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CPSR Newsletter Winter 1995


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A World of Perspectives on the Growing Information Infrastructure

by Judi Clark
CPSR Treasurer Board of Directors

CPSR News Volume 13, Number 1: Winter 1995


I am the people, the mob, the crowd, the mass. Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?

- Carl Sandburg

CPSR was formed 13 years ago when the Strategic Defense Initiative was growing in political strength. We were the voice of reason, pointing out in technological terms why our Administration's promises of SDI were empty, over-promoted, or impossible. We continue now with a public-interest vision, watching how technology continues to change our society, our cultures, and ways of life. The change is global, and we are all involved.

Since most of our members live in the United States, our past newsletters have focussed on issues that are perceived as important here such as computers and the poor, or computers in the workplace. We don't often realize our Americentricity, and don't often think that our issues play themselves out in slightly different ways around the world.

This issue of The CPSR Newsletter is about both our members and friends, and the reason we exist. It is about the world we live in, the world we are helping to create, and the world our children will be at home in. There is often a great deal of information needed to make informed choice, and time is needed to gather this information. Ironically, there are many other demands for our time in the modern world. This issue, written by our international members and friends,offers some alternative perspectives.

This issue is about international perspectives, but it is also about us. To illustrate the connection, let me take a couple of steps down an unusual path.

An Alternative Outlook
It is unlikely that CPSR has many Amish members. However, it is more likely that many of our members share an understanding with the Amish. Our current economics and the creation of our future is a cooperative venture, one we all have a stake in. Often we may feel like one small unit in a large corporation, university, or bureaucracy. But that need not deter us from the realization that what we are doing is creating a larger picture.

Recently I read a story about Amish economics that I'll share briefly with you. The author recounted how a tornado had swept through the community, leveling trees and barns. It was but a few weeks before the community, knowing well how to work together, had turned the fallen trees into large, well- crafted barns filled with hay and livestock to replace that which had been lost. Their farming methods, like other parts of their economics, are based on managed stability, in their social values as well as in their level of technology. Can we say as much about our workplaces?

Another Alternative Outlook
While on the subject of managing our resources, allow me to continue to generalize with a brief reference to Islamic banking. According to Islamic law, the risk of business ventures should be shared equally between the provider and the user of funds, and additionally, the funds must support activities in line with their culture's laws (no trade in alcohol or arms, for instance). Their practices are about taking responsibility for building your world and future as if it meant something to you.

These two examples might be tossed aside with the observation that Amish and Islamic practice are both deeply rooted in culture and religion. But will we deny that part of our culture, our religion, is our technology?

In the Winter 1994 newsletter, we wrote of our public interest vision for the National Information Infrastructure. In it, we expressed concern that the people not yet "blessed" by technology should still be given access to the fruits of our labors.

In the last newsletter, we gave color and life to this vision of the NII with practical examples, fears, and achievable realities. Now, in this issue, we look around the world with the eyes of others, to help us understand their situations, concerns, and solutions. It is my hope that this wide-angle view will help us all see our own situations more clearly.

Judi Clark is Treasurer and a member of the board of Directors for CPSR She can be reached at


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