This item is not eligible for coupon offers.

Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion

Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion


Available for Pre-Order. This item will be available on September 7, 2020


Blown to Bits, Second Edition is the brilliant, plain-English guide to digital technology, how it’s changing the world, and what you need to know to survive in tomorrow’s digital world. A best-seller when it was first published in 2010, the issues it addresses are more crucial than ever. Now, its expert authors have thoroughly updated Blown to Bits to demystify the social, political, and personal issues everyone is talking about: from social media and big data to fake news, cyberattacks, and privacy. Both authoritative and accessible, this guide doesn’t just reveal the workings of the technologies that are central to your life: it also illuminates the policy decisions citizens need to make about these technologies… because you can try to ignore them, but they won’t ignore you!

Blown to Bits, Second Edition answers questions like:

  • Who owns all that data about you? What (if anything) do they owe you?
  • How private is your medical information?
  • Is it possible to send a truly secure message? How close can you come?
  • How do you figure out who to trust for accurate news these days?
  • What should you know about free speech on the Internet?
  • Who’s watching you, what do they know about you, and what can they do with that knowledge?
  • Do you have to say goodbye forever to privacy — and even to your personal identity?
  • How can you protect yourself against out-of-control technologies — and the powerful organizations that wield them?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780134850016
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Publication date: 09/07/2020
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Hal Abelson is Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, and an IEEE Fellow. He has helped drive innovative educational technology initiatives such MIT OpenCourseWare, cofounded Creative Commons and Public Knowledge, and was founding director of the Free Software Foundation.

Ken Ledeen, Chairman/CEO of Nevo Technologies, has served on the boards of many technology companies.

Harry Lewis, former Dean of Harvard College, is Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard. He is author of Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future?

Together, Abelson, Ledeen, and Lewis have taught Quantitative Reasoning 48, an innovative Harvard course on information for non-technical, non-mathematically oriented students.

Wendy Seltzer, is Strategy Lead and Counsel to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). She has served as a Fellow with Yale Law School's Information Society Project, Princeton University's Center for Information Technology Policy; the University of Colorado's Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship; and Harvard Law School's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

Table of Contents

1. Digital Explosion: Why Is It Happening, and What Is at Stake?
2. Naked in the Sunlight: Privacy Lost, Privacy Abandoned
3. Needles in the Haystack: Google and Other Brokers in the Bits Bazaar
4. Secret Bits: How Codes Became Unbreakable
5. Balance Toppled: Who Owns the Bits?
6. You Can’t Say That on the Internet: Guarding the Frontiers of Digital Expression
7. Bits in the Air: Old Metaphors, New Technologies, and Free Speech
8. AI and Algorithmic Decisions
9. Bits Become Physical
Conclusion. After the Explosion Appendix: The Internet as System and Spirit


Blown to Bits Preface

For thousands of years, people have been saying that the world is changing and will never again be the same. Yet the profound changes happening today are different, because they result from a specific technological development.

It is now possible, in principle, to remember everything that anyone says, writes, sings, draws, or photographs. Everything. If digitized, the world has enough disks and memory chips to save it all, for as long as civilization can keep producing computers and disk drives. Global computer networks can make it available to everywhere in the world, almost instantly. And computers are powerful enough to extract meaning from all that information, to find patterns and make connections in the blink of an eye.

In centuries gone by, others may have dreamed these things could happen, in utopian fantasies or in nightmares. But now they are happening. We are living in the middle of the changes, and we can see the changes happening.

But we don't know how things will turn out.

Right now, governments and the other institutions of human societies are deciding how to use the new possibilities. Each of us is participating as we make decisions for ourselves, for our families, and for people we work with. Everyone needs to know how their world and the world around them is changing as a result of this explosion of digital information. Everyone should know how the decisions will affect their lives, and the lives of their children and grandchildren and everyone who comes after.

That is why we wrote this book.

Each of us has been in the computing field for more than forty years. The book is the product of a lifetime of observing and participating in the changes it has brought. Each of us has been both a teacher and a learner in the field. This book emerged from a general education course we have taught at Harvard, but it is not a textbook. We wrote this book to share what wisdom we have with as many people as we can reach. We try to paint a big picture, with dozens of illuminating anecdotes as the brushstrokes. We aim to entertain you at the same time as we provoke your thinking.

You don't need a computer to read this book. But we would suggest that you use one, connected to the Internet, to explore any topic that strikes your curiosity or excites your interest. Don't be afraid to type some of the things we mention into your favorite search engine and see what comes up. We mention many web sites, and give their complete descriptors, such as, which happens to be the site for this book itself. But most of the time, you should be able to find things more quickly by searching for them. There are many valuable public information sources and public interest groups where you can learn more, and can participate in the ongoing global conversation about the issues we discuss.

We offer some strong opinions in this book. If you would like to react to what we say, please visit the book's web site for an ongoing discussion.

Our picture of the changes brought by the digital explosion is drawn largely with reference to the United States and its laws and culture, but the issues we raise are critical for citizens of all free societies, and for all people who hope their societies will become freer.

Cambridge, Massachusetts

January 2008

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews