lodge’s 1988 novel Small World, a professor explains why he believes that the elite university has become obsolete: Information is much more portable in the modern world than it used to be. So are people.... There are three things which have revolutionized academic life in the last twenty years . . . : jet travel, direct-dialing telephones and the Xerox machine....

Two decades after his words were written, they have been superseded by e-mail, digital documents, Web sites, blogs, teleconferencing, Skype, and smartphones. And two centuries before they were written, the technologies of the day—the sailing ship, the printed book, and the postal service—had already made information and people portable. The result was the same: a global campus, a public sphere, or as it was called in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Republic of Letters. Any 21st-century reader who dips into intellectual history can’t help but be impressed by the blogosphere of the 18th. No sooner did a book appear than it would sell out, get reprinted, get translated into half a dozen languages, and spawn a flurry of commentary in pamphlets, correspondence, and additional books. Thinkers like Locke and Newton exchanged tens of thousands of letters; Voltaire alone wrote more than eighteen thousand, which now fill fifteen volumes.143 Of course this colloquy unfolded on a scale that by today’s standards was glacial—weeks, sometimes even months—but it was rapid enough that ideas could be broached, criticized, amalgamated, refined, and brought to the attention of people in power.

The human mind is adept at packaging a complicated idea into a chunk, combining it with other ideas into a more complex assembly, packaging that assembly into a still bigger contrivance, combining it with still other ideas, and so on.144 But to do so it needs a steady supply of plug-ins and subassemblies, which can come only from a network of other minds. A global campus increases not only the complexity of ideas but their quality. In hermetic isolation, all kinds of bizarre and toxic ideas can fester. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and exposing a bad idea to the critical glare of other minds provides at least a chance that it will wither and die. Superstitions, dogmas, and legends ought to have a shorter half-life in a Republic of Letters, together with bad ideas about how to control crime or run a country. Setting fire to a person and seeing whether he burns is a dumb way to determine his guilt. Executing a woman for copulating with devils and turning them into cats is equally inane. And unless you are a hereditary absolutist monarch, you are unlikely to be persuaded that hereditary absolutist monarchy is the optimal form of government.


The Map of Knowledge: How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found: A History in Seven Cities by Violet Moller

Book of Ingenious Devices, British Empire, double entry bookkeeping, Johannes Kepler, Murano, Venice glass, Republic of Letters, spice trade, the market place, trade route, wikimedia commons

Having designed (with the help of his collaborators) a series of elegant Greek fonts (one of which was based on Chrysoloras’ handwriting), he began to print classical texts in their original language, and, in doing so, fulfilled the ultimate humanist ideal of making the pristine knowledge of the ancients accessible to a contemporary audience, uncorrupted by translation. His print shop, first in San Agostino and later in the Merceria, became the intellectual heart of the city. Every day, an endless stream of scholars arrived to debate the latest issues – in Greek (there were fines for speaking any other language) – and to prepare texts for the press. The leading figures of the European ‘Republic of Letters’ all came to pay their respects: Erasmus arrived in January 1508, to oversee the publication of his Adages; the German humanist Johann Reuchlin visited a few years earlier, while Thomas Linacre came all the way from England. This did not make the Aldine Press an easy place to work. In 1514, the year before he died, Aldus wrote, ‘Apart from six hundred others, there are two things in particular which continually interrupt my work.

Cities have risen and fallen, new societies have developed across the Mediterranean world. In 500, centres of learning were shutting down, intellectual life diminishing. A thousand years later, the opposite is true. In Europe, education is widely available again, not to everyone, but there are schools, tutors, universities: a budding tradition of learning on offer to wealthy, interested young men – and a few women, too. They have the chance to become members of the growing ‘Republic of Letters’ and to contribute to the development of knowledge. Europe has emerged from a century of profound change. New worlds have been discovered, bursting with exotic plants and animals. Galleys laden with gold and silver are making their way back across the Atlantic, bringing untold wealth to Europe. Old boundaries have been swept away and the maps have been redrawn. The printing press has transformed communication.

It also became increasingly common for writers to write in their own language – something that had been initiated by the early Italian humanists and gradually spread to the rest of Europe. The rise in the use of vernacular languages did not change the fact that the universal language of the intellectual world was still Latin. Printing in Greek never took off in the way Aldus had hoped; there were simply not enough people who knew it to make it a viable proposition for most presses. The inhabitants of the Republic of Letters usually corresponded with each other in Latin, exchanging books and letters, arguing and collaborating via a growing network of postal systems. As the infrastructure of bookselling evolved, it became easier to get hold of texts, helping the exchange of ideas. As the (relatively) stable printed page gradually replaced the fragile manuscript, knowledge became standardized and more accurate.


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Escape From Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity by Walter Scheidel

agricultural Revolution, barriers to entry, British Empire, colonial rule, conceptual framework, creative destruction, currency manipulation / currency intervention, dark matter, disruptive innovation, Eratosthenes, European colonialism, financial innovation, financial intermediation, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johannes Kepler, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, mandelbrot fractal, means of production, Network effects, out of africa, Peace of Westphalia, peer-to-peer lending, plutocrats, Plutocrats, principal–agent problem, purchasing power parity, rent-seeking, Republic of Letters, secular stagnation, South China Sea, spinning jenny, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transaction costs, zero-sum game

In the seventeenth century, the establishment of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge and the Académie royal des sciences in Paris for the first time created bodies dedicated to the autonomous study of the natural world by cohesive groups of scholars.9 Fragmentation between and within polities was coupled with a high degree of mobility among European intellectuals, both in person and even more so through communications. This connectivity greatly boosted the size of the market for ideas. Yet even in this arena, systemic competition played a central role: the transnational intellectual community famously known as the “Republic of Letters” transcended political fractures by creating a “competitive marketplace not only for ideas but also for the people who generated them in their struggle to gain recognition, fame, and patronage.” This market connected people with new ideas with potential customers who needed to be persuaded of the merits of these ideas. Insofar as competitive patronage served as an incentive mechanism, Europe’s political fragmentation once again emerged as a crucial precondition.

If we follow those who ascribe a central role to the emergence of a European culture of knowledge and science and view it as being rooted in transnational exchange and competition, anything that assisted in this process would have been beneficial to transformative development. Thus, for Mokyr, Western Europe profited from “a disconnect between the size of the political unit and the intellectual community” because it created space for a Republic of Letters. The lack of such networks would have raised the cost of access to a transnational market of ideas and helped incumbents—defenders of entrenched tradition—fend off challengers.27 This relatively narrow perspective is bound to disappoint champions of the long-term legacy of Roman law or ancient political discourse. Yet inasmuch as Roman law exerted influence, it did so because the medieval church had kept it alive, not just by ensuring the survival of Latin but also by applying elements of this tradition for its own purposes and drawing on it in the training of clergy.

Huff 2003: 133–39, 179, 251, and also 179–89, 317, and 339–45 for the role of universities in the rise of early modern science. Cf. also Lang 1997: 19. Exceptions: Mokyr 2017: 172–75. 8. Mokyr 2017: 169 (competition), 149–50 (innovations). See Hobson 2004 for the scope of borrowing. 9. H. F. Cohen 2015: 173–74. 10. Mokyr 2017: 175–76 (mobility); Mokyr 2007: 5–6 (marketplace); Mokyr 2017: 179–224 (Republic of Letters), 179 (quote), 181 (mechanism). I turn to China later in this chapter. 11. Mokyr 2007: 7–8; Mokyr 2017: 186, 189–91. Counterfactual: Mokyr 2007: 24 (quote); Mokyr 2017: 220–21. 12. Costs: Mokyr 2017: 215 and the epilogue in this volume. Vernacular: Mokyr 2007: 31. 13. See C. Murray 2003: 301–3 for an attempt at a census (see also 113–14, 158, 252, 297–98). 14. Becker, Pfaff, and Rubin 2016: 10–20 provide an excellent survey of relevant social science research. 15.


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The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium by Martin Gurri

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, Ayatollah Khomeini, bitcoin, Black Swan, Burning Man, business cycle, citizen journalism, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, collective bargaining, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, currency manipulation / currency intervention, dark matter, David Graeber, death of newspapers, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, facts on the ground, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, housing crisis, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of writing, job-hopping, Mohammed Bouazizi, Nate Silver, Occupy movement, Port of Oakland, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, Skype, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, too big to fail, traveling salesman, University of East Anglia, urban renewal, War on Poverty, We are the 99%, WikiLeaks, young professional

The public of the eighteenth century had been composed of networks of persons with knowledge of science and the arts, connected virtually, by correspondence. They called themselves, informally, the Republic of Letters, and their labors proved almost indecently fruitful: they helped popularize the scientific revolution, articulated the principles of liberal democracy, and inspired political revolutions in America and France. In Dewey’s “age of the machine,” that assertive public appeared as extinct as the fashion for powdered wigs. The masses had buried alive the public, so it seemed, and with it the prospects for a democratic future. Here I want to break the historical narrative, and fast-forward to the present. Anyone paying attention will have noticed surprising similarities between the periwigged citizens of the Republic of Letters and our own networked public. Both were largely virtual, informal, spontaneous, networked rather than hierarchical, open to quality rather than accreditation.

Both were largely virtual, informal, spontaneous, networked rather than hierarchical, open to quality rather than accreditation. And it’s true: they resembled each other more than they did the intervening masses of the industrial age. Whether this resemblance is an optical illusion or reflects some underlying causal link is a worthy subject for study and reflection – but it isn’t part of my story. I’m more interested in considering the one significant difference between the two: the Republic of Letters, in the end, was an elite club, an intellectual Olympus far removed from the sight of Ortega’s particularized humanity. Whereas the networked public today is composed of ordinary persons. It spends more time on images of cute cats and pornography than on revolution or political philosophy. The new public, in fact, closely corresponds to the old masses, now escaped from Taylorist control and returning, in vital communities, to its particular interests and tastes.


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The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wootton

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, British Empire, clockwork universe, Commentariolus, commoditize, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, germ theory of disease, Google X / Alphabet X, Hans Lippershey, interchangeable parts, invention of gunpowder, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, knowledge economy, lateral thinking, lone genius, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Philip Mirowski, placebo effect, QWERTY keyboard, Republic of Letters, social intelligence, spice trade, spinning jenny, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Browne, even while dismissing testimony as relevant only to morality, rhetoric, law and history, and irrelevant to natural philosophy, summed up the basic principle: ‘in Law both Civill and Divine, that is only esteemed legitimum testimonium, or a legall testimony, which receives comprobation from the mouths of at least two witnesses; and that not onely for prevention of calumny, but assurance against mistake.’124 His problem with admitting testimony to natural philosophy was that it would then be necessary to accept what he called ‘aggregated testimony’ – in other words, the indirect experience of people who simply voice what everyone believes to be the case. He could not imagine turning the republic of letters into a vast law court. Thus, before the invention of the fact an appeal to testimony was seen as an appeal to authority (even Digby, writing in 1658, had thought of eyewitnesses as authorities): witnesses, we might say, were thought of as character witnesses, not as eyewitnesses. After the fact, eyewitness testimony became a form of virtual witnessing, hence Boyle’s insistence that he did not appeal ‘to other Writers as to Judges, but as to Witnesses’.

Pascal in 1651 insisted that scientists should have ‘complete liberty’.137 The epigraph to Salusbury’s Mathematical Collections (1661) is ‘inter nullos magis quam inter PHILOSOPHOS esse debet aequa LIBERTAS’ (‘between none more than philosophers ought there to be an equal liberty’). There is something inherently egalitarian and liberating about the new inter-related worlds of the book and of the fact. Indeed, we may say that the new science aspired to the creation of that social sphere which was idealized in the seventeenth century as ‘the republic of letters’ and which the eighteenth century was to label ‘civil society’.138 Bruno Latour, in an important essay entitled ‘Visualization and Cognition: Drawing Things Together’, which originally appeared in 1986, claimed that the printing press made facts ‘harder’; before printing, facts were too soft to be reliable.139 What made the Scientific Revolution, Latour argues, is not the experimental method, or commercial society – both had been around for centuries – but the printing press, which turned private information into public knowledge, private experience into communal experience.

In Questions of Evidence: Proof, Practice and Persuasion across the Disciplines. Ed. J Chandler, AI Davidson and H Harootunian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994: 282–9. ———. ‘The History of Emergences: The Emergence of Probability’. Isis 98: 801–8 (2007). ———. ‘History of Science in an Elegiac Mode: E. A. Burtt’s Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science Revisited’. Isis 82 (1991): 522–31. ———. ‘The Ideal and Reality of the Republic of Letters in the Enlightenment’. Science in Context 4 (1991): 367–86. ———. ‘The Language of Strange Facts in Early Modern Science’. In Inscribing Science: Scientific Texts and the Materiality of Communication. Ed. T Lenoir. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997: 20–38. ———. ‘Marvelous Facts and Miraculous Evidence in Early-Modern Europe’. Critical Inquiry 18 (1991): 93–124. ———. ‘Perché i fatti sono brevi?’


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The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel by Nicholas Ostler

barriers to entry, BRICs, British Empire, call centre, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, Internet Archive, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, mass immigration, Nelson Mandela, open economy, Republic of Letters, Scramble for Africa, statistical model, trade route, upwardly mobile

Instead, innovative thinkers such as Petrarch went back to the Latin classics of the ancient world to seek inspiration, and critics such as Lorenzo Valla sought out textual evidence of how best to express ideas in the classical language. Although still actively deployed in the Roman Church and all its works, Latin was no longer exclusively Roman, but had become the language rather of a European “republic of letters.” Copernicus, Erasmus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Descartes all published most of their key works in Latin. For the last time (as it turned out), Latin had found a new and influential community to serve as lingua-franca. * Admittedly, this usually happens with the collusion, witting or unwitting, of their parents. * Explicitly argued in Beckwith 2009, 369– 74. CHAPTER 8 Ruin and Relegation Beorht woeron burgroeced, burnsele monige, Bright borough-buildings, bath-halls many, heah hordgestreon, heresweg micel, high the treasure hoards, hubbub was mighty, meodoheall monig mondreama full, mead-halls many, man-dreams aplenty, oþþoet þoet onwende wyrd seo swiþe. until it was upturned by Destiny doughty. —“ The Ruin,” an eighth-century lament, probably for Bath’s vanished Roman glories PERSIAN, SANSKRIT, AND LATIN had all become, in their different subcontinental societies, standardized written languages with massive literatures and succeeded, over many centuries, in transcending the par tic-u lar circumstances from which they had First arisen and expanded.

Ouch.24 The origin of vernacularism is widely and traditionally understood in India as having been a kind of revolt against the ancient dominance of the Brahman elite in religion, and in society at large.25 Sir George Grierson, the great surveyor of Indian languages, memorably said of Sanskrit, “This sacred language, jealously preserved by the Brahmans in their schools, had all the prestige that religion and learning could give it.”26 A reading of Patanjali, a grammarian in the second century BC, suggests that, in his day, full competence in Sanskrit was restricted to Brahman males.27 Sanskrit snobbery does indeed go back a long way, even if for long periods in the First millennium AD it may have been mitigated in an open-minded cosmopolis.28 The idea of a revolt against this snobbery fits snugly with the idea of Sanskrit’s decline as one more instance of a lingua-franca lost to Resignation. More recently, it has been contended that the clear association of Sanskrit with Brahman possessiveness is a result of the switch to vernaculars rather than a provocation for it, a kind of defensive drawing-in, entirely comparable with the way that the Roman Catholic Church became distinctively associated with Latin after the language was abandoned by a wider republic of letters in Europe.29 But the two approaches are in fact quite compatible, especially if one accepts the likely dynamics of reaction (by Brahmans) in the face of social change. To neutralize the parallel with the Church’s role in the decline of Latin— just as the Brahmans had their early association with Sanskrit— the Catholic Church had (in the second half of the First millennium AD) played a vital role in the spread of Latin across Europe, giving the prime motive for using it until it became useful for secular communication.* Whatever the precise order of events (which probably differed in the many different language areas), Brahman power declined along with the use of Sanskrit.


