Book Review: Corey Doctorow’s ‘Maker’
A book every geek needs to read.
Doctorow’s latest book ‘Maker’ takes the reader on a three part theme park ride (CC): first, dangling the ultimate geek future in front of you in part one (a world of maker teams that spend their days being inspired and inventing the fantasies of their mind in a global geek movement); part two, a downward spiral into the trough of despair (a reality we are all too familiar with after the technology doesn’t deliver); and, finally into a third part where the penultimate question of big top down business vs the small bottom up innovation team is put to the test to see who ends up as victor. And of course, a short epilogue to bring the reader back to the tonic note that is life.
Postpartum, the reader is left with a better understanding that through Docotorow collective subconscious story is a world of geeks who have finally grown up and want a better more ethical world of thinking and invention. I feel more profound in my belief that there are more of you out there who want to make the world a better place by shear imagination, tinkering and play.
To my fellow geeks, you would do well to only read the first part of the book and leave the fantasy Doctorow so superbly paints to just that: by the end of part 1 you honestly believe the world could be a better place if only we were to embrace intellect and the true purist state of humankind’s ingenuity. However, crushing on the first part of the book only leaves you wanting more and so you continue to part two, but before that some quotes that still sing like a geek oracle to my heart and mind:
It’s like this: engineering is all about constraint. Given a span of foo feet and materials of tensile strength of bar, build a bridge that doesn’t go all fubared. Write a fun video-game for an eight-bit console that’ll fit in 32k. Build the fastest airplane, or the one with the largest carrying capacity… But these days, there’s not much traditional constraint. I’ve got the engineer’s most dangerous luxury: plenty. All the computational cycles I’ll ever need. Easy and rapid prototyping. Precision tools.
“They just make this stuff, do it, then make something else?” – “Exactly – no permanence except for the team, and they support each other, live and work together. You’d think that because they live and work together that they don’t have any balance, but it’s the opposite: they book off work at four or sometimes earlier, go to movies, go out and have fun, read books, play catch. It’s amazing, I’m never coming back…”
Part II sends you down the slope of dillusion and back into the muddy waters of reality, a well painted futuristic modernity but a real world none the less filled with the politics and complexity of humankind that does not need my re-quoting of passages for you all to understand.
As a bittersweet ending, Doctorow hands over part III which perhaps asks some of the most significant questions for technology that remain unanswered today: the un-trodden paths of how this thing call technology makes money (business models) and how the only thing left standing in our way of a better world is IPR.
It’s like an emergent property. Once you get a lot of people under one roof, the emergent property seems to be crap. No matter how great the people are, no matter how wonderful their individual ideas are, the net effect is shit. Remind me of reliability calculation. Like if you take two components that are 90 percent reliable and use them in a design, the outcome is 90 percent of 90 percent – 81 percent. Keep adding 90 percent reliable components and you’ll have something that explodes before you get it out of the factory. Maybe people are like that. If you’re 90 percent non-bogus and ten percent bogus, and you work with someone else who’s 90 percent non-bogus, you end up with a team that’s 81 percent non bogus…
Part III is a pleasure right up to the end, but I’ll leave that for you to find out as it is well worth getting to the end and beyond.
Doctorow does provide a subtle Epilogue to tie the whole thing together and remind us that no corporate strategy or vision statement will ever achieve what a couple of determined DIYers can do.
Not exactly – but there’s no way they’re going to be perfect, so we built in a bunch of stuff that would make it funnier when it happened. It is not officially a feature, not a bug.
As I said, a book every geek needs to read:
To note: this is the first book I read entirely on my Android Phone (using the Aldiko App), I found it very enjoyable to read as well as bookmark as I went (see above).
All passages above are licensed by Corey Doctorow with a Creative Commons license as is this blog. Long live the Creative Commons Massive!