The Cult of Information: The Folklore of Computers and the True Art of Thinking

By Theodore Roszak

A prophetic warning about the dangers of big data from the birth of the information age.

ISBN: 9780718895266


In the wake of The Making of a Counter Culture Theodore Roszak established himself as the pre-eminent critic of twentieth-century American society and technocracy. Roszak later published The Cult of Information, a word of caution to a world that would soon be inundated by computing devices and data driven industries. Even more relevant today than at its original publication, The Cult of Information stands as a prophetic work; one of the first attempts at an analysis of the dangers of big data in a world dominated by the digital.

Roszak’s predictions of a world for which the foundations were being laid in 1986 are eerily accurate from our twenty-first-century vantage point. One reads of a two-tier society wherein a class of ‘data merchants’ rule most industries via a stranglehold on marketing and demand data. Those at the bottom of the pile will watch as traditional jobs are automated or disappear abroad. We even get a glimpse of the effect data collection could have (read ‘has had’?) on the way elections are won across the world. The Cult of Information endures as an alarm bell from the birth of the Information Age.

Additional information

Dimensions 254 × 156 mm
Pages 252

Trade Information LGENPOD

About the Author

Theodore Roszak was educated at the University of California, Los Angeles and Princeton University during the 1950s. In 1969 he published The Making of a Counter Culture, the first known usage of the now-ubiquitous term. For a period in the 1960s he lived in London and edited the newspaper Peace News. Throughout his life he published prolifically on issues including social justice, nuclear disarmament, the ecological crisis and the disadvantages of industrial society. Roszak ended his career as Professor of History at California State University, Easy Bay. He died in 2011.



1. “Information, Please”
Information Old-Style
Cybernetics and the Secret of Life
Messages without Meanings
The Biocomputer

2. The Data Merchants
High Tech and the Conservative Opportunists
Sunbelt Politics and the Welfare State
Hackers and Hucksters
Silicon and Natural Selection

3. The Hidden Curriculum
The Chimera of Computer Literacy
A Solution in Search of Problems
The Computerized Campus
Power and Dependency
A Private Universe

4. The Program Within the Program
The Case of Logo

5. Of Ideas and Data
Ideas Come First
The Master Ideas
Experience, Memory, Insight
The Empiricist Gambit
No Ideas, No Information

6. Computers and Pure Reason
The Light in Plato’s Cave
The Old Mathematical Magic
The Seduction of Software
An Alien Intelligence
The Flight from Reality
The Fifth Generation … and Beyond

7. The Computer and the Counterculture
Big Blue and the Guerilla Hackers
An Electronic Populism
The Heroic Age of the Microcomputer
Reversionaries and Technophiles
Domes, Data, and Dope
Decline and Fall

8. The Politics of Information
Nothing But the Facts
Data Glut
Issues Before Information
On-line Communities: The Promise of Networking
The Public Library: The Missing Link of the Information Age

9. In the Wrong Hands
The Foundations of Information Technology
The Surveillance Machine
The Polling Machine
The War Machine
Machine à Gouverner
At the Limits of Sanity: The Psychotic Machine

10. Descartes’s Angel
Reflections on the True Art of Thinking



Endorsements and Reviews

This thoughtful, sensitive and sane book heralds a coming new evaluation of the role of science and technology in the affairs of the human species. The quiet of Theodore Roszak’s words, the humanity of his tone, stand in stark contrast to the loud, self-serving cacophony of the simplistic outpourings of the neo-positivists, as represented by the artificial intelligentsia.
Joseph Weizenbaum, Professor of Computer Science, MIT