Updated May 5, 2023
“The computer–the coolest [a la Marshall McLuhan] of all machines.” Jed Perl, “The Chilliest Mystique,” New York Review of Books (May 11, 2023)
We always live at the mercy of a system. –from Douglas Rushkoff, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, p. 5.
“We reject: kings, presidents, and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code.” attributed to David Dana “Dave” Clark, computer scientist and Internet pioneer
An Unexpected Turn of Events
A sudden shock of rain in Bologna that pours
quite literally just like a storm on the frigid sea
way up north. Scarcely a drop and it instantly
devastates the plan on the face of a tourist,
furrows with skill the up-to-now concealed
map of the homeland: clear cuts, pastures, barren tracts,
a swollen storm front looming above the atlas,
a tractor meant for rescue stuck up to its axle.
The legs of a girl who happens to be sheltering
by chance under this same colonnade—
from atop her knee a drop admires the leg’s cascade,
a spyglass sent from heaven by our great voyeur.
The drop reflects what he demands of the world,
everything set in a dance under the stars,
but only briefly—according to the laws of gravity
the daisies await the drop impatiently.
You gotta move!–to the Internet, from “You Gotta Move,” The Rolling Stones
“the necessary ignorance // to go forward, to trust” April Bernard, “Sithens in a Net”
Nothing is “created;” everything evolves.
“There are no mental causes” Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Gods, in Walter Kaufmann, editor and translator, The Portable Nietzsche (Penguin, 1954), p. 495.
`”A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because the opponents die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.'” Max Plank, quoted in Marshall and Eric McLuhan, Laws of Media, p. 42.
When we understand more, we fear less. from Marie Curie
“no tragedy as heartrending as introspection” Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography, p. 432.
“Time and experience . . . alter all perspectives” Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography, p. 25.
“America’s greatest philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce“ George Gilder, Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy, p. 104
The center will not hold and the extremes strengthen. Dec 24, 2021
“The truth is that being human is being animal.” Melanie Challenger, How to Be Animal: A New History of What It Means to Be Human, quoted in John Gray, “The Mind’s Body Problem,” New York Review of Books, Dec 2, 2021, p. 18.
“Denial of mortality fuels religion.”John Gray, “The Mind’s Body Problem,” New York Review of Books, Dec 2, 2021, p. 20.
“Cyberspace is a projection from a material infrastructure.” John Gray, “The Mind’s Body Problem,” New York Review of Books, Dec 2, 2021, p. 20.
We are all just a mouse and a modem away from a world that sees everything very differently than we do. From Farhad Manjoo, True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society, p. 5
“So long as external variables go unnoticed or ignored, their function is assigned to an originating agent within the organism.” B. F. Skinner, Science and Human Behavior, p. 283
Peace, if you want it; power, if you can get it.
“Geography shapes character” Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World
“digital reality is just as real as the stuff that hurts our knees when we bump into it” Steve Levy, Wired
“The medium is the massage.” Marshall McLuhan
“The medium is the message.” Marshall McLuhan
“Motives? . . . . with them you go into the labyrinth, not into the light.” Arthur Bentley
“tolerance today, is in many of its most effective manifestations serving the cause of oppression.” Herbert Marcuse
The need for charity demonstrates the deficiency of the economic system.
“There are no true stories; there are only facts, and the stories we tell ourselves about those facts.” Becky Cooper, We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence, quoted by Joyce Carole Oats, “Chronicle of a Death Ignored,” New York Review of Books (Feb. 11, 2021), p. 32.
Most people aren’t unintelligent, but many have interests different than ours.
We can’t think outside the box.
“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.” Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, p. 293.
“Wikipedia . . . publicly automates topical consensus” Benjamin Bratton, The Stack, p. 125
“Politics offers yesterday’s answers to today’s questions.” Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is the Massage, p. 22.
