Stevie Kincade's Reviews > But What If We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past

But What If We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It ... by Chuck Klosterman
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really liked it
bookshelves: published-2016, reviewed, audiobooks

I don't always read non-SF/F but when I do, I like to make sure it's the kind of non-fiction that makes me incredibly annoying at parties. God, you should have seen me the year I read Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink", I could hammer the thought-candy from that book into any conversation about anything at all.

Gladwell's premise is that throughout history we have been completely wrong about everything SO, what things that we accept as completely true now, will we look back on in 500 years and laugh at?

He asks this question about pretty much all my favourite subjects: Science, Music, Books and TV. Then, just in case he thought he might lose me, he touches on my other favourite subjects: The singularity, Simulation theory, the phantom time hypothesis and the role of DMT in consciousness.

Well thank you Chuck! You might have lost me otherwise!

If we won't be alive in 300 or a thousand years, what difference would it make if we are unknowingly wrong about everything, much less anything? Isn't being right for the sake of being right pretty much the only possible motive for any attempt at thinking about today from the imagined vantage point of tomorrow? If it turns out that the citizens of 2216 have forgotten the Beatles while remembering the Butthole Surfers, what difference will that make to all the dead people from the 20th century who never saw it coming?

/nods head while thinking nice Butthole Surfers reference Chuck!

The stakes here are not super high although the issue of climate change is touched on briefly.
In Klosterman's own words he describes being wrong about most issues as detrimental not dangerous. This is the kind of pop culture philosophy that will have you spouting its ideas to your friends as they stroke their carefully manicured facial hair in deep thought while drinking a kale shake. Klosterman avoids the sort of stoner-wondering of Dude, dude, like what if the red that YOU see is NOT the red that I See ...Eell....actually he DOES wonder this but he does it more eloquently! (and it is not the worst question to ask).

Klosterman isn't interested in guessing what things we underrate now will become important in the future. He instead looks to the past at how paradigm shifts caused the art of prior generations to be viewed in an entirely different light and what this could mean going forward. Herman Melville didn't know there was a world war coming. After it did, his books became interpreted through a new filter and he went from also-ran to literary giant. It was fascinating looking at who the literary critics of the 1920's thought were the important writers and poets and then who became important and remembered and why.

In one amusing passage Klosterman asks us to imagine for a moment that ancient Egypt had television and we just unearthed the entire archive. He makes the point that the thing we would be MOST interested in the national news, then the local news, then the advertisements. The thing we would be LEAST interested in is "Prestige Egyptian drama" whatever that may have been.

This leads Klosterman to ask What is the realist fake thing we have ever made on purpose?

I am familiar with Klosterman mainly through his appearances on Bill Simmon's podcast. I added this to my "to read" list after hearing Klosterman talk about these ideas in depth on Maron's WTF podcast. I like Klosterman's manic, rapid fire way of speaking (particularly at 1.5x speed) so I was a bit disappointed he only read the introduction and afterward for the audiobook. The narrator was fine but a non fiction audiobook is just yknow - reading.

I am not really sure how to rate nonfiction but if you love to think and argue about culture then I can highly recommend you check this one out. Just stay away from me at parties.
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Reading Progress

November 16, 2016 – Started Reading
November 16, 2016 – Shelved
November 18, 2016 –
50.0%
November 21, 2016 – Finished Reading
November 23, 2016 – Shelved as: published-2016
November 23, 2016 – Shelved as: reviewed
November 23, 2016 – Shelved as: audiobooks

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Ruiner (new)

Ruiner Good review, sounds interesting... but you can't tell me 2620ers on the island of Jesper (formerly Japan before the gloabal warming consumed it into an island the size of Maui) won't think Game Of Thrones is the greatest thing on earth.


Stevie Kincade lol and in the 16th century everyone was sure Christopher Marlowe was the playwright who would go down as the greatest in history ;)


message 3: by Erik (new)

Erik What's fascinating to me as well is how this process is accelerating - the process being paradigm shifts (or "LOAR" Law of Accelerating Returns - a term you may be familiar with if you know about the Singularity).

Probably at no other point in history has there been a larger gap between the current and upcoming generations. Most of my students think their teachers are kinda dumb - and they're not wrong. The teachers think they know what's up, but in terms of their students, they don't.

For example, taking cellphones away from students is now a serious handicap as the fusion of man and machine (in that particular form) is all but complete in today's generation. They *NEED* their smartphone & access to the internet - such an avenue of knowledge is part of their very identities. In some sense, it's where they store their knowledge. Any education now that is not hybrid internet + person is woefully behind the times... which is almost every form of education.


Stevie Kincade Erik wrote: "What's fascinating to me as well is how this process is accelerating - the process being paradigm shifts (or "LOAR" Law of Accelerating Returns

Yes well said, he mentions this in the book comparing the cultural cache of the Sex Pistols and the Bee Gees. Originally the Bee Gees were topping the charts and a few snotty nosed kids cared about the Sex Pistols. Then it swung the other way and we looked down on the vapid disco era and admired the FU aesthetic of the SP. It mostly stayed that way until recently when the relevance of swearing on television waned and the rise of gay culture and disco's evolution into dance music and hiphop has made the modern generation more likely to care about the Bee Gees again.


message 5: by Erik (new)

Erik Stevie wrote: "Erik wrote: "What's fascinating to me as well is how this process is accelerating - the process being paradigm shifts (or "LOAR" Law of Accelerating Returns

Yes well said, he mentions this in the..."


Not sure I understand how the author's example is related to LOAR, which isn't really about cultural cycles. Unless these paradigm shifts between popular music styles were occurring more rapidly?

My point is that we are wrong in thinking about the present as if it's the past. We're even MORE wrong when thinking about the future as if it were the present - because humanity / culture / technology is evolving at an ever increasing rate.

So for example, when hearing about predictions for 2040 or 2050, skeptics like to respond with, "Well look what Back to the Future (in 1985) predicted 2015 would look like! Where's our hoverboards and flying cars?"

Which misses the point that if (to arbitrarily choose a number) TEN units of change occurred between 1985 and 2015, then FIFTY units of change will occur between 2015 and 2045.


Stevie Kincade Erik wrote: "Stevie wrote: "Erik wrote: "What's fascinating to me as well is how this process is accelerating - the process being paradigm shifts (or "LOAR" Law of Accelerating Returns

Yes well said, he menti..."


Ya sorry poorly expressed by me there.

we are wrong in thinking about the present as if it's the past. We're even MORE wrong when thinking about the future as if it were the present Almost these exact words are in the book!


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