After reading 216 pages, I performed a cost/benefit analysis and decided not to continue. Antifragility is an interesting concep...morePartial rating: 2.75/5
After reading 216 pages, I performed a cost/benefit analysis and decided not to continue. Antifragility is an interesting concept with wide ranging applications, but not wide enough to be of practical use to a person in my situation; and this book is just not intriguing or entertaining enough to read for its own sake. It's very challenging, sometimes hard to follow, and the author has a bit of an attitude problem, taking pot-shots at just about everyone. I look forward to the day someone writes a more accessible book on this topic.
I am very interested in this subject, but not enough to slog through this repetitive book. There's just too much information, and too much nature vs....moreI am very interested in this subject, but not enough to slog through this repetitive book. There's just too much information, and too much nature vs. nurture talk. I don't need convincing, I already agree with the premise.(less)
3.75 stars. Leto's memoir-ish reading guide is amusing, highly readable, mildly irreverent and ultimately irrelevant. Read the rest of my review: http...more3.75 stars. Leto's memoir-ish reading guide is amusing, highly readable, mildly irreverent and ultimately irrelevant. Read the rest of my review: http://bit.ly/X78l4z(less)
The cover of this book contains no author credentials, no "by the author of", and no author's blurbs. If it weren't for the lovely design on the front...moreThe cover of this book contains no author credentials, no "by the author of", and no author's blurbs. If it weren't for the lovely design on the front, it would have all the ear-marks of being questionable. However, according to Wikipedia, Damian Thompson is a journalist with a Ph.D. in the sociology of religion. Does this make him as qualified to talk about addiction as, say, a neurologist or an evolutionary psychologist or an addictions expert? Probably not. However, Thompson has some personal experience with addiction, and most of the book is written from a sociological perspective.
Thompson is convinced the "disease model" of addiction is incorrect, but his arguments against it are weak, in my opinion. It depends on how you define "disease", which he doesn't explicitly do. However, it seems as though Thompson believes to qualify for the term "disease", an illness must be a) scientifically identifiable b) have only involuntary symptoms; and c) be incurable. This seems too narrow to me, but these are the points on which his arguments rest.
Addiction cannot be specifically found or tested for in the organic body. Thompson argues that this means it's not a disease. But in the history of science, many diseases failed this test until the technology arose to detect them, or the pathology was discovered. I would be curious to know if Thompson doesn't believe that things like Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS are real diseases either, since they lack this qualification. But it's painfully obvious to me--literally-- that my chronic illness is a real disease, even though the doctors can't locate the source of it in my body.
Thompson also believes that because addictive behaviour is "voluntary", it can't be a symptom of a real disease. But people who have struggled with addiction know that succumbing to cravings doesn't exactly feel like an act of free will. There must be some intermediate between voluntary and involuntary to cover addictive behaviour. Is depression a disease? Because the symptoms of depression consist of voluntary action (or inaction) too.
Finally, for the author to call something a disease, it apparently has to be incurable. This seems ridiculous to me, but this was one of his arguments: Alcoholics Anonymous says that alcoholism is an incurable disease, and the only treatment is a 12-step program and total abstinence. But some people recover from alcoholism without this treatment. Therefore, it's not a disease. This is the argument Thompson makes. But his conclusion doesn't follow from his premise. The logical conclusion is that alcoholism isn't incurable, and that AA isn't the only treatment. Not all diseases are incurable - talk to people who have no traces left of cancer in their bodies.
Thompson even admits that the disease model has its uses, and that it's really a semantic argument anyway. So why make a big deal about it? He fears the drawbacks if people buy into the disease model wholeheartedly. Personally I think buying anything wholeheartedly is going to have drawbacks, and on principle, everything in the universe should be approached with a critical eye. But I suppose there are people who don't do this, and that Thompson is making a point about the dangers of totally accepting the disease model to the exclusion of other ideas. Fair enough, but you can make this point without relying on unconvincing arguments to prove addiction isn't a disease.
Personally, I don't know if it is a disease or isn't, and I'm not sure this categorizing is actually important in a practical sense. Thompson's point is that addictive behaviour exists on a spectrum, and is becoming more and more normalized in our society. He sees it as a problem of neurochemistry (on which he gives a basic primer) and availability -if a particular thing is not widely available and affordable, there is no widespread addiction to it. But addictive behaviour is easily transferable, and companies are specifically designing more products to be as addictive as possible.
The majority of this book covers the current state of addiction (mostly in Western society). There are lengthy chapters on alcohol, drugs, and porn, but the section on food is disappointingly short. Gambling, gaming, and shopping are also briefly discussed. Aside from a few details, I didn't learn much that I didn't already know, and Thompson offers little in the way of solutions.
If this is your first foray into the subject of addiction, this is an interesting and easy-to-read book. But there isn't much new information here for anyone who has already read a book or two about it. The Fix definitely isn't self-help, so if you are suffering from addiction yourself, you won't get much assistance here, aside from the knowledge that you are definitely not alone.
Sadly, my brain is too rotted to read this, I couldn't even get through the whole introduction, nor subsequently the first chapter. This is an academi...moreSadly, my brain is too rotted to read this, I couldn't even get through the whole introduction, nor subsequently the first chapter. This is an academic, philosophical, intellectual book that constantly references literature, film etc., which wasn't what I really expected or wanted. But more to the point, I'm just no longer smart enough to read this.(less)
I wish I was a gadget. Maybe then I could understand this book. That said, I'm not really qualified to review it, but I'm going to anyway, because I d...moreI wish I was a gadget. Maybe then I could understand this book. That said, I'm not really qualified to review it, but I'm going to anyway, because I deserve to have an opinion after suffering my way through this book.
You Are Not A Gadget wasn't written for me. In fact, I think it was written for Jaron Lanier and a few other very smart people of the computer science elite. If you're not already familiar with the conversation surrounding programming (especially as it applies to the internet), you won't get much help from Lanier. There's no glossary, and he regularly explains concepts in terms of other unfamiliar concepts, if he bothers to explain them at all.
Lanier appears to be an expert on everything - computer science, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, philosophy, music, economics, ad infinitum - because he writes with such authority. He's also apparently had more jobs than a hooker gives out during the course of an entire career. I've no doubt his IQ approaches genius levels, but the problem with geniuses writing books is that some of them seem to forget that 99.9% of their readers are not going to also be geniuses. This book is called a "manifesto", which connotes its subject is very important to the author, and so presumably he wants people to understand what he's saying. But he doesn't bother to spell things out in language that most people could easily understand. I mean, I'm no slouch. I graduated with honours from my high school and university and even won a creative writing award. But I had a heck of a time following Lanier's train of thought from hypotheses through analogies to conclusions, because a) I didn't understand most of his references, b) he often uses unnecessarily complicated language (which tells me he places more priority on sounding authoritative than being understood), and c) he assumes his reader has entered the conversation familiar with the topic. There is also a glaring lack of end-note type references that would back up any premises, facts or theories Lanier puts forth.
It's clear Lanier has a sense of propriety towards the internet and computer programming. He had a vision of what the computing world would've accomplished by now, and WE'VE FAILED HIM. Not just programmers, but users too. We've bought into the idea that the "hive mind" way of producing programming and content (through collective effort like Wikipedia), is the best way of doing things, and because of early program designs and internet structures, we are close to being stuck with these things FOREVAH. He has some interesting ideas, and some really wacked out ones. He says we're obsessed with pre-internet media and our content has been reduced to mash-ups of stuff from that era. True creativity is being thwarted because can nobody retain credit for their products - because productivity comes in contributions to the hive instead of individual authorship, media is circulated in context-free fragments without reference to the original, the structure of the internet fosters anonymity, and because it's tough for people to get paid for original content that's available in digital form (eg. piracy). All this leads to the devaluation of individual humans. I'm not going to argue that these things are going on. What Lanier has failed to do, however, is make me give a crap about it. He calls himself a humanist, but he sounds more like an individualist to me. (Yes, I did choose to use the hive-created Wikipedia articles for these links out of spite). I'm not an expert in these ideas, but it seems to me that Lanier assumes individual humanity is of more importance than collective humanity, and his whole argument is based on this premise. I'm not sure I agree. Lanier believes individual or small group efforts are superior to hive efforts, and that we're losing something by having a system that supports the latter more than the former. He seems to blame the lack of creativity in our culture on the structure of the internet. To me, that's like blaming alcoholism on the chemical structure of alcohol.