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Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World by Deirdre N. McCloskey

Airbnb, Akira Okazaki, big-box store, Black Swan, book scanning, British Empire, business cycle, buy low sell high, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, clean water, Columbian Exchange, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, Costa Concordia, creative destruction, crony capitalism, dark matter, Dava Sobel, David Graeber, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, double entry bookkeeping, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental economics, Ferguson, Missouri, fundamental attribution error, Georg Cantor, George Akerlof, George Gilder, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, God and Mammon, greed is good, Gunnar Myrdal, Hans Rosling, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, Hernando de Soto, immigration reform, income inequality, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, John Harrison: Longitude, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, lake wobegon effect, land reform, liberation theology, lone genius, Lyft, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, means of production, Naomi Klein, new economy, North Sea oil, Occupy movement, open economy, out of africa, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, Pax Mongolica, Peace of Westphalia, peak oil, Peter Singer: altruism, Philip Mirowski, pink-collar, plutocrats, Plutocrats, positional goods, profit maximization, profit motive, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, refrigerator car, rent control, rent-seeking, Republic of Letters, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Scientific racism, Scramble for Africa, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, Simon Kuznets, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, spinning jenny, stakhanovite, Steve Jobs, The Chicago School, The Market for Lemons, the rule of 72, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, Toyota Production System, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, uber lyft, union organizing, very high income, wage slave, Washington Consensus, working poor, Yogi Berra

But from the seventeenth century onward, and especially after 1800, the political and social ideas of liberalism shockingly extended the technology, through equality of liberty and dignity in Holland and Britain and Belgium and above all in the United States, and then beyond. The economic historian Joel Mokyr in a new book chronicles the improvements in communication and the welcoming of novelties that made for a freewheeling and largely egalitarian Republic of Letters after 1500, and especially after 1600.3 The outcome of such rhetorical developments was a technological explosion, especially after 1800, that radically improved on Europe’s old overseas borrowings. The Great Enrichment is not to be explained, that is, by material matters of race, class, gender, power, climate, culture, religion, genetics, geography, institutions, or nationality. On the contrary, what led to our automobiles and our voting rights, our plumbing and our primary schools, were the fresh ideas that flowed from liberalism, that is, a new system of encouraging betterment and a partial erosion of hierarchy.

The merchant was portrayed in early modern paintings with ink-stained fingers, since a merchant had to be literate in his account books and had to be a writer of letters giving and getting economically valuable information. The bourgeoisie had long used written letters as news, of price currents or whatever; and letter-carrying improved in the sixteenth and especially the seventeenth centuries. The improved post created a Republic of Letters, in which a remote Benjamin Franklin could enter into scientific correspondence with Julien-David LeRoy in France. It was combined with the grammar-school movement in places like England and France and Poland, which allowed the spread of Latin as a lingua franca beyond the high clergy. The uncontrolled printing presses in Europe eventually made for “news,” on the model of the merchant’s letter.

See also job protection Mirabeau, Comte de: on happiness, 683n5 Mirowski, Philip: neoliberalism, 660n1 Mises, Ludwig von: Austrian economics, 360; entangling, 55; ideological change, 417; and Schumpeter, 646; trade and the poor, 697n3 Mishra, Pankaj: Great Enrichment, 55; imperialism, 88 Mitch, David: acknowledged, xxxviii Mitchell, Douglas: acknowledged, xli; and Richard McKeon, 646 Mithen, Steven: early trade, 106, 655n20 Moav, Omer: farmer victims, 656n21 Moberg, Vilhelm: Swedish poverty, 9 Moby Dick (Melville): bourgeoisie, 591 Modi, Narendra: liberalization, 76; toilet policy, 27 Mokyr, Joel: acknowledged, xxxviii, xxxix, 652n18; on Allen, 652n26; anesthesia in GDP, 77; Baconianism, 506; betterment by lower classes, 434; British human capital, 473; causes of betterment, 105; critique of McCloskey, 409; Dutch performance in eighteenth century, 408; elite, 525; elite as cause, xxviii–xxix; fragmentation vs. vested interests, 396; gentleman, 226; Gujin Tushu Jicheng (Chinese encyclopedia), 388; ideational approach to economic history, 94, 511; ideological change, 231, 232, 471; Industrial Enlightenment, 422; institutions, 115; on Irish famine, 655n8; Jews and betterment, 427, 428; neo-institutionalism, 122; patents during Industrial Revolution, 133; potatoes in Ireland, 16, 652n29; predictability of technology, 107; pronunciation of name, 651n3; psychology vs. sociology, 473; Republic of letters, from liberalism, xv, 392; rule of law, 112; science and economy, 462, 505, 506, 517; some force of institutions, 664n7; technical elite as cause, xxvii, xxviii; timing of Great Enrichment, 534; usefulness, 95, 285, 286; usefulness, Chinese, 440; why betterment continues, 536 Mondragón: cooperative, 568 monopoly: bourgeoisie seeks, 174, 460, 585, 599; Chinese state’s on overseas trade, 399; Edison, 175; guilds as, 462; of ideas, Venetian, 460; Indiana blue laws as, 464; natural, 143; by patent, Watt, 175; state as guardian against, 175; state as source of, 175; unions and, 56; Watt’s patent, 418.


American Secession: The Looming Threat of a National Breakup by F. H. Buckley

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Andrei Shleifer, Bernie Sanders, British Empire, Cass Sunstein, colonial rule, crony capitalism, desegregation, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, hindsight bias, illegal immigration, immigration reform, income inequality, old-boy network, race to the bottom, Republic of Letters, reserve currency, Ronald Coase, transaction costs, Washington Consensus, wealth creators

What reason have we to expect that we alone, of all the world’s large countries, will remain unified and resist separatist movements? Perhaps some countries are simply too big, and maybe the United States is one of them. The Friends of David Hume What the right size for a state might be was debated by three of the eighteenth century’s greatest thinkers. David Hume argued for bigness, while Montesquieu (Charles-Louis de Secondat) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau made the case for smallness. In the eighteenth century’s Republic of Letters, all three knew each other. With Montesquieu, Hume carried on a respectful correspondence. With Rousseau, Hume had a deep friendship that turned into the nastiest of personal squabbles. David Hume was a man of his time, and his time was the Enlightenment. He was quite without political or religious enthusiasms, and his History of England annoyed British Whigs with his sympathy for the Stuart monarchs.


pages: 215 words: 72,133

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

British Empire, Republic of Letters, rolodex

“No, Madam, I hope I have not daubed my fingers,” he replied, archly. “I find, however, that you have been looking for them.” Yet the accolades were many. Voltaire proposed that the French model a new dictionary of their own on Johnson’s; and the venerable Accademia della Crusca wrote from Florence that Johnson’s work will be “a perpetual Monument of Fame to the Author, an Honour to his own Country in particular, and a general Benefit to the republic of Letters throughout all Europe.” “In an age of dictionaries of all kinds,” wrote a modern consideration, “Johnson’s contribution was simply primus inter pares.” And Robert Burchfield, who edited the four-volume supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary in the 1970s, had no doubts: Johnson managed to combine being both a lexicographer and a supremely literate man: “In the whole tradition of the English language and literature the only dictionary compiled by a writer of the first rank is that of Dr.


pages: 207 words: 64,598

To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction by Phillip Lopate

Charles Lindbergh, Columbine, desegregation, fear of failure, index card, Jane Jacobs, Joan Didion, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Nelson Mandela, Norman Mailer, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, urban planning, white flight

Modern thinkers such as Freud, Wittgenstein, and William James have added their skepticism about our ability to rise above subjective rationalization and give a reliable account of our own experience. Perhaps a more snobbish objection to the memoir is that it is too inclusive, disregarding class distinctions and other claims to authority. The ever-receptive William Dean Howells, Yagoda writes, said that autobiographical books were “ ‘the most delightful of all reading,’ in large part because they constituted the most democratic province of the republic of letters.” On the other hand, William Gass’s antimemoir screed takes the more exclusionary road in demanding, “Why is it so exciting to say, now that everyone knows it anyway, ‘I was born . . . I was born . . . I was born?’ I pooped in my pants, I was betrayed, I made straight A’s.” If that were all the best memoirs said, of course, Gass would be right, but it is noteworthy how many educated people nodded in agreement at his broad-brush attack.


