In the Skin of Culture Kerckhove presents some deeply insightful ideas on the way our technologies influence our psychology, especially regarding theIn the Skin of Culture Kerckhove presents some deeply insightful ideas on the way our technologies influence our psychology, especially regarding the technology we call the alphabet. I found those sections of the book much more compelling than the ones speculating on how VR, and the Internet will affect us, though there are some great points.
My favorite was is description of how currently we think in terms of "point-of-view" which, he claims, is possible because of the externalization of thought in the form of the written word. But, that was erased by television which literally (pun intended) removes any point of view because it provides you with a single external constructed view point which you must follow along. And now, with networked computers should be replaced by the idea of "point-of-being." This is necessary in a world where our the network extends our bodies such that our point-of-view is multiple and global. And yet we still have a "point-of-being."
This book is hilarious. I was laughing out loud. The very best part is the section on the research paper that showed how a dead fish could recognize eThis book is hilarious. I was laughing out loud. The very best part is the section on the research paper that showed how a dead fish could recognize emotion of human faces presented to it. I nearly split my side. Fantastic presentation of statistical ideas, among many others.
If math scares you, well, read it anyway, it's worth it....more
If you like romantic comedies, read this one. It's lovely, all the characters are likable, yet not too perfect. It's not too smarmy, it's funny, movesIf you like romantic comedies, read this one. It's lovely, all the characters are likable, yet not too perfect. It's not too smarmy, it's funny, moves along at a good clip with a great conciet driving it....more
I found The Circle rather weird. The story telling felt compelling, and quite page turning. I ploughed through quite quickly because I really wanted tI found The Circle rather weird. The story telling felt compelling, and quite page turning. I ploughed through quite quickly because I really wanted to know what would happen next. But fundamentally the book amounts to that genre of writing that should probably be called "straw-man fiction." I.e. when the author creates a world and characters to fill it, that make it just too easy for them to hammer home some point.
The point being, in this case, that centralized Big Data and gamification equals Danger Will Robinson!. It tries to follow in the dystopian footsteps of Orwell, more as an origin story for a future dystopia rather than that dismal place already arrived at. In the course of the book Eggers even gives us some of those Orwellian X is Y opposition formulations, to make this clear; in this case things like "Privacy is Theft," and "Secrets are Lies"
Eggers demonstrates lots of writing skill, creating a compelling near future world, a hero I really wanted to root for, good plot twists and, some decent character development, but, after getting through it, I feel like it ended up all painted on a kind of hollywood movie set.
Plenty of sci-fi worlds are built for the author's polemic ends, so that fact by itself didn't bug me. What did: the "straw-man" effect of conveniently ignoring things. For example: we are treated to a bunch of scenes in which the celebrity leaders of the GoogTwitInstaBook hegemony (The Circle) gather together the faithful employees for pep-rally type intros of new company products and directions. These scenes both depict, and follow tight scripts, with only one inexorable outcome: the sheeple abasing themselves before the God of the cool next thing. But where is the dissent? Especially, where is the dissent among the supposedly best and brightest who work at The Circle? It just doesn't ring true, and seems like a conveniently ignored item.
I'm also not complaining about this because I don't agree with Eggers' point. I do think there are plenty of real and serious dangers in Big Data, gamification and social media. It's just that book didn't really try to delve into the deep and interesting questions about how we might navigate through the downsides of these technologies toward their benefits. It just slugs us with impending dystopia.
Here's another example: one of the developments in the plot is the addition of "going clear" in which people (starting with politicians) stream audio and video of themselves pretty much 24x7 as a statement of "I don't have anything to hide." Of course the "pretty-much" means that they turn the cams off for 3 min in the bathroom, and (usually) at night. So, of course, some of the characters who've gone clear meet in the bathroom to talk during those few minutes of privacy. In the story, these moments are important for the conversations that happen there, but not in and of themselves. If only the book had been been called "The Bathroom" told us the story of a society in which bathrooms where the only place that privacy was possible, and we ended up with larger and larger bathrooms, where we spent more and more time... That's the kind of a place a seasoned sci-fi author would have gone, and would have produced a much more interesting book to my taste.
All that said, The Circle was a fun read, and certainly food for thought, but only as a light meal....more
For a geeky guy like me, this book gave me a good time. I liked the author's back story too, self-published, free distribution in e-book form as longFor a geeky guy like me, this book gave me a good time. I liked the author's back story too, self-published, free distribution in e-book form as long as you don't make money on it, etc.
On to the book. Here's the deal: if you like way way sciency-science-fiction, and you like hacking in your garage on Arduino fix-it problems, and if you like gardening because you want to see how many calories you an produce in your 10sq meter plot, and you made things that went bang with your chemistry set when you were a kid, well then you'll find all of that in this book, plus more. Did I forget the math and orbital mechanics? Oh yeah... that too.
The gist: you get to follow our accidentally abandoned on Mars, and very plucky, McGuiverish hero through one close shave after another in his attempt to stay alive. How much fun is that? Lots.
However, if you only like large world build-building sci-fi, or space Opera, or if for you a story isn't a story without substantial character development, then this one probably won't satisfy. Our hero starts out plucky, middles plucky and ends plucky. When things go wrong: "I'm f**ed! no wait, I did some math and can make it work!" Rinse, wash, repeat. Mind you I'm not saying that like it's a bad thing.
The Martian reads kind of like a Joplin ragtime. Up-beat, up-tempo, and lots of fun.
This book is just great fun. It's got adventure, romance, political philosophy, intrigue, fun tech, and even some great literary references. My favoriThis book is just great fun. It's got adventure, romance, political philosophy, intrigue, fun tech, and even some great literary references. My favorite part is the J. Alfred Prufrock robot crab....more
Great fun. Love to have 1000 pages to sink into. Of course the message of safety through crypto is essentially flawed, but at least true wealth is recGreat fun. Love to have 1000 pages to sink into. Of course the message of safety through crypto is essentially flawed, but at least true wealth is recognized in the book by the character Goto near the end....more
This is one of the books that helped me understand that money is a human invention, and not natural mechanism, and that was a step toward my current wThis is one of the books that helped me understand that money is a human invention, and not natural mechanism, and that was a step toward my current work and passion....more
Not as compelling as the City of Ember. It's less mysterious, and the lack of a fully developed culture for both the people of Sparks and the EmberiteNot as compelling as the City of Ember. It's less mysterious, and the lack of a fully developed culture for both the people of Sparks and the Emberites is more difficult to swallow in this sequel....more