Stewart Brand

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Stewart Brand
He is at home in front of a full bookcase
At home in California, December 2010
Born (1938-12-14) December 14, 1938 (age 75)
Rockford, Illinois
Nationality American
Occupation Writer, editor
Known for The Whole Earth Catalog
Long Now Foundation
Stewart Brand

Stewart Brand (born December 14, 1938) is an American writer, best known as editor of the Whole Earth Catalog. He founded a number of organizations, including The WELL, the Global Business Network, and the Long Now Foundation. He is the author of several books, most recently Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto.


Brand attended Phillips Exeter Academy, before studying biology at Stanford University, from which he graduated in 1960. He was married to Lois Jennings, an Ottawa Native American and mathematician.[1] As a soldier in the U.S. Army, he was a parachutist and taught infantry skills; he was later to express the view that his experience in the military had fostered his competence in organizing.[2] A civilian again, in 1962 he studied design at San Francisco Art Institute, photography at San Francisco State College, and participated in a legitimate scientific study of then-legal LSD, in Menlo Park, California.

Brand has lived in California ever since. He and his wife live on Mirene, a 64-foot (20 m)-long working tugboat. Built in 1912, the boat is moored in a former shipyard in Sausalito, California.[3] He works in Mary Heartline, a grounded fishing boat about 100 yards (91 m) away.[3] A favorite item of his is a table on which Otis Redding is said to have written “(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay”. Brand acquired it from an antiques dealer in Sausalito.[3]

American Indians[edit]

Through scholarship and by visiting numerous Indian reservations, he familiarized himself with the Native Americans of the West. Native Americans have continued to be an important cultural interest, an interest which has re-emerged in Brand's work in various ways through the years. He was married to Lois Jennings, an Ottawa Native American and mathematician.[1]

Merry Pranksters[edit]

By the mid-1960s, he was associated with author Ken Kesey and the "Merry Pranksters", and in San Francisco, with his partner Zach Stewart, Brand produced the Trips Festival, an early effort involving rock music and light shows. This was one of the first venues at which the Grateful Dead performed in San Francisco. About 10,000 hippies attended and Haight-Ashbury emerged as a community.[4] Tom Wolfe describes Brand in the beginning of his 1968 book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

NASA images of Earth[edit]

Earth from space, by William Anders, Apollo 8, 1968
Earth from space, by ATS-3 satellite, 1967

In 1966, Brand campaigned to have NASA release the then-rumored satellite image of the entire Earth as seen from space. He distributed buttons for 25 cents each[5] asking, "Why haven't we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?"[6] He thought the image of our planet might be a powerful symbol. In 1967 a satellite took the photo. It adorned the first (Fall 1968) edition of the Whole Earth Catalog.[7] Later in 1968, a NASA astronaut took an Earth photo[6] from Moon orbit, which became the Catalog's next front image in spring 1969. In 1970 Earth Day began to be celebrated.[5] During a 2003 interview, Brand explained that the image "gave the sense that Earth’s an island, surrounded by a lot of inhospitable space. And it’s so graphic, this little blue, white, green and brown jewel-like icon amongst a quite featureless black vacuum." During this campaign Brand met Richard Buckminster Fuller, who offered to help him in his projects.[8]

Douglas Engelbart[edit]

In late 1968, Brand assisted electrical engineer Douglas Engelbart with The Mother of All Demos, a famous presentation of many revolutionary computer technologies (including hypertext, email, and the mouse) to the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco.

Brand surmised that given the necessary consciousness, information, and tools, human beings could reshape the world they had made (and were making) for themselves into something environmentally and socially sustainable.[citation needed]

Whole Earth Catalog[edit]

One page of a 1969 Whole Earth Catalog

During the late 1960s and early 1970s about 10 million Americans were involved in living communally.[9] In 1968, using the most basic of typesetting and page-layout tools, Brand and his colleagues created issue number one of The Whole Earth Catalog, a book with the significant subtitle, "access to tools".[10] Brand and his wife Lois travelled to communes in a 1963 Dodge truck known as the Whole Earth Truck Store, which moved to a storefront in Menlo Park, California.[10] That first oversize Catalog, and its successors in the 1970s and later, reckoned that many sorts of things were useful "tools": books, maps, garden tools, specialized clothing, carpenters' and masons' tools, forestry gear, tents, welding equipment, professional journals, early synthesizers, and personal computers. Brand invited "reviews" of the best of these items from experts in specific fields, as though they were writing a letter to a friend. The information also made known where these things could be located or bought. The Catalog's publication coincided with the great wave of social and cultural experimentation, convention-breaking, and "do it yourself" attitude associated with the "counterculture".

