A welcome gathering of intriguing ideas.

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CULTURE

LEADING SCIENTISTS EXPLORE CIVILIZATIONS, ART, NETWORKS, REPUTATION, AND THE ONLINE REVOLUTION

Prominent thinkers examine the many facets of culture over time and in the present age of the Internet.

A champion of the “third culture” formed at the intersection of art and science, literary agent Brockman (editor: Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net's Impact on Our Minds and Future, 2011, etc.) publishes original work by leading scientists in many disciplines at edge.org. This latest collection from the site offers the expertise and speculations of 17 mathematicians, musicians, computer scientists and others who have contemplated the meaning, role and evolution of culture. Artist and composer Brian Eno wonders why humans have always engaged in cultural activity, and whether there is one language for discussing the components of culture, from shoe design to fine art. UCLA biologist Jared Diamond suggests a road map of factors that can lead to disastrous societal decision-making, from failing to anticipate a problem to failing in the attempt to solve it. Harvard physician and social scientist Nicholas A. Christakis describes studies indicating that the nation’s obesity epidemic is actually a form of “social contagion,” in which a friend’s weight gain makes you put on weight. Many pieces consider the Internet’s impact on how we live. MIT computer scientist David Gelertner says it is time to think about what we want the Internet to do instead of “just letting it happen,” and his colleague Jaron Lanier warns of the dangers of a new belief in an all-wise online collectivism. Publisher Frank Schirrmacher argues that modern technology is “changing the way people behave, people talk, people react, people think, and people remember,” and turning us all into “informavores” who eat information. The Santa Fe Institute’s W. Brian Arthur discusses his years working in seclusion on unanswered technology-related questions—most notably, Does technology as a whole evolve?

A welcome gathering of intriguing ideas.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-202313-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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