“Individuals are blamed for difficulties even though the workforce has little control over conditions that affect performance.” John R. Schultz, “The System Is the Solution,” Quality Progress (November 2014), p. 40.
We live in “a switched-on universe for which no off-switch exists.” Jonathan Crary, 24/7, p. 30.
“the long-foretold and longer-postponed eclipse of the nation-state” Benjamin Bratton, The Stack, p. 4.
“`the measure of a just society is its prisons and mental hospitals`” Andrea Dworkin, quoted in Martin Duberman, Andrea Dworkin: The Feminist as Revolutionary, p. 63.
“There is no possible protection from technology except by technology.” Marshall McLuhan, On the Nature of Media: Essays, 1952-1978, p. 119.
“[Marshall] McLuhan’s prescient 50-year-old `probes’ (he called his ideas probes) into how technology would change behavior are still significantly more insightful than almost every `thought-provoking’ TED Talk.” Jamie Bartlett, The People Vs Tech, p. 50
“media barrage is a form of unofficial education” Phillip Meggs, explaining Marshall McLuhan in, “Introduction to the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition,” Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride, p. xi.
“Programmers [coders] are . . . among the most quietly influential people on the planet” Clive Thompson, Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World, p. 11
“What if he is right?” Tom Wolfe, commenting on Marshall McLuhan, back cover of Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, Critical Edition
Passion should be avoided.
“`The technology will be [is?] so good, it will be very hard [impossible?] for people to watch or consume something that has not been tailored for them.'” Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, 2001-2011, quoted in Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble. p. 47.
Freedom is an illusion; control, the reality.
“One wonders if, as networks continue to propagate, there will remain any sense of an`outside,‘ a nonconnected locale from which we may view this phenomenon and ponder it critically.” Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, The Exploit, p. 26.
“We should be done once and for all with the search for an outside.” Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, p. 46.
We live in a post-truth era, where facts are subordinate to interests.
Only mothers love and they love only their children.
Online is not virtual reality; it is reality.
Nothing is free, everything is contingent.
“Program or be programmed” Douglas Rushkoff
When we say something is complex we mean not understood–as yet. (borrowed from Rae Armantrout, “Cathexis”)
What’s complex for one person is a piece of cake for another.
Complexity is another word for ignorance.
Complexity is a state of mind, it’s what’s not understood.
“technological capabilities are advancing more rapidly than government’s capacity to apply privacy principles rooted in the Constitution and other federal law” Andrew C. McCarthy, Ball of Collusion, (Encounter Books, 2019), p. 81.
Focus on the present, rather than on the past or the future
“the Internet . . . has . . . become the central organ of contemporary life.” Jia Tolentino, quoted in Jonathan Lethem, “Snowden in the Labyrinth,” New York Review of Books, 10/24/19, p. 33.
“Deletion has never existed.” Edward Snowden, quoted in Jonathan Lethem, “Snowden in the Labyrinth,” New York Review of Books, 10/24/19, p. 28.
“Ideology camouflages self-interest as principle.” Clay Shirky, reviewing Gretchen McCulloch, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, in New York Times, 9/1/2019
Experience influences behavior. “Everyone experiences far more than he [she] understands . Yet it is experience rather than understanding that influences behavior.” Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 424.
“A moral point of view too often serves as a substitute for understanding in technological matters.” Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 327.
The American voting “system . . . uses 19th century technology to implement ideas from the 18th century” Will Brunch, Chicago Tribune
“A new medium [e.g., the Internet] is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peace.” Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 237.
“the double blind [women are in]: to be childless, and therefore less important than a mother; or to be a mother, and therefore less important than one’s children.” Sally Rooney, reviewing Sheila Heti’s, Motherhood, London Review of Books, 8/30/2018, p. 35.
“Each new technology creates an environment that is itself regarded as corrupt and degrading.” Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, Critical Edition, p. 13.
