Blog Archives

Recommended Reading 12

This week’s links and readings add up to an exceptionally rich and varied smorgasbord. Topics include: planetary environmental Armageddon plus other modes of doom, along with the American psychology of denial regarding the true direness of our present situation; the authentic rise of an American totalitarian state along the lines of Nuremberg; the egregiously overlooked (by formal policymakers and pundits) role of religion as a causative and formative factor in world affairs; Facebook’s Promethean desire to reshape the world and suck up all of its money with our collective personal data; the manipulation of our neurochemical responses by modern technology and advertising to induce maximum addiction; our perpetual state of chronic enslavement to clock time; a call to end the insanity of “maximum productivity” and build a more human and humane economy; a blessedly clear-sighted graduation speech that tells kids they’re not at all special; a defense of the value — not just aesthetic but political — of formally correct English; examinations of the cultural influences on Prometheus, the American gothic legacy of Ray Bradbury, and the exquisite horror of fairy tales; and a wonderful explanation of why reading Robert Anton Wilson is actually good for you.

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Recommended Reading 9

This week’s recommended articles, essays, and blog posts cover: various possible modes of doom that await us (or that are facing us right now), including climate change, economic collapse, and some other usual suspects; the hijacking of global culture by money and its possibly psychopathic servants; the historical role of alchemy in giving birth to our modern-day economic system driven by credit-based currency; a philosophy professor who has taken it on himself to publicize the anti-technological cultural critique of Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber, since in many ways these critiques may be pointedly on-target; an essay from no less authoritative a source than MIT Tech Review explaining why Facebook is not the new Google but the new AOL, and why it may collapse and bring down much of the rest of the Web with it; a 2008 report from The Wall Street Journal about one rather shocking way (in my opinion, at least) that American megachurches have begun to exploit corporate marketing tactics; and excellent essays (plus a video) about the life, thought, and work of Philip K. Dick, Whitley Strieber, and Ray Bradbury.

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Your personal filter bubble, or What Facebook and Google are hiding from you

You would have had to be hiding under the proverbial rock in order to avoid hearing about the concept of the “filter bubble” in the past year. It comes from peace activist and MoveOn.org cofounder Eli Pariser’s 2011 book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. The basic idea is that the rise of “personalization” in Internet searches — the tendency of Google and Facebook and Netflix and other prominent online services to use complex algorithms to gradually tailor search results to the perceived preferences of each user — ends up blocking out the true fullness and richness of the world of information and ideas. “Search engines weight our search results to our own preferences. (My search results won’t look like yours.) Sites will filter our news (without asking us) to bring us what they think we want,” a reviewer for The Christian Science Monitor summarizes. “The consequences of this social engineering, Pariser argues, is that we interact more with people who think like we do. Rather than fulfilling the early Internet dreams of diversity and freedom of choice, we are living in an echo chamber.” Read the rest of this entry