Friday, June 17, 2011

Is The Internet Changing The Way You Think? The Net's Impact on Our Minds and Future / edited by John Brockman; w/ Introduction by W. Daniel Hillis is an online community and independently organized think tank which keeps tabs on some of the more important intellectual issues of the day. Every year the organization poses a question to a some of the world's smartest individuals and publishes the responses. Since 2005, each question and answer series has led to a book. In 2010 it was  "Is the Internet changing the way you think?" and, as expected, the results from the over 150 respondents, all of them qualified intellectuals mostly in the math and science fields, provided a sizable amount of philosophical and cognitively astute analysis.

Though each segment is obviously backed up by solidly well-concieved ideas, the contributions become redundant after the first few responses. The thinkers get kind of dense as they plow through lots of socratically-tinged postulations, going into elaborative explanations which neither give a direct answer or offer a concise analysis. In more than a few cases, they actually ask a new question ("the question we should be asking is . . .") and proceed to answer it in equally dense, rambling fashion. It's a book which is more amusing (at least at first) than informative though it will inevitably attract readers of a more philosophical bend to scrutinize some of the content. The most interesting response? Maybe the poetically inclined statement of Italian architect Stefano Boeri who begins with the words, "internet is wind", and rallies his abstract assessment in equally metaphorical fashion by stating that "this wind becomes precious occasions to understand what we cannot say, what we are not willing to deposit in the forum of planetary simultaneity." Uh huh? (004.678 IS)

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