pages: 259 words: 73,193

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris

4chan, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Andrew Keen, augmented reality, Burning Man, Carrington event, cognitive dissonance, crowdsourcing, dematerialisation, en.wikipedia.org, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Google Glasses, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, Loebner Prize, low earth orbit, Marshall McLuhan, McMansion, moral panic, Nicholas Carr, pattern recognition, pre–internet, Republic of Letters, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social web, Steve Jobs, the medium is the message, The Wisdom of Crowds, Turing test

When Clifton Fadiman, a midcentury literary lion and member of Encyclopædia Britannica’s board of editors, realized in the 1990s that the Internet would outdo Britannica, the octogenarian said, “I guess we will just have to accept the fact that minds less educated than our own will soon be in charge.” Fadiman was, in his elitist way, making the same point T. S. Eliot made in 1934 when he wrote, “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” Where is the signal amid this noise? In a remarkably short period of time, we’ve moved from the eighteenth century’s “Republic of Letters”—a self-selected group of intellectuals talking among themselves and generally ignoring the masses—to what we might call a “Crowd of Letters” today. I don’t know whether Fadiman was overreacting (or how we might test his assertion), but as beleaguered newspapers (and the rest of us) turn increasingly to Wikipedia as a fact-checking source, it’s worth wondering how an encyclopedia devoid of traditional authority structures goes about ascertaining that slippery thing we end up calling “truth.”


pages: 636 words: 202,284

Piracy : The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates by Adrian Johns

active measures, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, business intelligence, commoditize, Corn Laws, demand response, distributed generation, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, full employment, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Marshall McLuhan, Mont Pelerin Society, new economy, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, pirate software, Republic of Letters, Richard Stallman, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, software patent, South Sea Bubble, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, traveling salesman, Whole Earth Catalog

Exactly the same problem plagued attempts to demonstrate perpetual motion experimentally – witnesses convinced beforehand of its impossibility would refuse to believe their eyes. And he prefaced his account of the rotator with a violent attack on “philosophical criticks” who banded together to reinforce such complacencies, reprinting his tracts at length in order to ridicule them. This was business as usual in the republic of letters, Kenrick sighed; the natural state of that republic was a civil war fought by “pirates by profession.” In Kenrick’s view, Donaldson v. Becket mattered because it finally made apparent this shared plight of the Grub Street author and the projecting inventor. “The inventor of a machine, or art useful in life,” he noted, “is now almost universally admitted to stand precisely on the same footing with the author of a book.”

Not even the German states had a common literary regime at this time (although it was commonly believed in America and Britain that they did). The only real precedent, moreover, was that resulting from the union of Ireland and Britain, which was hardly an auspicious example given its effect on the Dublin industry. And many publishers, and especially printers, would be against it. Philadelphia’s in particular protested that it would price “honest farmers” out of America’s “reading community,” destroying the nation’s republic of letters. Clay hit upon the strategy of a “manufacturing clause” in a bid to head off their opposition. He would make the prompt printing of an edition in America a condition of a foreigner’s holding a U.S. copyright. This, he hoped, would align the copyright quest with Careyite political economy. Much of the contest that ensued derived from this attempt. Two manifestos issued at this time set the terms for that contest.


pages: 316 words: 87,486

Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? by Thomas Frank

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, American ideology, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, blue-collar work, Burning Man, centre right, circulation of elites, Clayton Christensen, collective bargaining, Credit Default Swap, David Brooks, deindustrialization, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial innovation, Frank Gehry, full employment, George Gilder, gig economy, Gini coefficient, income inequality, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Lean Startup, mandatory minimum, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, mass immigration, mass incarceration, McMansion, microcredit, mobile money, moral panic, mortgage debt, Nelson Mandela, new economy, obamacare, payday loans, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, post-industrial society, postindustrial economy, pre–internet, profit maximization, profit motive, race to the bottom, Republic of Letters, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, TaskRabbit, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, Travis Kalanick, Uber for X, union organizing, urban decay, women in the workforce, Works Progress Administration, young professional

The Boston area has all the ancillary advantages to show for it: a highly educated population, an unusually large number of patents, and more Nobel laureates than any other city in the country.7 Harvard University, the country’s oldest institution of higher learning, is actually mentioned in Massachusetts’s 1780 constitution, a document which quaintly declares the commonwealth’s interest in promoting “the republic of Letters.” These days, all Americans are interested in higher ed, but not because we want better poets and theologians. We love our universities because we believe they carry a straight-up payoff in dollars. Here, too, Massachusetts is the model. The Boston area has prospered fabulously as knowledge workers have become the country’s dominant cohort. In every sort of lab-coat and starched-shirt pursuit the city is well-represented: it has R&D; it has law firms; it has investment banks; it has management consulting; it has a remarkable concentration of life-science businesses.


pages: 285 words: 86,853

What Algorithms Want: Imagination in the Age of Computing by Ed Finn

Airbnb, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, bitcoin, blockchain, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, Claude Shannon: information theory, commoditize, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, disruptive innovation, Donald Knuth, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Elon Musk, factory automation, fiat currency, Filter Bubble, Flash crash, game design, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, High speed trading, hiring and firing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Conway, John Markoff, Just-in-time delivery, Kickstarter, late fees, lifelogging, Loebner Prize, Lyft, Mother of all demos, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, PageRank, peer-to-peer, Peter Thiel, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, ride hailing / ride sharing, Satoshi Nakamoto, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, social graph, software studies, speech recognition, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, TaskRabbit, technological singularity, technoutopianism, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, uber lyft, urban planning, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge, wage slave

TechRepublic, August 3, 2016, http://www.techrepublic.com/article/google-deepmind-the-smart-persons-guide. Rendell, Paul. Turing Machine Universality of the Game of Life. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2016. Emergence, Complexity, and Computation 18. Rice, Stephen P. Minding the Machine: Languages of Class in Early Industrial America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. Rid, Thomas. Rise of the Machines. New York: Norton, 2016. Riskin, Jessica. “Machines in the Garden.” Republics of Letters 1 (2) (April 30, 2010): 16–43. Rivoli, Dan, Chelsia Rose Marcius, and Leonard Greene. “Taxi Driver Fined $25K for Refusing Ride to Black Family.” New York Daily News, August 6, 2015. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/taxi-driver-fined-25k-refusing-ride-black-family-article-1.2317004. Rodriguez, Cain. “Are You Part of the 2% That Watched ‘House of Cards’ Season 2 in One Weekend? Netflix Watches You Watch.”


pages: 290 words: 94,968

Writing on the Wall: Social Media - the First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage

Bill Duvall, British Empire, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, invention of the printing press, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, knowledge worker, Leonard Kleinrock, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Mohammed Bouazizi, New Journalism, packet switching, place-making, Republic of Letters, sexual politics, social intelligence, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, yellow journalism

Giffard, C. A. “Ancient Rome’s Daily Gazette.” Journalism History 2 (1975): 106–132. Gladwell, M. “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted.” New Yorker, October 4, 2010. Goebbels, J. “D attacks on the corrup coffee to beer Rundfunk als achte Großmacht.” Signale der neuen Zeit. 25 ausgewählte Reden von Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1938. Goodman, D. The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994. Gough, H. The Newspaper Press in the French Revolution. London: Routledge, 1988. Habermas, J. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989. Haines-Eitzen, K. Guardians of Letters: Literacy, Power and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature.


The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture by Orlando Figes

Anton Chekhov, British Empire, glass ceiling, global village, Honoré de Balzac, Internet Archive, Murano, Venice glass, new economy, New Journalism, Republic of Letters, wikimedia commons

It rules that country; it exerts its power over all spirits; it produces a universal weightiness and slowness; Sirocco is the intelligence that presides over all Italian heads, and I am tempted to believe that the difference one notices between the inhabitants of northern Lombardy, and those of the rest of Italy, derives from the fact that Lombardy is protected by the Apennines, which defend her from the havoc of the Sirocco.171 Voltaire built on Montesquieu’s idea, adding a secondary distinction between the progressive heart of European civilization in the Western capitals (the Republic of Letters) and the semi-Asiatic East. Drawing on these divisions, Hegel constructed a schema of historical progression from the infancy of European civilization in the South, Ancient Greece and Rome, to the German-centred Europe of the North (Hegel’s ‘end of History’). By the mid-nineteenth century, a distinct cultural map had thus emerged, with the core of ‘Europe’ in the north-west of the continent, in France, the Low Countries and the German lands, while on its periphery, from Spain to the Black Sea, there was an internal ‘Orient’.

