Weekend Reading, 10/29/11

We’ll start this week’s assortment of links with a quick look back at a key moment in the history of American technology:

“150 Years Ago a Primitive Internet United the USA” by John Rogers in The Sydney Morning Herald: 

Journalist revisits the completion of the first transcontinental telegraph line. Easy to forget how truly revolutionary the telegraph was at the time. For the first time in history, human communication could travel faster on land than a man on a horse. By the way, keeping in mind the technology/religion theme that has been in evidence here lately, let’s not forget the first telegraphic message: “What hath God wrought?”

From the past to the future. Here are two pieces on the much hyped “Singularity.” In the first, Cory Doctorow interviews Ray Kurtzweil, Singularity’s most well-known prophet/advocate. In the second, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen explains why the Singularity is almost certainly not going to take place by 2045.

“Thought Experiments: When The Singularity Is More Than A Literary Device”

“The Singularity Isn’t Near”

From the likely or unlikely future, back to the past. Here are a couple of offerings I came across at Brainpickings. The first is a brief look at the history of books through a series of really interesting and compelling images (portraits, drawings, frescoes, etc.) and the second is a video compiling the closing segments of a series documentaries on the health of the city by renowned urbanist and critic Lewis Mumford.

“Books: A Living History”

“Lewis Mumford on the City: Rare Footage from 1936”

Finally, here is an older essay from Wendell Berry. Berry, in case you are not familiar with his work, is a poet, essayist, farmer, and advocate of the agrarian life and local communities. His insights are out of step with modern assumptions and values and do not easily fit into our narrow left/right political and social schemas, and they are all the wiser for it. Here he writes on sustaining vibrant and healthy local communities.

“Conserving Communities”

Enjoy, and have a great weekend. If you’re reading in the American North East, enjoy the early snow!



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