Weekend Reading, 10/7/11

Due to travel and spotty Internet access there was no “Weekend Reading” post last week, but we’re back on track now. Peace and violence, stalling technological progress, Google, nostalgia, and cell phone sentimentality all come your way below.

“A History of Violence” by Steven Pinker (interviewed) at The Edge. Pinker discusses his recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, in which he argues that we live in the least violent era in history.

“Delusions of Peace” by John Gray in Prospect. In which Gray concludes that Pinker is considerably off the mark.

“I Just Called to Say ‘I Love You'” by Jonathan Franzen in Technology Review. Franzen takes on cell phones, sentimentality, and public discourse. A taste: “Just 10 years ago, New York City (where I live) still abounded with collectively maintained public spaces in which citizens demonstrated respect for their community by not inflicting their banal bedroom lives on it.”

“The End of the Future” by Peter Thiel in National Review: A bit of a downer if you buy it. The founder a Paypal worries that technological progress has stalled. A hard sell, but if true, wide ranging and unpleasant social consequences follow. May be related to the subject of the next piece.

“Nostalgia on Repeat” by Chuck Klosterman at Grantland: “The net result is a bunch of people defending and bemoaning the impact of nostalgia in unpredictable ways; I suppose a few of these arguments intrigue me, but just barely. I’m much more interested in why people feel nostalgia, particularly when that feeling derives from things that don’t actually intersect with any personal experience they supposedly had.”

“It Knows” by Daniel Soar in London Review of Books: Soar reviews three recent books on the juggernaut that is Google. Coincidentally, Soar logs this passing snide remark directed at Steven Pinker: “Rankings based on citations aren’t necessarily a measure of excellence – if they were, we wouldn’t hear so much about Steven Pinker – but they do reflect where humans have decided that authority lies.”

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