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We’re Reading Fahrenheit 451 Wrong (2018) (thefrailestthing.com)
225 points by longdefeat 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments



I think the anti-intellectual theme of Fahrenheit 451 is pretty clear. The story spends a lot of time describing the vapid media that everyone consumes. I don’t see how anyone could interpret it to be solely about censorship if they actually read the book, to be honest.

In my very humble opinion, I don't think the book has aged well. I believe the internet really upended the central premise.

The book described society devolving into an illiterate, pleasure-seeking dystopia. The main feature of the Fahrenheit 451 world is a centralized monoculture which is established through trashy tv shows, advertising, and comics.

Social media is extremely shallow, sure, but we also have historically unprecedented access to almost unlimited information. We now have media that is so diverse, and of such specificity, that it has essentially eliminated shared culture and narrative.

It seems the path to the 21st century dystopia is having too much radically decentralized information, rather than a lack of it. Now the concern isn't people being deprived of information. To the contrary, the concern now is people consuming the 'wrong' or 'fake' information. We now have intellectuals intentionally depriving the world of revolutionary research because of this.


The attention-sucking and vapidity is independent of the media it's derived from. As long as it's 'pushed' information it doesn't matter if the information comes from a train radio or through the internet. I don't see much of a difference between the Denham's Dentriface section and the constant pinging of attention our phones (and others' phones) request from us.

We have access to nearly unlimited information, but even then, I don't think most internet users are using it to exchange great works of thought or even 'surfing' as the internet was intended to be used. Instead we have these massive FAANG silos that don't offer anything less vapid than the media described in the book. Even some of the more "idea-exchange" styled websites (Reddit, Twitter) are cesspools of low-effort thought, injokes, and memes.

We have too much information, and a worrying amount of it is untrue or misleading. But that's addressed by Faber in the novel as well, about the centrifuge throwing off all unnecessary thought. If there's so much media blasting in from all directions it gets hard to distinguish and the frequency of it all takes away the will to sift through fact from fiction. This is what leads to the 'fake news' aspect you mentioned. This is also addressed in the book. It's been a while since I've read it, but at one point Montag's wife stays glued to her televisor walls with Jesus himself on the screen telling her about how only his true followers buy some companie's product. Now, Montag's wife would surely have known that Jesus would not have been alive during the time of CorpCo's Wonderful Bottled Drink (or whatever it was called), but she doesn't think about it, she's too wrapped up in the overwhelming pressure applied by the media environment and believes it. It's the same when you surround yourself with this manufactured outrage stuff, and start buying into more and more outrageous 'fake news' claims because it justifies your anger, plays into your new opinions. It feels good, a positive feedback loop. It's the same.


>or even 'surfing' as the internet was intended to be used.

The Internet was not intended for surfing at all. It was intended to be a network with enough reliability to withstand nuclear attacks. You’re thinking of stuff on top of it like maybe the World Wide Web (HTML links).


Ok, sure. But pedantry aside, I used the word 'Internet' as OP did. At this point the Internet and WWW are synonymous.


I completely disagree. The WWW is just an application that rides the internet. Surely you make use of streaming video, voip, and email


Are they? It seems like native apps have been gaining ground on the web since the rise of smartphones.


>In my very humble opinion, I don't think the book has aged well. I believe the internet really upended the central premise. The book described society devolving into an illiterate, pleasure-seeking dystopia. The main feature of the Fahrenheit 451 world is a centralized monoculture which is established through trashy tv shows, advertising, and comics.

Sure sounds like 2019 to me. In fact, far more 2019 than the era when the book was written.

>Social media is extremely shallow, sure, but we also have historically unprecedented access to almost unlimited information.

And what we've learned is that access to information means nothing without the ability to process it. And that too much information makes things even worse drowning everything in a sea of noise.

>We now have media that is so diverse, and of such specificity, that it has essentially eliminated shared culture and narrative.

On the contrary, I find that we have solidified an once diverse culture to a couple of monocultures.

Case in point the Top 20, which is almost all the same kind of music today.


Not a new development in the 21st century. The closer you get to the advent of recorded music and broadcast radio, the more homogenous the music selection was. Accessibility to alternatives was expensive/impossible. This goes for every other kind of media.