The influence of these Whole Earth Catalogs on the rural back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s, and the communities movement within many cities, was widespread throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia. A 1972 edition sold 1.5 million copies, and it won the first U.S. National Book Award in category Contemporary Affairs.[11]

CoEvolution Quarterly[edit]

To continue this work and also to publish full-length articles on specific topics in the natural sciences and invention, in numerous areas of the arts and the social sciences, and on the contemporary scene in general, Brand founded the CoEvolution Quarterly (CQ) during 1974, aimed primarily at educated laypersons. Brand never better revealed his opinions and reason for hope than when he ran, in CoEvolution Quarterly #4, a transcription of technology historian Lewis Mumford’s talk “The Next Transformation of Man”, in which he stated that "man has still within him sufficient resources to alter the direction of modern civilization, for we then need no longer regard man as the passive victim of his own irreversible technological development".

The content of CoEvolution Quarterly often included futurism or risqué topics. Besides giving space to unknown writers with something valuable to say, Brand presented articles by many respected authors and thinkers, including Lewis Mumford, Howard T. Odum, Witold Rybczynski, Karl Hess, Christopher Swan, Orville Schell, Ivan Illich, Wendell Berry, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gregory Bateson, Amory Lovins, Hazel Henderson, Gary Snyder, Lynn Margulis, Eric Drexler, Gerard K. O'Neill, Peter Calthorpe, Sim Van der Ryn, Paul Hawken, John Todd, J. T. Baldwin, Kevin Kelly (future editor of Wired), and Donella Meadows. During ensuing years, Brand authored and edited a number of books on topics as diverse as computer-based media, the life history of buildings, and ideas about space colonies.

He founded the Whole Earth Software Review, a supplement to the Whole Earth Software Catalog, in 1984. It merged with CoEvolution Quarterly to form the Whole Earth Review in 1985.

California government[edit]

From 1977 to 1979, Brand served as "special adviser" to the administration of California Governor Jerry Brown.

The WELL[edit]

In 1985, Brand and Larry Brilliant founded The WELL ("Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link"), a prototypical, wide-ranging online community for intelligent, informed participants the world over. The WELL won the 1990 Best Online Publication Award from the Computer Press Association.[12] Almost certainly the ideas behind the WELL were greatly inspired by Douglas Engelbart's work at SRI International; Brand was acknowledged by Engelbart in "The Mother of All Demos" in 1968 when the computer mouse and video conferencing were introduced.[13]

Global Business Network[edit]

During 1986, Brand was a visiting scientist at the MIT Media Lab. Soon after, he became a private-conference organizer for such corporations as Royal Dutch/Shell, Volvo, and AT&T Corporation. In 1988, he became a co‑founder of the Global Business Network, which explores global futures and business strategies informed by the sorts of values and information which Brand has always found vital. The GBN has become involved with the evolution and application of scenario thinking, planning, and complementary strategic tools. In other connections, Brand has been part of the board of the Santa Fe Institute (founded in 1984), an organization devoted to "fostering a multidisciplinary scientific research community pursuing frontier science". He has also continued to promote the preservation of tracts of wilderness.

Brand listening in Sausalito, California, in 2009.

Whole Earth Discipline[edit]

The Whole Earth Catalog implied an ideal of human progress that depended on decentralized, personal, and liberating technological development—so‑called "soft technology". However, during 2005 he criticized aspects of the international environmental ideology he had helped to develop. He wrote an article called "Environmental Heresies" in the May 2005 issue of the MIT Technology Review, in which he describes what he considers necessary changes to environmentalism. He suggested among other things that environmentalists embrace nuclear power and genetically modified organisms as technologies with more promise than risk.

