For Your Consideration – 9

It’s been a while since the last of these posts, so there’s some older stuff thrown in here. Older, of course, by web standards.

“What Turned Jaron Lanier Against the Web?”:

“Social lasers of cruelty?” I repeat.

“I just made that up,” Lanier says. “Where everybody coheres into this cruelty beam….Look what we’re setting up here in the world today. We have economic fear combined with everybody joined together on these instant twitchy social networks which are designed to create mass action. What does it sound like to you? It sounds to me like the prequel to potential social catastrophe. I’d rather take the risk of being wrong than not be talking about that.”

“Google Should Not Choose Right and Wrong”:

“Such technologies endorse a rather impoverished view of their human masters. Humans, no longer seen as citizens capable of deliberation, are treated as cogs in a system preoccupied with self-optimisation, as if the very composition of that system was uncontroversial.”

“Invasion of the Cyber Hustlers”:

“Cybertheorists in general could perhaps be tolerated as harmlessly colourful futurists, were it not that so many of them, through the influence of their consulting work and virtual bully pulpits, are right now engaged in promoting widespread cultural vandalism. Whatever smells mustily of the pre-digital age must be torn down, “disrupted” and made anew in the sacred image of Google and Apple, except more open to the digital probings of the internet- company oligopoly. Long live sharing, social reading, volunteering free labour as a peer student or member of a company’s online “community”, and entrusting your documents to the data-mining mega-corporations that control the “cloud”.”

“The human race: Prosthetics, doping, computer implants: we take every upgrade we can get. But what is waiting for us at the finish line?”:

“For some, perhaps, this is a consummation devoutly to be wished. But it also reveals the essentially religious nature of much singularity-style techno-futurism: such visions constitute an eschatology in which human beings finally sublime into the cybersphere. It is the silicon Rapture — and this reminds us that ‘to enhance’ once meant literally ‘to raise up’. This desire to become machinic implicitly betrays a hatred of the flesh as severe as that of self-flagellating religious ascetics. For the devout of singularity theory, the perfection of humanity is synonymous with its destruction.”

“The End of the Map”:

“But my favorite cartographic error is the Mountains of Kong, a range that supposedly stretched like a belt from the west coast of Africa through half the continent. It featured on world maps and atlases for almost the entire 19th century. The mountains were first sketched in 1798 by the highly regarded English cartographer James Rennell, a man already famous for mapping large parts of India.”

“The Riddle and the Gift: The Hobbit at Christmas”:

“On his death-bed, the dwarf king, Thorin commends Bilbo’s blend of courage and wisdom, adding, “if more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” Food and cheer are transitory pleasures, which take their value from the moment and the company.”

“The Body Medium and Media Ecology: Disembodiment in the Theory and Practice of Modern Media” [PDF]:

“The body as medium and its disembodiment in the theory and practice of media is an imperative problem for media ecology.”

“Jerry Seinfeld Intends to Die Standing Up”:

“In his jokes he often arranges life’s messy confusions, shrewdly and immaculately, into a bouquet of trivial irritants. Seinfeld’s comedic persona is unflappable — annoyed plenty, but unmarked by extremes of emotion, much less tragedy.”

“Why Stephen Greenblatt is Wrong — and Why It Matters”:

“This is a powerful vision of the world entering a prolonged period of cultural darkness. If it were true, then Greenblatt’s second Swerve, the anti-religious polemic, also would deserve every award and plaudit it won. However, Greenblatt’s vision is not true, not even remotely.”

“Saying Goodbye to Now”:

“It’s an era of controlled deprivations and detoxification, of fasts and cleanses. Perhaps everyone should make a weekly ritual of twenty-four hours of undocumented life. Periods of time in which memory must do all the heavy lifting, or none of it, as it chooses, the consequences being what they may be. No phone, no eclipse glasses to mitigate the intensity of what lies before you. The only options are appetite, experience, memory, and later, if so inclined, writing it down.”

4 thoughts on “For Your Consideration – 9

  1. Thank you Michael. I observe a Sabbath break, and it enriches my life. I urge all to turn off, tune out, read a printed book, walk among the trees, break bread with friends, think about your higher power or a higher power. would that the whole world would live by turning everything off but the lights. Stay strong.

  2. I enjoyed the article on Lanier. I read his book “You are not a gadget” and found it a bit scattered, and a little too personal, but insightful.
    In this article, I appreciated the point he makes about Google translate, and how it doesn’t pay the original translators for their work. I don’t know enough about economics to evaluate his claim that it shrinks the economy. But Google has certainly made some questionable moral choices. (Or the people in Google, that is…) Google street view is another one where I have very mixed feelings on what they did. It was also interesting to read the personal connection to Lanier’s relatives and the Russian pogroms and how he drew from this as motivation for his analysis and questioning. I like to see people questioning the effects of the work they do. There are too many people who do technical work who don’t consider the broader consequences of what their work contributes to.

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