If you don't like the 'Top 20' then I presume you listen to alternatives. How did you find them? The internet perhaps?


>Not a new development in the 21st century

The global monoculture of BS commercial music is a new development in the 21st century.

Peoples and cultures used to have a huge variety of music and styles all over the world, even if "accessibility" to it from the comfort of ones home outside a specific region wasn't cheap/possible.

>If you don't like the 'Top 20' then I presume you listen to alternatives. How did you find them? The internet perhaps?

Doesn't really matter, as culture is not what people consume in private, but what most consume and influences their public discussion. Some obscure artist I only share with 10K or 100K people might as well not exist culturally.


You are simultaneously arguing that music is more homogenous, and yet has such breadth and diversity and ease of accessibility that only a small fraction of earths population could discuss your tastes.


>You are simultaneously arguing that music is more homogenous, and yet has such breadth and diversity and ease of accessibility that only a small fraction of earths population could discuss your tastes.

Nope, I am arguing that _culture_ is more homogenous (and whether there's more easy availability of diverse musical works is irrelevant to that).

Music can have (and has) one million sub-genres today, but the mainstream music (the shared stuff that's part of "the conversation" and defines the music part of our culture) is more homogenous than ever.


It’s not a monoculture if you can listen to something else. Nearly everyone I know who listens to top hits music also listens to other genres.

Top hits are just designed to be as agreeable to society as possible. That’s what makes them more popular than anything else.

It’s like claiming salt is causing a food monoculture because so many people are using it.


>It’s not a monoculture if you can listen to something else. Nearly everyone I know who listens to top hits music also listens to other genres.

A culture is what people (more or less) share. That part is very narrow today, when it wasn't e.g. in the 60s and 70s.

Niche genres people listen in addition to the top hits but don't share don't enter the cultural sphere.

>It’s like claiming salt is causing a food monoculture because so many people are using it.

No, it's like claiming that whereas once people used to see a variety of movie types in the theaters, now every second movie is a superhero one.

That's true for what people see in the main, and it's true as to what the celebrated, talked about, and influential movies are, even it's easier that ever for everyone to also download and watch some niche movie from whatever era (which most don't bother).


If every dish is measured against the most popular dishes and evaluated in terms of how much salt it uses, even dishes not falling into the salt monoculture are being consumed by the salt monoculture.


Subcultures definitely count?


Only in as much as they pollinate the mainstream culture, else its just fragmented niches that don't take part in any wider "conversation".


Things that are happening on the edge become the things that propagate through to the mainstream. It's how cultures change. Predicting which edge behaviour will cross over is the tricky bit.


>Things that are happening on the edge become the things that propagate through to the mainstream. It's how cultures change.

Well, we don't see that these days. With music, for example, we see the same mindless hits dominate the top-20. In past decades (from the 50s up to the 90s or 00s) you'd have those things "happening at the edge" become mainstream.


>In past decades (from the 50s up to the 90s or 00s) you'd have those things "happening at the edge" become mainstream.

I completely agree and I'm not sure many people would recognize how much this has changed. When "EDM" started infiltrating pop music it was the sound of the fringe creeping into the mainstream but this has since solidified and dominated to the exclusion of pretty much everything for the past decade. In my mind, this is very different from what we used to see from the likes of pop stars like Madonna that would borrow liberally from the "underground" and use it to spice up their own work.

Personally, I think this is a byproduct of our hyper-connected culture. I don't think subcultures can thrive in the internet era because they are exposed, consumed, and co-opted at too fast of a pace for them to grow.


Not your main point but it touched on something frustrating to me.

Personally I had a very hard time finding metal bands I liked until I started going to a lot of shows.

Spotify etc obviously try pretty hard, and with diligent effort you can prod it to cough up a metal band you haven't heard before that doesn't suck, but it's much better at playing music you already know about and like than it is at showing you anything new, at least for my subgenres of choice.


If you're just looking at the top 20, you're never going to see the long tail and you won't be able to tell whether people are spending more or less time on the obscure stuff.


The mid tail is more of the same for the majority of the people.

