Friday, November 06, 2009

Pinker or Lanier?

For all their flaws, media such as Wikipedia, news feeds, blogs, website aggregators, and reader reviews offer the potential for great advances over the status quo — not just in convenience but in intellectual desiderata like breadth, rigor, diversity of viewpoints, and responsibility to the factual record. Our intellectual culture today reflects this advance — contrary to the Cassandras, scientific progress is dizzying; serious commentary on the internet exceeds the capacity of any mortal reader; the flow of philosophical, historical, and literary books (many of doorstop length) has not ebbed; and there is probably more fact-checking, from TV news to dinner tables, than an any time in history. Our collective challenge in dealing with the Internet is to nurture these kinds of progress.
-- Steven Pinker
If the new world brought about by digital technologies is to enhance Darwinian effects in human affairs, then digital culture will devour itself, becoming an ouroboros that will tighten into a black hole and evaporate. Unless, that is, the Pirates can become immortal through technology before it is too late, before their numbers are overtaken, for instance, by the high birth rates of retro religious fanatics everywhere. This race for immortality is not so hidden in the literature of digital culture. The digital culture expressed by the Pirates is simultaneously nihilist and maniacal/egocentric.
-- Jaron Lanier

No comments: