Ron's Reviews > Everything Bad is Good for You

Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson
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's review
Aug 07, 2011

did not like it
Read in February, 2011

A blurb from Malcolm Gladwell promises shallow analysis and pseudo-intellectual posturing, and Johnson doesn't disappoint. His failure is a stated desire to diagram and not decode, which closes his argument to qualitative judgement. Like Gladwell, Johnson dresses up old concepts like subliminal forms (Sleeper Curve and Collateral Learning) and exploration and foresight (probing and telescoping) in pretty new clothes to appear to offer new insight, instead stretching the limits of credibility in his zeal to rationalize modern media as the reason for a recent apparent (it is false) jump in IQ.

The problem here is that games are closed systems with an internal logic that has no correlation to the real world (he complains that novels are the realm of the author's mind, while failing to see the same in these puzzle makers). He fails to see the falseness of these 'interactions' and offers no valid research from neuroscience (all of which argues that games are damaging to brain function) and relies often on quotes from Henry Jenkins, who is notable for having no scientific credentials as a Comm Arts professor.

Johnson claims that baseball dice simulations caused him to think in powerful new ways, but he fails to see that the content of violent games will have the same subliminal effect on the player that he purports the structure of the game (citing McLuhan on the medium being the message) will have on logic and our thinking capacity. I could go on endlessly about his absurd assertions about urban life being more complex than rural (tell that to a microbiologist) or his failure to make the proper connections about the popularity of Dickens (it was a less literate, more impoverished age where perhaps 10 people read each book, which would make it the equal in popularity of a show that draws 10 million viewers), but we should just end all of this by recognizing that he sees no harm in how these entertainments churn out soulless logic-based automatons who are ripe to be plugged into the corporate matrix and are incapable of human interaction. In the words of the gamer geeks: EPIC FAIL.

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