“News is not what happened but a story about what happened.” Robert Danton, reviewing Lee McIntyre, Post-Truth, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/06/28/fantasyland-bunk-greatest-show-on-earth/
“Facebook uses algorithms to feed us news that we will like.” Robert Danton, reviewing Lee McIntyre, Post-Truth, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/06/28/fantasyland-bunk-greatest-show-on-earth/
“the industrial complex continues to generate wealth, but not prosperity” Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution, 2016, Portfolio/Penguin, p. 93.
Government is not a service.
Don’t use metaphors. Don’t say what something is like, say what it is.
“if I were born and reared under the same circumstances as any other known humans, I would have behaved much as they have.” R. Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path, p. x
“`If you are a regular PayPal customer, we know you. And we know everyone like you.‘” Dan Schulman, PayPal’s CEO. Quoted by Thomas Friedman
“first land, then capital, now information” McKenzie Werk
“All technologies bring on the cultural blues”. Marshall McLuhan
“privacy is no longer a social norm” attributed to Mark Zuckerberg
Leadership BABBLE: “The job of management is leadership.” W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, p. 54.
“Criminal justice in the United States is an oxymoron.” William Epstein, Empowerment as Ceremony, p. 78. (See also my review of Empowerment as Ceremony on the Amazon book page for this book.)
“Cultural diversity is a convenience of American preferences reducing pressures for greater equality by enshrining inequality as subculture respect”. William Epstein, Empowerment as Ceremony, p. 76. (See also my review of Empowerment as Ceremony on the Amazon book page for this book.)
“War is obsolete.” R. Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path, p. xxv.
“Facebook is . . . the most powerful attention-capture machine ever built”. Jacob Weinberg, “They’ve Got You, Wherever You Are”, New York Review of Books, Oct. 27, 2016.
“[W]e are connected to the world and to other people . . . and we assert our iron will and ravenous hungers at our own peril”. Christian Wiman, “Mastery and Mastery: Twenty-One Ways to Read a Century”, in Share and Wiman, eds., The Open Door
“the Niger Delta, poisoned with an Exxon Valdez-worth of spilled oil every year” Naomi Klein, “Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World”, London Review of Books, June 2, 2016, p. 12.
“will you ever power down or is this it now” — a lover’s lament in the Internet Age. From Jean Strickland’s poem: “April“
Money is numbers on paper. “[M]oney is. . . . entries on a ledger. It’s numbers on your bank balance, the electronic records of debits and credits that are created every time we spend money”. (John Lanchester, “When Bitcoin Grows Up“
Reducing ignorance and fear reduces reliance on religion. See also.
“whoever wishes to become a . . . moral human being . . . must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church”. James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
Often there’s a focus on the wrong problem. When the problem is violence in city neighborhoods, many focus on guns, rather than on poverty and the lack of employment at the going rate. When the problem is the Middle East, many focus on religion/Islam rather than on oil. Here’s a poem that can help us consider that maybe we’re focusing on the wrong problem:
Did It Ever Occur to You That Maybe You’re Falling in Love?
Source: Poetry (January 2016).
“The traditional university will surely be gone in fifty years, swept away by technology.” Matt Ridley, The Evolution of Everything, p. 185.
“the absurdity of the `self’, the mind, the will, the ego or the soul. All . . . are mere manifestations of the body, rather than separate from it.” Matt Ridley, The Evolution of Everything, p. 140.
All solutions have problems; it’s always a matter of which problems are the best ones to deal with.
“`enough solar energy hits the earth’s surface in about an hour to equal a year’s worth of worldwide energy consumption from all sources put together.'” [Ashlee Vance; quoted in John Lanchester, “Let’s all go to Mars”, London Review of Books, 9/10/2015, p. 7]
“most corporate mission statements are so numbing they’d be useful as a form of medical anesthesia” [John Lanchester, “Let’s all go to Mars”, London Review of Books, 9/10/2015, p. 5]
“Art is a matter of daily, hourly grind”. [Julian Barnes, “Selfie with `Sunflowers'”. London Review of Books, 7/30/2015. Barnes is referring to Van Gough, but I think this applies to essentially every significant accomplishment.]