Brand later developed these ideas into a book and published the Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto in 2009. The book examines how urbanization, nuclear power, genetic engineering, geoengineering, and wildlife restoration can be used as powerful tools in humanity's ongoing fight against global warming.[14]

The Long Now Foundation[edit]

Brand is co‑chair and President of the Board of Directors of the The Long Now Foundation. Brand chairs the foundation's Seminars About Long-term Thinking (SALT). This series on long-term thinking has presented a large range of different speakers including: Brian Eno, Neal Stephenson, Vernor Vinge, Philip Rosedale, Jimmy Wales, Kevin Kelly, Clay Shirky, Ray Kurzweil, Bruce Sterling, Cory Doctorow, and many others.


A few of Brand's aphorisms (on which he has elaborated) are that "Civilization’s shortening attention span is mismatched with the pace of environmental problems"; "Environmental health requires peace, prosperity, and continuity; "Technology can be good for the environment"; and (perhaps most famously)[15] "Information wants to be free":

"Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy, and recombine – too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless wrenching debate about price, copyright, 'intellectual property', the moral rightness of casual distribution, because each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better."

—spoken at the first Hackers' Conference, and reprinted in the May 1985 Whole Earth Review. The quotation is an elaboration from his book, The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT, published in 1987.

The Whole Earth Catalog began with the words "We are as gods and might as well get good at it", and his book Whole Earth Discipline begins with "We are as gods and HAVE to get good at it." Brand wrote The WELL's sign‑on message: "You own your own words."


Stewart Brand is the initiator or was involved with the development of the following:



As editor or as co-editor[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Phil Garlington, "Stewart Brand," Outside magazine, December 1977.
  • Sam Martin and Matt Scanlon, "The Long Now: An Interview with Stewart Brand," Mother Earth News magazine, January 2001[16]
  • "Stewart Brand" (c.v., last updated September 2006)[17]
  • Massive Change Radio interview with Stewart Brand, November 2003[18]
  • Whole Earth Catalog, various issues, 1968–1998.
  • CoEvolution Quarterly (in the 1980s, renamed Whole Earth Review, later just Whole Earth), various issues, 1974–2002.
  1. ^ a b Brand 2009, p. 236
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c Lewine, Edward (April 19, 2009). "On the Waterfront". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  4. ^ Brand, Stewart. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: The Legacy of the Whole Earth Catalog. Stanford University Libraries via Google. Event occurs at 32:30. Retrieved 2009-11-07. 
  5. ^ a b Brand, Stewart. "Photography changes our relationship to our planet". Smithsonian Photography Initiative. Retrieved 2009-11-06. 
  6. ^ a b Brand 2009, p. 214
  7. ^ [1] The front cover of the Fall 1968 edition of the Whole Earth Catalog showing the AST-3 image of 10 Nov 1967
  8. ^ Leonard, Jennifer. "Stewart Brand on the long view". Retrieved 2013-02-05. 
  9. ^ Turner, Fred. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: The Legacy of the Whole Earth Catalog. Stanford University Libraries via Google. Event occurs at 19:00. Retrieved 2009-11-07. 
  10. ^ a b Kirk, Andrew G. (2007). "Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism". KSBW (University Press of Kansas via p. 48. ISBN 0-7006-1545-8. 
  11. ^ "National Book Awards – 1972". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
    There was a "Contemporary" or "Current" award category from 1972 to 1980.
  12. ^ Katie Hafner, The WELL: A Story of Love, Death and Real Life in the Seminal Online Community:(2001) Carroll & Graf Publishers ISBN 0-7867-0846-8
  13. ^ "(5:26:00)". 2007-08-21. Retrieved 2011-10-29. 
  14. ^ Stewart Brand (2009). Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto. Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-02121-5. 
  15. ^ "Information Wants to be Free ...". Retrieved 2011-10-29. 
  16. ^ [2][dead link]
  17. ^ [3]
  18. ^ [4][dead link]

Further reading[edit]

  • Turner, Fred From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. University of Chicago Press. 2006. ISBN 0-226-81741-5. 

External links[edit]