NK: What would a Whole Earth Catalog for our time look like, if we learned from past failures?
FT: Yeah. Hm. Oh, boy. Well, if you ask some of the people associated with the actual Whole Earth Catalog, which I’ve done, they will tell you it would look like Google. It would be a global system for an individual to search out the things that individual needed to build a life on their own terms. I think that’s fine.
But I think that definition misses the key part of the Catalog, which is the way that it didn’t actually sell goods. It printed recommendations for goods.
The recommendation letters came from people living on communes at a time when the only way know what communes were out there in the world, was to get on the telephone, or use snail mail letters. The Catalog become one of the first representations of the commune world. It was a map. Embedded in all those products was a map of all the different communes that were using and recommending them.