And the power law distribution means the long tail doesn't even register. So pockets of people can hear Mongolian Rap-Opera, but the social discussion, between friends, at homes, at cafes, at the media, on blogs, at watercoolers, etc. is still dominated by the heavy front-loaded top.


What the majority is doing doesn't seem so scary when it's easy to opt out. I'm using YouTube and Spotify mostly to listen to obscure accordion folk songs these days. The recommendation algorithms adapted to that pretty well and give me more good stuff.

It seems like the issue here is conceptual? If you care mostly about what the majority does then it's more of a problem than if you don't.

And although it's good to show an interest in what other people like, you can also talk a bit (not to be a bore) about what you like.

It just doesn't seem hard at all to do something the majority isn't interested in. Most people don't care what you do and will show at least polite interest. You can do what you want.


>What the majority is doing doesn't seem so scary when it's easy to opt out.

It doesn't seem scary if what scares you is "what choices I have as an individual".

What scares me, on the other hand, is how diverse and open my society in general is, and the shared culture (including pop culture) we all participate in.

>It seems like the issue here is conceptual? If you care mostly about what the majority does then it's more of a problem than if you don't.

There's a saying about politics: "It doesn't matter if you don't care for politics: politics still cares for you". In other words, one might not care "what the majority does", but what the majority does is still gonna shape the society that one is living in, and their interactions with others.


Okay, fair enough, but it seems like we've drifted pretty far away from the original article and Fahrenheit 451, which was literally about not being able to read what you want and think for yourself.


But the problem of Fahrenheit 451, as per the original article too, was a society that did this by choice.


People aren’t discussing top 40 songs at the watercooler. You’re very confused about the reason people listen to it. It’s not to absorb culture anymore than playing candy crush is to absorb culture. It’s mindless crap you put on to fill silence.


Lol, you're old (or non-mainstream; that's not a bad thing, just an observation).

The current tunes are cultural, they're part of how youths communicate and explore the World and their reaction to it. Now, of course mass media tries to own that, and tailor it to their own desire for wealth -- but it still has to work.

Cardi B fills the same spot that Madonna did 30 years ago, or Lulu did 50 (?) years ago; it's not high culture, but it's still an important aspect of life for many youths.

Sure we have Fortnite now for the kids, instead of yoyos or pogs, but it's still culture.


Not to mention farm to table restaurants and third wave coffee. No downtown is complete with out them, and Instagram ensures all the latest trends show up every where at once.


>Sure sounds like 2019 to me. In fact, far more 2019 than the era when the book was written.

You’re not living in the same world as everyone else then. Look at the two major political parties in the US alone for how we’re no longer agreeing on basic priorities for societal and economic structure.


The 2 major parties agree on almost everything (even on hating on Trump who is nominally Republican) -- with the exception of a few token societal issues to keep their members polarized.

They have never been more interchangeable.


That's pretty much the message that I took from it.

In Fahrenheit 451, the people decided to censor themselves and took pleasure in it. These days people have access to a ton of information, but choose to self-censor by engaging mostly with like-minded people forming echo chambers instead of debating differing viewpoints openly.

I agree it hasn't aged particularly well, but it still is relevant. However, I think the more likely distopia is that of Brave New World where we optimize ourselves out of our humanity and instead seek pleasure and order over progress and diversity. That being said, it still has a good message, for those who are willing to look at the themes and find how they might apply to us today.


when I read brave new world, a part of me wishes I could live there. to be transplanted there as an american adult would be pretty jarring and likely miserable, but perhaps if one grew up indoctrinated in that society, they might actually be happier.

the society in brave new world also has a place for those who simply can't be happy in an idyllic, meaningless world. I'm not entirely sure what the author's intentions were, but I often wonder whether that world is actually dystopian or if it just seems that way to a 21st century westerner.


It’s also worth noting that he also describes the ‘primitive’ world and it’s awful. He was encouraging balance, not a rejection of one or the other.


> These days people have access to a ton of information, but choose to self-censor by engaging mostly with like-minded people forming echo chambers instead of debating differing viewpoints openly.

To be fair, that's how the tech was designed to operate: show you things you like to generate more ad revenue.


"like-minded" is not necessarily a problem.


