Saturday, May 26, 2012

Life Changing Ideas

The cover story of the March 12, 2012, issue of Time magazine was a  fascinating list of “10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life.” Each one of these big ideas is worth further study. Here are just two that I have been thinking about for a while.

“Your Head is in the Cloud”

This means that, faced with the reality of more information than our brains can handle, “we’re increasingly handing off the job of remembering to search engines and smart phones” (p.64). As the article explains, this has both an upside and a downside.

In the chilling short story, The Machine Stops, written in 1909 by E.M. Forster, the author depicts a world in which people are totally reliant on the "Machin". His descriptions include things that eerily seem to predict iPad and Skype —“…the round plate that she held in her hands began to glow…and presently she could see the image of her son, who lived on the other side of the earth, and he could see her.” As the title of the story suggests, things don’t go so well.

After reading Forster’s ideas about the pros and cons of living with our heads in the Cloud, you might be interested in what modern writers have to say. Many science fiction writers have tackled these ideas in their novels but if you’d rather read non-fiction, here are some titles to choose from:

Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob by Lee Siegel

Googled: The End of the World as We Know It by Ken Auletta

The Googlization of Everything (and Why We Should Worry) by Siva Vaidhyanathan

and by David Weinberger

Everything is Miscellaneous: the Power of the New Digital Disorder and

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room is the Room

“The Rise of the Nones”

The "Nones" are people who respond to questions about affiliation with organized religion as “none.” They are not necessarily atheist or agnostic, but have turned away from organized religion to seek other fulfilling, and sometimes unorthodox ways, to build spiritual lives.

From the deism expressed by Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Priestley to modern secular humanism, the quest for a life of the spirit outside of organized religion is a fascinating study.

The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth of America by Steven Johnson

Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe by Greg M. Epstein

Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris

Happy reading.


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