Poor Jaron. He had dreams, and we've destroyed them by co-opting his internet and using it to make captioned photos of cats (and authors) without any credit or money given to the persons who took the photos. This just isn't how he wanted things to work out. And Virtual Reality was supposed to be a huge thing by now!
My uneducated answer to Jaron Lanier is this: SO EFFING WHAT. Nobody gets to decide the path of humanity's (and humanity's collective creations) evolution. We are "locked-in" to having two arms and legs, but nobody's complaining about that. Or wait a second, you sort of ARE. Lanier talks about how virtual reality (if only someone would make it affordable, lament, lament), can give us extra appendages, or turn us into a blob. I'm sure being part cloud is as mind-blowing as he makes it sound. Does anyone else find it ironic that Lanier is against "cybernetic totalism" while at the same time is fascinated with digitizing his whole physical experience? Lanier is afraid these dreams of his will never come true because the internet and program design constraints are grinding creativity to a halt. And we haven't even been able to invent smell-o-vision yet!
Necessity is the mother of invention. Obviously, as a group, we haven't yet needed to change things the way Lanier wants to change them. Therefore, the collective intelligence of computer-using humanity is inferior to the individual intelligence of Lanier. Maybe he IS a visionary. He certainly envisions a lot of things. Some of which (like the Songle idea) seem ridiculous and untenable to my non-genius yet still critical-thinking mind. I guess there's nothing for Lanier to do but keep stroking his disgruntled and disappointed individual ego (I can imagine it's hard to contemplate giving up attention to yourself when you're an awesome unique creative inter-disciplinary genius) and wait for the hive to decide it doesn't like being a hive anymore. Or maybe the hive keeps on hiving, and someone can make crappy YouTube feature called Last Individual Standing: The Singularity vs. Jaron Lanier.
I like the ideas in this book, I'm just not sure how scientifically valid the author's research and conclusions are. It's also quite out of date, and...moreI like the ideas in this book, I'm just not sure how scientifically valid the author's research and conclusions are. It's also quite out of date, and it would be interesting to see an updated version of this argument.(less)
A very honest, down to earth and in your face discussion of Zen. Part memoir, part explanation, totally refreshing. I wasn't a huge fan of the persona...moreA very honest, down to earth and in your face discussion of Zen. Part memoir, part explanation, totally refreshing. I wasn't a huge fan of the personal stories about punk rock and making monster movies, but the rest was highly readable. It's rare to find a book on Buddhism this bullshit-free. Well done!(less)
This book is a collection of "biopolitical" essays on how the concept of health has been hijacked by various forces. It wasn't what I expected, but it...moreThis book is a collection of "biopolitical" essays on how the concept of health has been hijacked by various forces. It wasn't what I expected, but it was still valuable. The essays were written by intellectual academics and sometimes - ok often - went over my head, but the main idea is that what we call "health" is a lot more complex, cultural, political and sociological than we could ever imagine. (less)
I read this straight through in about 3 hours. It was probably a lot funnier when it first came out in 1998. Still, it was amusing, and unexpected eno...moreI read this straight through in about 3 hours. It was probably a lot funnier when it first came out in 1998. Still, it was amusing, and unexpected enough to keep me reading.(less)