“70 per cent of the prisoners in French jails are Muslims”. [Adam Shatz, “Magical Thinking about Isis”, London Review of Books, 12/3/2015.]
“[T]ruth is partial–accessible only when one takes sides and no less universal for this reason”. [Slavoj Zizek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, p. 6.]
“choking up on . . . scholastic hairballs” Jenny Turner, London Review of Books, 12/15/2011, p. 15.
“culture trumps charisma” Irving Louis Horowitz, Transaction,Fiftieth Anniversary 1962-2012 Brochure
“The need for baggage is a form of insecurity”. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Beatitudes Visuals Mexicans”, Poetry, June 2015, p. 228.
“liberation fails; it is an unlikely pursuit whose achievement is largely restricted to mystics, psychotics, and those who can afford to purchase a life of comfortable illusion” William Epstein, Empowerment as Ceremony, Transaction, 2013, p. 76.
“What makes all autobiographies worthless is, after all, their mendacity” Emily Berry, “Freud’s Beautiful Things”, Poetry, June, 2015 p. 205.
“`this idea of the prison of belief—that very smart, capable people can fall into a system of belief. If the curators of that belief take advantage of them, they can end up doing terrible things’”. [Alex Gibney, referring to Scientology, but applicable to all religions. Quoted in Chicago Tribune, 9/16/15, sec. 4, p. 7.]
By Amy Newman
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by wedding
planners, dieting, in shapewear,
dragging themselves in cute outfits through the freezer section for
the semifreddo bender,” (For more about Newman’s “Howl”, check out Jonah Rashin’s article, “Amy Newman’s `Howl’: A Homage to the Genius of Allen Ginsberg”.)
“When everyone is more and more involved in the information environment and in the . . . process of discovery and innovation, the old divisions of work, play, and idleness disappear.” [Marshall McLuhan and Barrington Nevitt, Take Today: The Executive as Dropout, 1972, p. 5.]
“socioeconomic class has eclipsed race as a salient factor in explaining stratification in the United States, . . . . [an] observation. . . . which is given substantial support by the fact of a black president of the United States.” William M. Epstein, Empowerment as Ceremony, Transaction, 2013, p. 23. ( The original and now classic statement of this point is William Julius Wilson, The Declining Significance of Race.)
/the stairs, three, four stages
at the most, “flights” we call them,
in honor of the wings we’ll never have,/
[Stanley Plumly, “Variation on a Line from Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Five Flights Up’”, Poetry, June, 2015, p. 244]
“Teachers aren’t the problem in this country; poverty is the problem.” Christopher De Vinck, Chicago Tribune, 6/17/15, sec. 1, p. 19
“(Male) Culture” [Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex, p. 140, and passim]
“Maybe it’s time to stop being sentimental about the family.” Hilary Mantel, London Review of Books, 6/11/09, p. 35
Life is eternal because we never know when we’re dead.
“We go to our deaths asymptotically, never getting there because `we’ and `there’ can’t exist at the same moment.” Adam Mars-Jones, London Review of Books
“If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present“. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.4311.
Be Angry At The Sun
That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. That America must accept
Like the historical republics corruption and empire
Has been known for years.
Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you. Watch the wheel slope and turn,
They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors.
This republic, Europe, Asia.
Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.
You are not Catullus, you know,
To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar. You are far
From Dante’s feet, but even farther from his dirty
Let boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.
“And no holy book in sight/ To squat on our lives”. Kabir
“this life that no one has actually chosen”
Jonathan Crary, 24-7, p. 46
“Are you and I really not complicit?”
Marjorie Perloff, Poetry, 3-13, p. 43
“Chris Liakouras went down the row handing out shots of ouzo to queued customers [Jane, me, and friends] trying to find a table in the then-90-seat [Parthenon] restaurant.”
