Several of Carr's themes from "The Shallows" are echoed in this more general treatise on the pros and cons of automation. And to sum up rather pithilySeveral of Carr's themes from "The Shallows" are echoed in this more general treatise on the pros and cons of automation. And to sum up rather pithily, if I do say so myself: if Google is making us stupid, then automation is making us clumsy.
Pilots have gone this road (so to speak) ahead of us, as planes have been mostly self-flying for the last few decades (provoking existential discussions between pilots on whether they are *flying* the plane, or basically passengers like the rest of us)—and although catastrophes due to 'human error' have been mostly eliminated, when actual humans do have to take the controls, they're rusty. In the word Carr uses, they have become "de-skilled"—and we can expect more of the same when autonomous cars take over the roads. It really does make sense; why develop and hone skills like driving...or map-reading...or math calculation...or spelling...that machines can do for us? As the futurists have predicted, this frees us up to perform daring acts of creativity, to explore the universe, to delve deeply into the roots of our shared humanity, to learn multiple languages, to... to... nah, what research has discovered is that automation is freeing us up to watch even *more* cat videos or binge even more on Netflix. We are moving toward the vision of humanity portrayed in "Wall-E": obese and atrophied consumers of 24/7 infotainment.
And one of the most deeply depressing things I learned from this book is that autocorrect is *not* making us all better spellers. Nope, we just let Siri do his/her thing and no longer care about there/ they're/ or their....more
"The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury is one of my favourite books: a poetic, dreamy, surreal account of our first experiences on Mars. This book i"The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury is one of my favourite books: a poetic, dreamy, surreal account of our first experiences on Mars. This book is its exact opposite: prosaic, down-to-earth, technical and geeky. At several points I felt like it would be a better read for an engineer than for a dreamer like myself. Sometimes I was completely lost in the science and calculations and found myself (in complete horror) back in Grade 11 physics. But the book does work; Mark Watney indeed has "the right stuff" which includes a geeky sense of humour, a self-protective detachment from his emotions, and a get-er-done mindset. Like the Apollo astronauts before him, he never seems to be shaken or discouraged no matter what, and his courage is simply a matter of not giving up, of getting done what has to get done.
This book will inspire people to believe that we really will manage to survive on Mars. If a Robinson-Caruso-esque character can do it all on his lonesome for over a year, it should be a snap for a well-prepared and well-provided for team of professional astronauts. I'll bet that when we finally do get there, someone will have a dog-eared copy of "The Martian" in their duffle bag alongside Bradbury's masterpiece; and we may actually end up naming a landform "Watney's Triangle" in honour of this dude.
And in the upcoming movie, I think it will be hilarious if the soundtrack reflects that when in search of a theme song, our hero rejects the obvious choice of Elton John's "Rocket Man" in favour of the disco classic "Stayin' Alive"....more