[Humanist] 31.264 as if doomsday

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Aug 29 07:48:12 CEST 2017

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 31, No. 264.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 29 Aug 2017 06:37:06 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: determinism and the shallows

Without having read Nicholas Carr's The Shallows: What the Internet Is 
Doing to Our Brains, reported by Amazon as finalist for the 2011 
Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction and praised as "a Silent Spring for 
the literary mind" (Michael Agger, Slate), no critical judgment is 
possible. But the ease with which this book thus known slides into the 
category of tiresome doomsday pronouncements raises suspicions if 
not hackles. I'm nevertheless stirred to comment by the evident 
determinism in the subtitle. I am tempted to say that anyone whose 
brain is that passive deserves whatever damage the internet inflicts on 
him or her. Perhaps, now, survival of evolutionary struggle will depend on 
doing more than twittering and facebooking oneself into mindlessness? 
See Charlie Brooker's "Nosedive", Black Mirror, Season 3 
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nosedive) for a taste of that possible future.

Technological determinism is a serious philosophical problem. But to 
focus on just one half of the co-evolutionary cycle of us and our 
inventions is to help realise the story that Carr's book's title implies. 
Or so it seems to me.

My thanks to Marinella Testori for alerting me to the book.


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor emeritus, Department of
Digital Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western
Sydney University and North Carolina State University; Editor,
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20)

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