For them it was part of a cosmopolitan worldview formed by international travel, the learning of languages, and openness to foreign cultures, without any necessary weakening of their national identity. Turgenev was a living example of this cosmopolitanism. He travelled constantly. His ability to make himself at home in Berlin, Paris, Baden-Baden, London or St Petersburg (and he would live in all of them) was the essence of his Europeanness. The ‘Europe’ he inhabited was an international civilization, a Republic of Letters based on the Enlightenment ideals of reason, progress and democracy. This is what he meant when he proclaimed: ‘I am a European, and I love Europe; I pin my faith to its banner, which I have carried since my youth.’ His literary personality was formed by Goethe, Shakespeare and Cervantes before he came to Gogol. His library at Spasskoe contained books in nine European languages. Although he felt himself to be a Russian, and at times such as the Crimean War could be fiercely patriotic, he was opposed to nationalism in all its forms, and refused to believe that the calls of any country should come before those of humanity.


pages: 325 words: 99,983

Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language by Robert McCrum

Alistair Cooke, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, British Empire, call centre, Charles Lindbergh, colonial rule, credit crunch, cuban missile crisis, Deng Xiaoping, Etonian, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, invention of movable type, invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, jimmy wales, knowledge economy, Livingstone, I presume, Martin Wolf, Naomi Klein, Norman Mailer, Parag Khanna, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, sceptred isle, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, Steven Pinker, the new new thing, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, upwardly mobile

‘I have protracted my work’, he told Boswell sadly, ‘till most of those whom I wished to please have sunk into the grave; and success and miscarriage are empty sounds.’ After many vicissitudes, and the constant money worries familiar to freelance writers, Johnson’s Dictionary was finally published on 15 April 1755. It was instantly recognized as a landmark. ‘This remarkable work’, wrote one leading Italian lexicographer, ‘will be a perpetual monument of Fame to the Author, an Honour to his own Country, and a general Benefit to the Republic of Letters throughout Europe.’ The English could also celebrate the fact that Johnson had taken on the academies of Europe and beaten them at their own game (forty French academicians had just spent forty years producing the first French national dictionary). Johnson’s friend, David Garrick, summarized the metropolitan view: And Johnson, well armed, like a hero of yore Has beat forty French, and will beat forty more.


pages: 326 words: 103,170

The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks by Joshua Cooper Ramo

Airbnb, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, British Empire, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, defense in depth, Deng Xiaoping, drone strike, Edward Snowden, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Firefox, Google Chrome, income inequality, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Joi Ito, market bubble, Menlo Park, Metcalfe’s law, Mitch Kapor, natural language processing, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, Oculus Rift, packet switching, Paul Graham, price stability, quantitative easing, RAND corporation, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, Richard Feynman, road to serfdom, Robert Metcalfe, Sand Hill Road, secular stagnation, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social web, sovereign wealth fund, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, Vernor Vinge, zero day

The Pentagon organized: On the establishment and background of JIEDDO: US House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization: DOD’s Fight Against IEDs Today and Tomorrow (Washington, DC: US House of Representatives, 2008); “IEDs: The Home-Made Bombs That Changed Modern War,” Strategic Comments 18, no. 5 (2012); Lieutenant Colonel Richard F. Ellis, USA, Major Richard D. Rogers, USAF, and Lieutenant Commander Bryan M. Cochran, USN, “Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO): Tactical Successes Mired in Organizational Chaos; Roadblock in the Counter-IED Fight” (research report, Joint Forces Staff College, March 2007). A few days before Christmas: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776–1826, ed. James Morton Smith (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995), 1:457–59. Jefferson was then forty-four: Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson Abroad, ed. Douglas L. Wilson (New York: Modern Library, 1999), 131 (letter to Madame de Tesse of March 20, 1787). “The boisterous sea of liberty”: Thomas Jefferson, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 29, 1 March 1796 to 31 December 1797 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), 81–83.


pages: 370 words: 99,312

Can Democracy Work?: A Short History of a Radical Idea, From Ancient Athens to Our World by James Miller

Berlin Wall, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cass Sunstein, colonial rule, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Graeber, Donald Trump, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, income inequality, Joseph Schumpeter, mass incarceration, means of production, Occupy movement, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Republic of Letters, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, transatlantic slave trade, union organizing, upwardly mobile, Vilfredo Pareto

And in part two, Paine welcomed the French Revolution’s political outcome as a triumph—not for simple democracy but for “the representative system.” “Simple Democracy was society governing itself without the aid of secondary means,” Paine explained. “By ingrafting representation upon Democracy, we arrive at a system of Government capable of embracing and confederating all the various interests and every extent of territory and population; and that is also as much superior to hereditary Government, as the Republic of Letters is to hereditary literature.” Two years later—in the improbable context of a “Report on the Principles of Public Morality” that commends terror as “the mainspring of popular government” in the midst of a revolution—Robespierre himself came to a similar conclusion even more emphatically: “A democracy is not a state where the people, continually assembled, regulate by themselves all public affairs, and still less one where one hundred thousand portions of the people, by measures that are isolated, hasty and contradictory, would decide the fate of the whole society.”


pages: 904 words: 246,845

A History of the Bible: The Story of the World's Most Influential Book by John Barton

complexity theory, feminist movement, invention of the printing press, Johannes Kepler, lateral thinking, liberation theology, Republic of Letters, source of truth, the market place, trade route

Neil, ‘The Criticism and Theological Use of the Bible, 1700–1950’, in Cambridge History of the Bible, vol.3, pp. 238–93, especially pp. 245–6. 22. Matthew Tindal, Christianity as Old as the Creation (London, 1730), p. 186. 23. See Barr, Fundamentalism, especially pp. 72–85. 24. Richard Simon, Histoire critique du Vieux Testament (Paris, 1678). 25. On the Catholic background of early biblical criticism see P. J. Lambe, ‘Critics and Skeptics in the Seventeenth-Century Republic of Letters’, Harvard Theological Review, 81 (1988), pp. 271–96. 26. John Rogerson, in Rogerson, Rowland and Lindars (eds), The Study and Use of the Bible, p. 107. 27. See John H. Hayes, ‘Historical Criticism of the Old Testament Canon’, in Sæbø (ed.), Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, vol. 2, pp. 985–1005, esp. pp. 995–1005. 28. See above, Chapter 7. 29. Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001; the original was called Von Reimarus zu Wrede: Eine Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung [‘From Reimarus to Wrede: a history of research into the life of Jesus’], Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1906). 30.