What’s amazing to me is that what you just described matches how I feel about the world. We are surrounded by vapid bullshit media. When I go pump gas at the gas station, a television in the pump tells me news of Hollywood stars caught in a controversy with their lover. This happens while we bomb foreign countries in operations our government openly lies about. Those lies are then carried on all major news outlets. Information is ‘available’ but it’s like hunting for gold on the beach without a metal detector.

I haven’t actually read Fahrenheit 451 but it’s striking to me how much your presentation of the ideas you present as dismissible actually strongly match my view of the world. Keep in mind, I’m someone who stopped using Facebook years ago and went vegan last year because I found the practice of enslaving animals to be cruel (and also demonstrably horrible for the environment). So I’m not one to buy mainstream ideas, but I think that’s my point here.


They have vegan restaurants and vegan sections in grocery stores. Pretty mainstream.


That vegan people have places to eat doesn’t mean it’s particularly common. I’ve found it surprisingly tricky to find food regularly, and the vast majority of people don’t think about it at all. I believe across the US, Vegans represent less than 1% of the population.


I agree it's more about the harmful influence of certain types of media than about censorship. An article posted on HN a while back quotes Bradbury saying this very thing (http://www.openculture.com/2017/08/ray-bradbury-reveals-the-...). Maybe most people focus on the censorship angle since it was played up so much in the Truffaut film adaptation? Pretty sure I saw the film first, then read the book, and it certainly influenced my interpretation.

What exactly do you mean by "decentralized information"? Like too many niches, social fragmentation, etc?


By decentralized, I mean in comparison to when Bradbury wrote the book. In the post-war period there were only a handful of mass media sources. In some cases there was really only one major source (BBC for example)

These media organizations provided the news, music, tv shows, etc. The culture of the consuming audience was therefore far more cohesive. Access to the 'long tail' was difficult for anyone but enthusiasts.

I think that environment informed the book. If you look at the centralized structure of information access back then, the society described in the book was very plausible.



> I believe the internet really upended the central premise.

Have you looked at the trending videos on YouTube when you visit in incognito?


My understanding is that GP is saying F451's dystopia is "everyone sharing the same awful reality".

GP's concern about the internet is a complete lack of shared reality between people.

EDIT: Although, yeah, of course "pleasure seeking & without depth" seems a good description of unhealthy social media, YouTube, etc.


I took it a bit differently actually.

No one wants to put in the work to knit together a shared reality anymore. Why put in the effort when the incentives reward blatant trek and lies as much as it does telling the truth.

At one point in time, we put a much greater emphasis on integrity and telling the truth. In the last century, it seems like that precedent after precedent for not telling the truth, or spinning it into a form where it's just short of a lie. Tobacco, finance, pharma, big chem, big tech, our legal system, and even our government bakes in lying by omission into the basic gameplay loop.

Where's the incentive to be an honest person when the only ones who seem to be getting anywhere are the one's who lie the most?

I think the Internet has just made the problem so much more visible due to the ease of spreading information. At the end of the day though, to the gatekeeper of the status of "truth" goes the spoils of the war for the minds of the people.


> At one point in time, we put a much greater emphasis on integrity and telling the truth

When was this? The Victorian era, with its literal snake oil, yellow journalism, adulterated food (e.g. chalk in bread), etc? The era when "all men were created equal", despite there being slavery?

When was this era of great integrity?


Fine. Let's go ahead and assume that we have as much if not more integrity now than ever before.

Is the point we're at peak virtue? Peak integrity? I don't think so.

We're connected better than we've ever been before informationally, yet we find now that somehow, magically, every institution that's been put in place to get us where we are is insufficient.

Schools don't provide children with a quality education (cheaply enough). The police are too prone to abuse (or not effective enpugh). Our legal system is completely stratified in it's capability to process cases (the poor take plea deals when they can't afford to fight, but corporations never seem to be able to be pinned down as having done anything wrong). Government officials can be felons, who can't even vote (Yet it seems like the number of felonies that can be committed increases every year). Our infrastructure falls apart and starts major fires under private management (Yet public management is out of the question because it is unfair competition).

