reading technology writing

The Ascent of Man

Jacob Bronowski’s magnum opus is an affectionate and literary hat-tip to our species. In the forward of the book, he shares the story by which the BBC contacted him to create a television companion piece to parrot concepts lovingly expressed in the book. Through this story, Bronowski offers a comparative lens through which ideas are deployed through television:

“Television is an admirable medium for exposition in several ways: powerful and immediate to the eye, able to take the spectator boldly into the places and processes that are described, and conversational enough to make him conscious that what he witnesses are not events but the actions of people.

“It is addressed to two or three people in a room, as a conversation face to face—a one-sided conversation for the most part, as the book is, but homely and Socratic nonetheless. The printed book has one added freedom beyond this: it is not remorselessly bound to the forward direction of time, as any spoken discourse is.”

Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man

reading technology writing


I woke up early this morning. Apparently, one of the doldrums of age is losing the ability to sleep in on the weekends. It’s a bit of a bummer, but not entirely worthless. So I decided to finish reading Neil Postman’s Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. It’s an excellent book piecing through and connecting the larger abstracts of modern day culture. Technopoly is an idea book with an entirely different form of narrative, ending on the following notes:

“Those who resist the American Technopoly are people:

• who refuse to accept efficiency as the pre-eminent goal of human relations;

• who have freed themselves from the belief of the magical power of numbers, do not regard calculation as an adequate substitute for judgment, or precision as a synonym for truth;

• who are, at least, suspicious of the idea of progress, and who do not confuse information with understanding.”

Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

Technopoly is written by Postman as a rallying cry. His concern is a peripheral cultural subversion by way of our inescapable drive towards the technology of numbers. We often use statistical analysis to determine the direction towards success without often considering the myriad factors that co-opt that success. Numbers are the beginning of wisdom, not its end.

To illustrate this, Postman offers various examples, the most poignant of which involves politics. So enamored are politicians with polling that they often allow those numbers to drive decision-making (for a cogent example, refer to the 2016 United States election). If that is, in fact, the case why do we need politicians? We are electing them to lead society, yet the decision-making process has devolved into simple numbers assessments. Policy by polling. Where, in this equation, is the leadership? Where is the vision?

reading writing

On Reading

“I had accidentally discovered one of the great disadvantages of books (a medium that is not exactly short on disadvantages at the moment). There is no team of brilliant and vaguely sinister engineers, cooking up ways to get you binge reading. There is no auto-play technology frictionlessly delivering you from one chapter of the novel you’re reading to the next.

There is only you, alone in the silence of your room with a chapter break before you and your phone cooing at you from the dresser.” 

Ben Dolnick, Author and Opinion Columnist, New York Times