[techbooks] REVIEW: "Roadkill on the Information Highway", J. William Pfeiff
- BKRKOTIH.RVW 990327
"Roadkill on the Information Highway", J. William Pfeiffer, 1999,
%A J. William Pfeiffer
%C Suite 903, 2 St. Clair Ave., East, Toronto, ON M4T 2R1
%I Pfeiffer & Company, Inc.
%O C$39.95 416-924-2628 fax: 416-924-7398 drp@...
%P 256 p.
%T "Roadkill on the Information Highway"
(Vancouver - March 27, 1999) A Toronto author has written a
provocative press release about the future of his career in Canada.
Dr. J. William Pfeiffer has produced and heavily distributed some very
pretty pamphlets about his seemingly self-published book, and all the
hot button issues he could cram into it. In this book, according to
the press release his 53rd, he has cobbled together hundreds of
magazine level articles, plus a bunch of cartoons.
(This seems to be my week to dump on compatriots. But then, I can't
have all that much fellow feeling with a guy who seems to be rather a
johnny come lately to the country.) (On the third hand, that *is* the
definition of a Canadian: a DP with seniority.) (But you can always
tell an American: he doesn't know that there is more than one
definition of a billion.) (Another way to recognize an American is by
the barbarities perpetrated on the English language. For example,
almost every instance of "one" is written as "1" and "first" is
spelled "1st." Then he lambastes the education system.)
The title definitely gives the impression that the book is about
modern communications or the information infrastructure. However,
Pfeiffer immediately covers his textual butt. The endpaper inside the
front cover has a glossary of business acronyms that starts out by
redefining "informatics" so that it can cover any form of
So what does Pfeiffer have to say about communications? Computers?
Information and communications technologies? Nothing. Nada. Zero.
Zip. Zilch. Rien. Not a sausage.
Well, no, not quite true. Chapter ten is supposed to be about new
technologies. It even mentions the Internet. Once. Other than that
we have a rehash of some of the more simplistic myths like the
legendary brain drain of intelligent people out of Canada and down to
the States. (One wonders, at this point very sincerely, why Pfeiffer
So what is the book about? That's very hard to say, since we are
presented with an amalgam of trivia, bombast, and misinformation. It
is all very well to say that you are writing for the masses rather
than an academic audience, but it's rather insulting to the masses to
assume that they do not deserve accuracy or reason in what is
presented. Sometimes the content is in error, sometimes it is just
plain silly. "[N]ations ... are like supertankers; once they make a
turn, they set the course for everyone else." Excuse me? Ships as
schools of fish? Or did you grow up so far from water that you think
a ship, of whatever size, carves a groove in the ocean as it goes?
The Jews wandered in the desert for forty years because of a
generational conflict. This is somehow not congruent with
Deuteronomy 1:34. He uses the mythical "Petronius Arbiter" quote
about reorganization (and then lets himself off the hook by noting,
buried in the back of the book, that the "accuracy cannot be
verified.") These examples aren't central to the theme of the book,
but then, it's hard to find the theme, let alone material that is
central to it.
He promises us one hundred and one "specific recommendations that
serve as a guide to enhancing the quality of life for all Canadians."
(In five different fonts, yet.) Concentrating on education, this
boils down to changing the curriculum (somehow), setting up
educational standards (somehow), increasing educational resources (at
the same time as reducing the debt: neat trick), cutting support of
higher education, and eliminating religious schools. Why not just say
"do better" and cut the verbiage? It would be about as helpful.
Stripped of its trivial pursuit sugar coating, this is a rather
pedestrian restatement of conservative economic views: reduce the
debt, get lean and mean, compete in the global marketplace, we can't
afford welfare, et cetera, ad nauseam. Oh, and he doesn't like
(In response to the draft of this review, Pfeiffer has stated that I
missed the point that the work, "like the main title of the book, is
copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKRKOTIH.RVW 990327
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