Saturday, October 22, 2016

UTOPIA IS CREEPY by Nicholas Carr

UTOPIA IS CREEPY by Nicholas Carr is a great collection of essays by the Pulitzer Prize finalist from his blog Rough Type and elsewhere. The subjects are wide, including social media, advertising, corporate spying, computers, and artificial intelligence. As everyone knows, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram represent but the surface tension of a Googlized public which more often prefers to live online rather than in real life. The internet and endless new television shows have taken over our culture (along with music boasting vapid lyrics), and these provide an alternate world in which we validate our identity by sharing likes and posts, gain an ego boost, and…get dumber and more anxious? That wasn’t part of the deal, but studies have shown that depression is prevalent among those whose life is lived online the most. Real reading is being reduced to one-liners on Twitter. Entire election campaigns are now run there, with slogans substituting for actually reading biographies of the principals, written by professionals or even independents. On Youtube one person’s opinion is as good as another’s, and you can be shouted down for introducing logic or the scientific method. What happens when the dumbing down is complete? Something creepy, and far from Utopia. Interestingly, Carr also talks about self driving cars: in Silicon Valley one of the fav pastimes is driving race cars on private tracks, while they engineer hands-free cars for us. The motive is to drive us to distraction by limiting the time we "waste" NOT on our devices (even in traffic.) Any time reading or contemplating things is lost to them, too, and their profit depends on our surfing the web as much as possible, "leaving crumbs of data along the way." The "information superhighway" can replace the real one with self-driving vehicles.   Narrated by voice actor and fourth-degree black belt Steve Menasche, the audiobook shows that “resistance is never futile,” although mere “likes” are, like, meaningless. Science may win in the end, but only if a new Dark Age can be avoided, with its static culture and burning of books (or any people with new ideas.) Listening to audiobooks beats frustration or Top 40, and also can become your own resistance. AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH. 

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