Johnson, Chicago Tribune, 3-13-14, sec. 5, p. 5
“FASHION . . . HYPERBOLIZES EVERYTHING until it’s both excessive and compulsory.” Joshua Mehigan, Poetry, July/August, 2011, p. 381.
“[A]ny politics worth having has to start with the nuclear family: its impossibility, its wastefulness, its historical contingency.” Jenny Turner, London Review of Books, 12/15/11, p. 15
“There used to be ten or twelve nightclubs on this [Juarez] street that could hold up to a thousand people each, and on the weekends they were full; solders [I and Eugene Pierre DePlomb] from Fort Bliss in El Paso would cross over in droves.” Jonathan Littell, “Lost in the Void”, London Review of Books, 6/7/12, p. 37.
“[T]he family contain[s] within itself in embryo all the antagonisms that later develop on a wide scale with the society and state”. Shulamith Firestone, citing Marx, in Susan Faludi, “Death of a Revolutionary,” The New Yorker, 4/14/13, p. 55.
“Our most impressive words and thoughts betray us–they refer us only to the past, not to the present”. Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, p. 63.
“The atmosphere has no vote in the next US election.” Joel E. Cohen, NYRB, 4/26/12, p. 49
“The illusion of choice and autonomy” Jonathan Crary, 24/7, p. 46
“The important thing for us is not to deny our prejudices and prejudgments, but to acknowledge them.” Ashley Montagu, The Human Revolution, quoted in McLuhan and Fiore, War and Peace in the Global Village, p. 24
“[T]he tight-knit nuclear family . . . a breeding ground of consumerism, neurosis, misery in general.” Jenny Turner, LRB, 12/15/11, p. 15
“Americans forget too easily. We allow our memories to be washed, from generation to generation, in the interests of commerce.” John Kass, Chicago Tribune, 4/23/2015, sec. 1, p. 2.
“We aren’t Facebook’s customers; we’re its product“. Thomas Jones, “Short Cuts”, London Review of Books, 7/17/14, p. 6
There’s always more.
LIVE NOT BY LIES
Let us admit it: we have not matured
enough to march into the squares and
shout the truth out loud, or to ex-
press openly what we think. It is
not necessary. It is dangerous.
But let us refuse to say what we do
not think. This is our path, the
easiest and most accessible one,
which allows for our inherent, deep-
Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
Kasey and I down the ramp from Sewickley banking right, then left on to Ohio River Boulevard “with the foot pegs sparking against the pavement” Thomas McGuane, “Thoughts on Motorcycles”, Forbes, 4/9/12, p. 112
“Anxiety . . . is essential to serious writing. It gives you traction on the negative, without which your investigations can only get so far.” Jenny Turner, London Review of Books, 6/11/09, p. 25
“Today’s academy is troubled; anti-intellectualism grows stronger, often welcomed by anxious-to-please amateur administrators.” Robert Weissberg, Polling, Policy, and Public Opinion, p. xii.
“The credit card is arguably the greatest single facilitator of overconsumption ever invented”.
William Rathje and Collen Murphy, Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage, p. xii
“Science is no longer the heroic adventure of loners who challenge orthodoxies but the consequence of a series of investment decisions”.
Sheldon Wolin, Democracy, Inc., p. 125
“Writers only ever get one choice, really, about what they write. Either you give in before you’ve even started and write some fantasy of `the market’, or you go flat out, trying to say something useful about the world as it appears to you.
Jenny Turner, London Review of Books, 9-11-08, p. 25
“the hall of mirrors that is Christian history”
Diarmaid MacCulloch, London Review of Books, 2-6-2014, p. 29
“It is against nature that we despise ourselves and care nothing about ourselves. It is a malady peculiar to man, and not seen in any other creature…. It is a similar vanity that we wish to be something other than we are”.
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