Techdirt Reading List: Smarter Than You Think

from the the-opposite-of-luddism dept

We’re back again with another in our weekly reading list posts of books we think our community will find interesting and thought provoking. Once again, buying the book via the Amazon links in this story also help support Techdirt.

Every few years, it seems, someone comes out with a neo-Luddite screed about how technology is terrible and making us all stupid and anti-social. Almost every single time this happens, the warnings and dire predictions prove to be false and misunderstood. This year’s flavor is longtime tech skeptic Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation, which is based off of the slightly questionable premise that (1) tech-based communications are somehow less real than in-person conversations and (2) people don’t actually know how to have conversations today. I question both premises, and that’s why this week’s book on the Techdirt reading list is actually discussing the other side of this. It’s Clive Thompson’s absolutely wonderful Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better. It’s basically the antidote to the Sherry Turkles and Nick Carrs and Jaron Laniers of the world insisting that tech is somehow dumbing us down.

Thompson’s book goes through the history of similar technopanics from the past, and detailing how they all turned out to be wrong. And, more importantly, he provides tons of evidence to support the idea that technology is actually quite beneficial. Thompson is also a really skilled writer, and the book is a really enjoyable read overall. The book is full of interesting and entertaining examples and stories — and then backed up with solid details and research to show that it’s not just a bunch of anecdotes. If you’re getting tired of just hearing about how technology is making us dumber, maybe pick up this book that shows how it’s actually making us smarter.

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Comments on “Techdirt Reading List: Smarter Than You Think”

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7 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Luddite movement was social protest against emerging mercantilism not against machines as such.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite

Ignore the surrounding blather by capitalist revisionists, here’s the key quote:

The Luddites’ goal was to gain a better bargaining position with their employers. They were not afraid of technology per se, but were “labour strategists”.

And of course The Rich were able to call in the army of inherited tyrants to brutally suppress what YOU now regard as ordinary labor fairness. To capitalist YOU TOO are mere machines to be used and discarded when no longer productive…

So, college boy, you’ve yet again proved your own Ivy League mis-educated self to be mere elitist indoctrinated dope and enemy of laborers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Luddite movement was social protest against emerging mercantilism not against machines as such.

I will admit, there’s a delicious irony to the misuse of the term Luddite in a post about how the internet makes us smarter. Because, you know, one could just look up the term on the internet and dispel their ignorance.

The Luddites were opposed to the use of technology to exploit workers, in much the same way that current technology is used to keep employees “always on” and responsible for answering emails when they’re home and, ideally, off the clock.

No need to get vitriolic, though. Most people are mis-informed on this topic.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Luddite movement was social protest against emerging mercantilism not against machines as such.

I will admit, there’s a delicious irony to the misuse of the term Luddite in a post about how the internet makes us smarter. Because, you know, one could just look up the term on the internet and dispel their ignorance.

Meh.

1. I have a degree in labor relations, which included many, many, many semesters of labor history, including digging more deeply into the original “luddites” than you’d care to imagine (though it was interesting).

2. I didn’t use the term “luddites” I used the term “neo-luddites” which is a generally accepted term for modern anti-tech thinkers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Luddism).

The post was perfectly accurate. The comment is from someone who thinks that he knows things about me when he really, really does not (it’s kind of funny how far off from the truth he is…).

OGquaker (profile) says:

When the web that we weave is complete

After the destruction all the English family farms & exporting the food of Ireland at the point of a gun, a newfangled ‘Job’ was the only way anyone could eat. Then ‘improved’ machines forced ‘labor’ into penury. Parliament wrote a new law overnight, and 25 Luddites were executed by hanging.
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Job

SONG FOR THE LUDDITES

By Lord Byron December 24, 1816 ( First published 1830 )

1. As the liberty lads o’er the sea

Bought their freedom, and cheaply, with blood,

So we, boys, we

Will die fighting, or live free,

And down with all kings but King Ludd !

2. When the web that we weave is complete,

And the shuttle exchanged for the sword,

We will fling the winding sheet

O’er the despot at our feet,

And dye it deep in the gore he has poured.

3. Though black as his heart its hue,

Since his veins are corrupted to mud,

Yet this is the dew

Which the tree shall renew

Of Liberty, planted by Ludd !

GEMont (profile) says:

If you can't beat 'em, steal their ball and hide it.

It’s basically the antidote to the Sherry Turkles and Nick Carrs and Jaron Laniers of the world insisting that tech is somehow dumbing us down.

Actually, technology makes the folks above feel dumber, because they can no longer talk down to kids and most other adults, and in fact, are talked down to BY kids and most other adults.

They just want to stop the “smart”, because they can’t catch up.

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