June 04, 2006

bumpersticker: Keep Your Laws Off My Ursprache

I mentioned BLDGBLOG a few days ago, pointing to a quotation from Mike Davis, and today's entry on BLDGBLOG quotes John McPhee (another of my read-everything-he-writes authors) and includes an aerial image of the monster copper mine at Bingham Canyon UT. There's a pointer to The Center for Land Use Interpretation, and their Land Use Database will eat a few hours of your day.

Co-incidentally, I happened (thanks to Beyond the Beyond) upon a provocative new piece in Edge by Jaron Lanier: DIGITAL MAOISM: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism. A few snippets, to tantalize:

...My point here is not to argue about the existence of Metaphysical entities, but just to emphasize how premature and dangerous it is to lower the expectations we hold for individual human intellects.

The beauty of the Internet is that it connects people. The value is in the other people. If we start to believe the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we're devaluing those people and making ourselves into idiots...

...it's easy to be loved as a blogger. All you have to do is play to the crowd. Or you can flame the crowd to get attention. Nothing is wrong with either of those activities. What I think of as real writing, however, writing meant to last, is something else. It involves articulating a perspective that is not just reactive to yesterday's moves in a conversation...

...It's safer to be the aggregator of the collective. You get to include all sorts of material without committing to anything. You can be superficially interesting without having to worry about the possibility of being wrong...

... The reason the collective can be valuable is precisely that its peaks of intelligence and stupidity are not the same as the ones usually displayed by individuals. Both kinds of intelligence are essential...

...The hive mind should be thought of as a tool. Empowering the collective does not empower individuals just the reverse is true. There can be useful feedback loops set up between individuals and the hive mind, but the hive mind is too chaotic to be fed back into itself.

Quite a lot to chew on, and simultaneously I'm rereading Joan Didion's Slouching Toward Bethlehem and reliving my own mid-1960s perceptions of How Things Are, and listening to Lila Downs' La Cantina (see a video of La Cumbia del Mole, from her Web site... and there's this too). A heady brew on a rainy Sunday morning.

Posted by oook at June 4, 2006 07:10 AM

Quite a lot to chew on indeed. I personally have felt Lanier has gone completely off the rails at times in the past, but every bit you quote here is killer.

I admire Didion, and thought Slouching is among the very best American writing from that period. And I was privileged to see Lila Down's in a club here in Vancouver last year.

Not terribly interesting comment, I admit -- but did enjoy the post. Thanks.

--- short interlude ---

And now I scroll up and rememember you grabbed my attention in the first place with Mike Davis -- oh, spinning...

And BLDGBLOG looks terrifyingly good.

I'm trying to limit this perpetual sense of cognitive vertigo. Not doing terribly well...

Posted by: Brian at June 7, 2006 03:43 AM