., ‘Über die Klarheit der Schrift: Historische und hermeneutische Überlegungen zu der Kontroverse des Erasmus und des Luther über den freien oder versklavten Willen’, in Theologie und Glaube, 60 (1970), pp. 273–321, reprinted in J. Ernst (ed.), Schriftauslegung: Beiträge zur Hermeneutik des Neuen Testamentes und im Neuen Testament (Munich: Schöningh, 1972), pp. 89–149. LaHaye, Tim and Jenkins, Jerry B., Left Behind (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1995). Lambe, P. J., ‘Critics and Skeptics in the Seventeenth-Century Republic of Letters’, Harvard Theological Review, 81 (1988), pp. 271–96. Lambert, Wilfred G., Babylonian Wisdom Literature (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1996). Lampe, G. W. H., ‘The Exposition and Exegesis of Scripture: To Gregory the Great’, in The Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 2, pp. 155–83. Lauterbach, Jacob Z., Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1933).


pages: 396 words: 107,814

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything by David Bellos

Clapham omnibus, Claude Shannon: information theory, Douglas Hofstadter, Etonian, European colonialism, haute cuisine, invention of the telephone, invention of writing, natural language processing, Republic of Letters, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, speech recognition

Ralph Manheim (New York: Arcade, 1998), is a good example of how an imitation of Proust’s “inimitable” French style can be represented as such in another language. Adam Thirlwell, The Delighted States (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008). Henri Godin, Les Ressources stylistiques du français contemporain (1948; 2nd ed., Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1964), 2, 3. R. A. Sayce, Style in French Prose: A Method of Analysis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953), 5. 27. TRANSLATING LITERARY TEXTS Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters, trans. M. B. De-Bevoise (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999). Spanish could plausibly take over the role of “first interlanguage” in literary translation, but I see no sign of that happening yet. See www.penguinclassics.co.uk/static/penguinclassicsaboutus/index.html. Ibid. English-language rights may be acquired for the entire world and they are then called WELR (World English Language Rights) or else, for one or another of its territories, “U.K. and Commonwealth” or “North America,” sometimes further subdivided into “U.S.A.” and “Canada.”


pages: 397 words: 102,910

The Idealist: Aaron Swartz and the Rise of Free Culture on the Internet by Justin Peters

4chan, activist lawyer, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Bayesian statistics, Brewster Kahle, buy low sell high, crowdsourcing, disintermediation, don't be evil, global village, Hacker Ethic, hypertext link, index card, informal economy, information retrieval, Internet Archive, invention of movable type, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, John Markoff, Joi Ito, Lean Startup, moral panic, Paul Buchheit, Paul Graham, profit motive, RAND corporation, Republic of Letters, Richard Stallman, selection bias, semantic web, Silicon Valley, social web, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, strikebreaker, Vannevar Bush, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator

“My income barely supports my family, and I want five hundred dollars’ worth of books from England which I cannot obtain here, and which I cannot afford to purchase,” he wrote to Barlow in 1807.51 Webster eventually condemned the primacy of partisan political chatter in the nation’s cultural conversation. Little room was left for more scholarly debates, he complained to Oliver Wolcott Jr.: “vast sums of money [are] expended in donations to support a party or a newspaper—when not a cent can be obtained for very valuable purposes.”52 The Copyright Act of 1790 had portended the arrival of a republic of letters. But its citizens seemed primarily interested in the poison pen. Under these circumstances, Noah Webster began the project that would be his legacy: the American Dictionary of the English Language. His plan was madly presumptuous. Webster proposed to improve upon the work of Samuel Johnson, the celebrated British lexicographer and coffee wit whose own Dictionary of the English Language had been well beloved since its first publication in 1755.


pages: 357 words: 110,017

Money: The Unauthorized Biography by Felix Martin

bank run, banking crisis, Basel III, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bretton Woods, British Empire, business cycle, call centre, capital asset pricing model, Carmen Reinhart, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, creative destruction, credit crunch, David Graeber, en.wikipedia.org, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Financial Instability Hypothesis, financial intermediation, fixed income, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Hyman Minsky, inflation targeting, invention of writing, invisible hand, Irish bank strikes, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kenneth Rogoff, mobile money, moral hazard, mortgage debt, new economy, Northern Rock, Occupy movement, plutocrats, Plutocrats, private military company, Republic of Letters, Richard Feynman, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Scientific racism, scientific worldview, seigniorage, Silicon Valley, smart transportation, South Sea Bubble, supply-chain management, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail

France in the mid-eighteenth century was ripe for such a catalytic role. Politically, it remained the bastion of the Ancien Régime—an unreconstructed feudal monarchy in a continent long since disturbed by the winds of constitutional change. Financially, France was one of the most backward states in Western Europe, but intellectually it was the centre of the world. The extraordinary contrast between its dazzling republic of letters and its moribund bodies politic and financial meant that it was the thinkers of the French Enlightenment who first fully articulated the link between money, banking, and politics. The most brilliant analysis of all appeared in the masterwork of the greatest constitutional thinker of the age: Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu. Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws was a crowning achievement of the French Enlightenment—a masterful blend of history, anthropology, and political analysis that argued for the establishment of constitutional government on the English model.


pages: 431 words: 106,435

How the Post Office Created America: A History by Winifred Gallagher

British Empire, California gold rush, centre right, Charles Lindbergh, City Beautiful movement, clean water, collective bargaining, glass ceiling, hiring and firing, indoor plumbing, Monroe Doctrine, New Urbanism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Republic of Letters, Silicon Valley, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, upwardly mobile, white flight, wikimedia commons, women in the workforce, Works Progress Administration

Like sound currency, decent civil service, and efficient transportation, a mail system gradually became a sine qua non of nationhood. By the early seventeenth century, France and England had opened the royal mails to their general populations—that is, to the segment able to pay the high postage. A century later, the combination of the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment, which encouraged the exchange of ideas in a so-called republic of letters, had induced other European nations to follow suit. These posts, however, were not public services in the modern sense of amenities provided by a government for its people’s good—usually because no profit-minded business would do so. These imperial systems were designed for official communications, producing revenue for the state, and, not least, espionage and surveillance. By the time Europe’s powers got around to providing public postal service, at least to the well-off, some of the requisite bureaucracy and infrastructure, such as roads and shipping routes, was already in place.


pages: 481 words: 125,946

What to Think About Machines That Think: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Age of Machine Intelligence by John Brockman

agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, algorithmic trading, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, bitcoin, blockchain, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, constrained optimization, corporate personhood, cosmological principle, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, Danny Hillis, dark matter, discrete time, Douglas Engelbart, Elon Musk, Emanuel Derman, endowment effect, epigenetics, Ernest Rutherford, experimental economics, Flash crash, friendly AI, functional fixedness, global pandemic, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, information trail, Internet of things, invention of writing, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, loose coupling, microbiome, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, natural language processing, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, planetary scale, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, RFID, Richard Thaler, Rory Sutherland, Satyajit Das, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart contracts, social intelligence, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, Turing machine, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

If the welter of prognostications about AI and machine learning tells us anything, I don’t think it’s about how a machine will emulate a human mind anytime soon. We can do that easily enough just by having more children and educating them. Rather, it tells us that our appetites are shifting. We’re understandably awed by what sheer computation has achieved and will achieve; I’m happy to jump on the driverless virtual-reality bandwagon that careens off into that overpredicted future. But this awe is leading to a tilt in our culture. The digital republic of letters is yielding up engineering as the thinking metaphor of our time. In its wake lies the once complacent, now anxious figure with a more literary, less literal cast of mind. We’re cleaning up our act, embarrassed by the fumbling inconclusiveness of messy thinking. It’s unsurprising to hear that the United Kingdom’s education secretary recently advised teenagers to steer away from arts and humanities in favor of STEM disciplines if they’re to flourish.


pages: 961 words: 302,613

The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H. W. Brands

always be closing, British Empire, business intelligence, colonial rule, complexity theory, Copley Medal, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, music of the spheres, Republic of Letters, scientific mainstream, South Sea Bubble, Thomas Malthus, trade route

Franklin has not only been recommended to us for his knowledge of the law, the rectitude of his morals and sweetness of his life and conversation,” the citation read, “but hath also by his ingenious inventions and successful experiments, with which he hath enriched the science of natural philosophy and more especially of electricity which heretofore was little known, acquired so much praise throughout the world as to deserve the greatest honours in the Republic of Letters.” The governing body of the ancient university went on to declare that henceforth said Franklin should be addressed and treated by all as “the most Worthy Doctor.” Neither in that era nor later were the recommendations of educators always followed, but this recommendation took, and Franklin thereafter was generally referred to as “Dr. Franklin.” With each honor that came his way, Franklin felt farther from home.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant dubbed Franklin the “modern Prometheus.” In 1772 Franklin was notified of his election as an associé étranger of the French Royal Academy of Sciences, one of only eight foreigners so honored. He was speaking no less accurately than politely when he answered, “A place among your foreign members is justly esteemed by all Europe the greatest honour a man can arrive at in the Republic of Letters.” The following year his fame widened further. A Paris physician named Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg, himself something of a scientific celebrity, with membership in royal academies and societies across Europe, had for some time been translating Franklin’s papers into French. In 1773 these appeared as the Oeuvres de M. Franklin in two volumes. Dubourg was delighted to report to the author that the edition was being received “avec une sorte de passion favorable.”


pages: 495 words: 138,188

The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time by Karl Polanyi

agricultural Revolution, Berlin Wall, borderless world, business cycle, central bank independence, Corn Laws, currency manipulation / currency intervention, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Fall of the Berlin Wall, full employment, inflation targeting, joint-stock company, Kula ring, land reform, land tenure, liberal capitalism, manufacturing employment, new economy, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, price mechanism, profit motive, Republic of Letters, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, trade route, trickle-down economics, Washington Consensus, Wolfgang Streeck, working poor, Works Progress Administration

As to personal liberty, it will exist to the degree in which we will deliberately create new safeguards for its maintenance and, indeed, extension. In an established society the right to nonconformity must be institutionally protected. The individual must be free to follow his conscience without fear of the powers that happen to be entrusted with administrative tasks in some of the fields of social life. Science and the arts should always be under the guardianship of the republic of letters. Compulsion should never be absolute; the “objector” should be offered a niche to which he can retire, the choice of a “second-best” that leaves him a life to live. Thus will be secured the right to nonconformity as the hallmark of a free society. Every move toward integration in society should thus be accompanied by an increase of freedom; moves toward planning should comprise the strengthening of the rights of the individual in society.


pages: 495 words: 136,714

Money for Nothing by Thomas Levenson

Albert Einstein, asset-backed security, bank run, British Empire, carried interest, clockwork universe, credit crunch, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, experimental subject, failed state, Fellow of the Royal Society, fiat currency, financial innovation, Fractional reserve banking, income inequality, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, market bubble, open economy, price mechanism, quantitative easing, Republic of Letters, risk/return, side project, South Sea Bubble, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Send his figures to London, where they would reach the critical mass of natural philosophers gathering at the Royal Society’s weekly meetings. Neumann did, his data traveling a tortuous road. It went first to Henri Justel, a French Protestant who had come to London to escape France’s increasingly harsh persecution of non-Catholics. Justel was no deep thinker, but he eagerly maintained connections across Europe, a node in the web of learned men already being called the Republic of Letters. Justel may have presented Neumann’s work to the Society himself, but if so, no one seems to have paid any attention. To most of the fellows, a list of deaths in a provincial German town would have been just one more of the hundreds of earnest observations that earnest amateurs had sent off to the Royal Society since its founding—everything from that account of “a Very Odd Monstrous Calf,” published in the first issue by the great Robert Boyle himself, to an investigation of water pressure at depth, performed by “a Person of Honour” in 1680, to Robert Boyle’s questions for a Doctor Lower about blood transfusion, wondering, among other hypotheses, “whether a fierce Dog, by being often quite new stocked with the blood of a cowardly Dog, may not become more tame,” or, from Paris, Monsieur de la Quintinie’s “some further directions and observations about Melons,” which concludes with the still-sound advice to “trouble not your self to have big Melons, but good ones.”


pages: 510 words: 163,449

How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It by Arthur Herman

British Empire, California gold rush, creative destruction, do-ocracy, financial independence, global village, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Joan Didion, joint-stock company, laissez-faire capitalism, land tenure, mass immigration, means of production, new economy, New Urbanism, North Sea oil, oil shale / tar sands, Republic of Letters, Robert Mercer, spinning jenny, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transcontinental railway, trickle-down economics, urban planning, urban renewal, working poor

The original thirty-two members included William Robertson, John Home, David Hume, Adam Smith, Kames’s erudite colleague Lord Monboddo, Alexander Carlyle, and Hugh Blair. Later members included Adam Ferguson, who joined in the spring of 1756, and Lord Kames himself. As with Monboddo and Kames, most of its titled members took their peerages with their service on the judicial bench. The rest owed their prominence to their pens, or to their status in one of the middle-class professions. For ten years it was the central forum of Edinburgh’s republic of letters. A paper or talk presented there received a fairer and more rigorous hearing than it could from any academic or university audience. As one participant put it, the informal proceedings made “the Literati of Edinburgh Less Captious and Pedantick then they were elsewhere.” The astonishing diversity of the views and experience of its members made it particularly valuable. By 1760, writes historian Richard Sher, the Select Society included “virtually every . . . prominent man of letters and taste in the Edinburgh vicinity, as well as a host of physicians, architects, military officers, merchants, magistrates, and above all lawyers.”


pages: 651 words: 180,162

Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Air France Flight 447, Andrei Shleifer, banking crisis, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, business cycle, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, commoditize, creative destruction, credit crunch, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, discrete time, double entry bookkeeping, Emanuel Derman, epigenetics, financial independence, Flash crash, Gary Taubes, George Santayana, Gini coefficient, Henri Poincaré, high net worth, hygiene hypothesis, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, informal economy, invention of the wheel, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, Jane Jacobs, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, knowledge economy, Lao Tzu, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, Marc Andreessen, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, money market fund, moral hazard, mouse model, Myron Scholes, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Paul Samuelson, placebo effect, Ponzi scheme, principal–agent problem, purchasing power parity, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, Ralph Nader, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, rent control, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, selection bias, Silicon Valley, six sigma, spinning jenny, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, stochastic process, stochastic volatility, Thales and the olive presses, Thales of Miletus, The Great Moderation, the new new thing, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, transaction costs, urban planning, Vilfredo Pareto, Yogi Berra, Zipf's Law

., 1992, Epistemics and Economics: A Critique of Economic Doctrines. Transaction Publishers. Shah, A. K., and D. M. Oppenheimer, 2007, “Easy Does It: The Role of Fluency in Cue Weighting.” Judgment and Decision Making 2(6): 371–379. Sharpe, Virginia A., and Alan I. Faden, 1998, Medical Harm: Historical, Conceptual, and Ethical Dimensions of Iatrogenic Illness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Shelford, April G., 2007, Transforming the Republic of Letters: Pierre-Daniel Huet and European Intellectual Life, 1650–1720. Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press. Shimabukuro, M., et al., 1998, “Lipoapoptosis in Beta-Cells of Obese Prediabetic Fa/Fa Rats. Role of Serine Palmitoyltransferase Overexpression.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 273: 32487–32490. Silverman, William A., 1999, Where’s the Evidence: Debates in Modern Medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


pages: 709 words: 191,147

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

A. Roger Ekirch, back-to-the-land, British Empire, California gold rush, colonial rule, Copley Medal, desegregation, Donald Trump, feminist movement, full employment, indoor plumbing, invisible hand, joint-stock company, land reform, land tenure, mass immigration, New Urbanism, Norman Mailer, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, trade route, transcontinental railway, trickle-down economics, upwardly mobile, urban renewal, War on Poverty, working poor, Works Progress Administration

“Jefferson’s Reply to the Representations of Affairs in America by British Newspapers” [before November 20, 1784], PTJ, 7:540–45; Wallace Evan Davies, “The Society of Cincinnati in New England, 1783–1800,” William and Mary Quarterly 5, no. 1 (January 1948): 3–25, esp. 3, 5. 31. Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, February 22, 1787, PTJ, 11:174–75; Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, January 30 and February 5, 1787, in The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Madison, 1776–1826, ed. James Morton Smith, 3 vols. (New York: Norton, 1994), 1:461; Burstein and Isenberg, Madison and Jefferson, 146–48, 168; Woody Holton, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution (New York: Hill & Wang, 2007), 145–48, 155, 159; and David P. Szatmary, Shays’ Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980), 66. 32.


pages: 691 words: 203,236

Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities by Eric Kaufmann

4chan, affirmative action, Amazon Mechanical Turk, anti-communist, anti-globalists, augmented reality, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Boris Johnson, British Empire, centre right, Chelsea Manning, cognitive dissonance, complexity theory, corporate governance, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, deindustrialization, demographic transition, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, facts on the ground, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, first-past-the-post, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Haight Ashbury, illegal immigration, immigration reform, imperial preference, income inequality, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, liberal capitalism, longitudinal study, Lyft, mass immigration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral panic, Nate Silver, New Urbanism, Norman Mailer, open borders, phenotype, postnationalism / post nation state, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, Silicon Valley, statistical model, Steven Pinker, the built environment, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, transcontinental railway, twin studies, uber lyft, upwardly mobile, urban sprawl, Washington Consensus, white flight, working-age population, World Values Survey, young professional

In Southern and Eastern Europe, the EU brings financial stability and subsidies. History is extremely important. Most European countries have national myths of being defenders or leaders of Christian Europe. In other words, nationalism and Europeanism reinforce each other. France has a history of being the leader of Europe’s counter-Reformation and the fount of its Enlightenment. The European ‘republic of letters’ spoke French. Macron relishes this imperial role. Austria and Germany occupy from the territories of the Holy Roman Empire, which sought to recreate the glory of Christian Rome on European soil. Poland’s historic opposition to Russia pushes it culturally towards Europe while Spain, Portugal, Greece and Hungary possess nationalist myths of fighting against Moors and Turks to defend Christian Europe’s honour.


pages: 1,034 words: 241,773

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker

3D printing, access to a mobile phone, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anti-communist, Anton Chekhov, Arthur Eddington, artificial general intelligence, availability heuristic, Ayatollah Khomeini, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Black Swan, Bonfire of the Vanities, business cycle, capital controls, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, clean water, clockwork universe, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, distributed generation, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Doomsday Clock, double helix, effective altruism, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, end world poverty, endogenous growth, energy transition, European colonialism, experimental subject, Exxon Valdez, facts on the ground, Fall of the Berlin Wall, first-past-the-post, Flynn Effect, food miles, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, frictionless, frictionless market, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, Hans Rosling, hedonic treadmill, helicopter parent, Hobbesian trap, humanitarian revolution, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, income inequality, income per capita, Indoor air pollution, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of writing, Jaron Lanier, Joan Didion, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John Snow's cholera map, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge economy, l'esprit de l'escalier, Laplace demon, life extension, long peace, longitudinal study, Louis Pasteur, Martin Wolf, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, minimum wage unemployment, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, Nate Silver, Nathan Meyer Rothschild: antibiotics, Nelson Mandela, New Journalism, Norman Mailer, nuclear winter, obamacare, open economy, Paul Graham, peak oil, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, precision agriculture, prediction markets, purchasing power parity, Ralph Nader, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, rent control, Republic of Letters, Richard Feynman, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, Saturday Night Live, science of happiness, Scientific racism, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Simon Kuznets, Skype, smart grid, sovereign wealth fund, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, supervolcano, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, total factor productivity, union organizing, universal basic income, University of East Anglia, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, War on Poverty, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey, Y2K

The defensive pugnacity belongs to a culture: Snow’s Second Culture of literary intellectuals, cultural critics, and erudite essayists.11 The writer Damon Linker (citing the sociologist Daniel Bell) characterizes them as “specialists in generalizations, . . . pronouncing on the world from out of their individual experiences, habits of reading and capacity for judgment. Subjectivity in all of its quirks and eccentricities is the coin of the realm in the Republic of Letters.”12 This modus could not be more different from the way of science, and it’s the Second Culture intellectuals who most fear “scientism,” which they understand as the position that “science is all that matters” or that “scientists should be entrusted to solve all problems.” Snow, of course, never held the lunatic position that power should be transferred to the culture of scientists. On the contrary, he called for a Third Culture, which would combine ideas from science, culture, and history and apply them to enhancing human welfare across the globe.13 The term was revived in 1991 by the author and literary agent John Brockman, and it is related to the biologist E.


Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities by Vaclav Smil

2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 3D printing, agricultural Revolution, air freight, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, autonomous vehicles, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Bretton Woods, British Empire, business cycle, colonial rule, complexity theory, coronavirus, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, demographic dividend, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, disruptive innovation, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, endogenous growth, energy transition, epigenetics, happiness index / gross national happiness, hydraulic fracturing, hydrogen economy, Hyperloop, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, industrial robot, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, Law of Accelerating Returns, longitudinal study, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, mass immigration, McMansion, megacity, megastructure, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, moral hazard, Network effects, new economy, New Urbanism, old age dependency ratio, optical character recognition, out of africa, peak oil, Pearl River Delta, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, planetary scale, Ponzi scheme, Productivity paradox, profit motive, purchasing power parity, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Republic of Letters, rolodex, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, South China Sea, technoutopianism, the market place, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, total factor productivity, trade liberalization, trade route, urban sprawl, Vilfredo Pareto, yield curve

Inevitably, these interpretations and concerns have been criticized (particularly by the promoters of a sweeping artificial intelligence revolution) but we will have to wait for another decade or so (a few years do not make a trend) before concluding that the new e-world has been a disappointment as far as labor productivity is concerned—or finding that its delayed impacts are making an enormous difference and ushering in a new era of productivity growth. The most persistent inquest into the ultimate causes of economic growth has been carried out by Joel Mokyr. He has stressed the importance of knowledge as the key reason behind the Western economic rise (Mokyr 2002) and in his latest book he traces the origins of the modern economy to what is known as the “Republic of Letters” (Mokyr 2017). Its market for ideas flourished in early modern Europe between 1500 and the end of the Enlightenment, with political fragmentation supporting intellectual inquiries, a precondition that was absent at that time anywhere else, including technically adept China. According to Mokyr, the origins of economic growth have to do more with enlightened reasoning (Desiderius Erasmus, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton) than with any distinct technical or business practices.


pages: 1,773 words: 486,685

Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century by Geoffrey Parker

agricultural Revolution, British Empire, Climatic Research Unit, colonial rule, creative destruction, currency manipulation / currency intervention, Defenestration of Prague, Edmond Halley, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, failed state, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, friendly fire, Google Earth, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Joseph Schumpeter, Khyber Pass, mass immigration, Mercator projection, moral hazard, mortgage debt, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Thiel, Republic of Letters, sexual politics, South China Sea, the market place, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, unemployed young men, University of East Anglia, World Values Survey, zero-sum game

In Naples, they attended some of the weekly meeting of the ‘Academici Investigantes’, joining about sixty others to hear a paper that ‘defended the Lord Verulam's [Bacon's] opinion’ and to watch an ‘experiment’. Everyone, they found, was ‘well acquainted with writings of all the learned and ingenious men’ of Europe, whether dead (such as Bacon, Harvey, Galileo and Descartes) or alive (they named Robert Boyle, Thomas Hobbes and Robert Hooke).61 The ‘Republic of Letters’ also included practitioners who lived east of the Elbe and south of the Pyrenees. The Danzig brewer and astronomer Johannes Hevelius, who in 1647 published the lavishly illustrated Selenographia, the first lunar atlas (see Plate 1), had studied at Leiden and met scholars in England and France; became a Fellow of the Royal Society; and welcomed Edmond Halley and other prominent scientists to his impressive observatory in Danzig.


pages: 1,799 words: 532,462

The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication From Ancient Times to the Internet by David Kahn

anti-communist, British Empire, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, cuban missile crisis, Fellow of the Royal Society, Honoré de Balzac, index card, interchangeable parts, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Louis Daguerre, Maui Hawaii, Norbert Wiener, out of africa, pattern recognition, place-making, popular electronics, positional goods, Republic of Letters, Searching for Interstellar Communications, stochastic process, the scientific method, trade route, Turing machine, union organizing, yellow journalism, zero-sum game

Each tally above a letter in the line means that the letter in that line has preceded the subject letter in one instance, while each tally below means that it has followed the subject letter. The chart shows that H has preceded N three times—in other words, that the digraph HN has occurred three times—and has followed it, to make NH, just once. In a chart like this, plaintext e is about as hard to recognize under its cipher masquerade as a six-and-a-half-foot-tall man at a costume party. It is president of this republic of letters because it leads all the rest in frequency, yet it is democratic enough to contact more different letters more often than any other letter, including a goodly number in the low-frequency bracket. Indubitably, N here is President e. Next most distinctive are the three high-frequency vowels, a, i, and o. Like rival dowagers at a society ball, they avoid one another as much as possible. A glance at the contact chart shows that ciphertext O, U, and A are the most mutually exclusive, (H, which rarely associates with U and A, is ruled out as a vowel possibility because it contacts O so often.)