Everything we've got now got us where we are, yet it never seems to be enough to even continue to tread water. Why? W/o what have we lost? What are we not doing? The world has changed. Understood. Yet we're clearly in a state where there is no unified sense of direction. Talking with people, if you can manage to get past small talk, renders an image of a country that can't trust itself.

I can't accept that our present day is functional. Even if the integrity I imagine of the past wasn't there, that lack of integrity was appropriate for the time and managed to stay low key enough to maintain some semblance of equilibrium with the environment. Now, the differences in the observable outcomes of events in the world seem to be becoming more and more polarized. The low hanging fruit has been picked, and all that's left is issues that seemingly can only be resolved by the application of overwhelming, global scoped decree.

We're backed into a starting point from which change must happen that has been 200 years in the making, that has apparently blossomed into a historo-legal structure that takes longer than a human lifespan to parse.

So we're stuck at an impasse. Either every decision up to now was right, and every axiom (be it statute, or legal precedent) built into our government is right, in which case every move we want to make from here is moot. We're already perfect. Or... Bad decisions were made, history stands as an example of what not to repeat, and we should be free to remold things such that an effective governance is reachieved and a more stable foundation from which we all can build our lives, and collective society into something as great to us as where we are now is to our forebearers.

So what is it? Are we peak human, or just a bunch of people trying to make a world worth living in? I honestly can't tell anymore, but I can't accept we've hit the zenith. A local one maybe, but not an absolute by far.


The FCC fairness doctrine

It used to be that the news media was required to be honest, equitable, and balanced.

This doctrine has been repealed.


No, in addition to being blatantly unconstitutional, the Fairness Doctrine wasn't even a valid solution to the problem. These days we have an entire news network dedicated to being "fair and balanced," don't we? How's that working out for us?

There are more than two sides to every worthwhile argument, and it's not the government's place to decide which voices require equal time to rebut. Furthermore, "Congress shall make no law" means just that, until it's repealed or further amended.


I'm hopeful that this is a temporary effect of a growing awareness accompanied by a philosophical shift in society. For a long while now the idea that there is one true objective reality with one valid interpretation has been our model, but we are becoming aware that this is probably not the case. Even physics seems to contest the concept, where GR says such things as the order of occurrence of two events is dependent on their frame of reference, and that's without invoking the weirdness of quantum mechanics. As is often the case when a new idea emerges, it is pushed to extremes to test its limits. Ideally, the useful limit of the new model is eventually found and a reintegration with the old model occurs producing a more sound and stable one. Unfortunately such shifts are always painful, and not always successful.


Exactly. A feature people seem to miss about 451 is the government is an authoritarian regime, and the media is used to pacify controversial thought. In that sense it's not much different from how media is used in 1984, with trash culture for proles and overt propaganda. 451 is just more subtle about the methods of oppression.


I will bite. The USA literally just elected a former reality television star/host as president. Without getting into questions of performance and qualifications, I think most will agree that he ran, and continues to run, a very anti-intellectual campaign and platform. It worked very well. Surprisingly well, even to his own party.


Politics is all about psychology and making your supporters feel greater than their opponents.


I think it's aged better than anyone could have ever imagined. It's easy to look at all the information available to those who care to spend their time with it, but what percentage of their time do you think the average person spends on the worthwhile stuff? The answer is simple, just follow the money.


"We now have intellectuals intentionally depriving the world of revolutionary research because of this"

Any examples? I'm not sure what you're referring to here.


Ray Bradbury gets upset when you suggest that his book about book-burning is about censorship.

According to him, it's just that books are good and television(and radio) is bad.

http://www.openculture.com/2017/08/ray-bradbury-reveals-the-...


It's strange how once a book is published, it takes on a life of its own. Readers often find meanings that the authors never thought of.

This probably happens in all art. Which is the correct meaning, really?


>We now have media that is so diverse, and of such specificity, that it has essentially eliminated shared culture and narrative.

I find more and more difficult to retrieve old or original sources of information.


The book to me is more about society dictating your time, how you think, and how you should feel. Books were only one facet of control.

Turn off your phone for a day without telling anyone and see how people react.


> Turn off your phone for a day without telling anyone and see how people react.

From my personal experience, they react just fine. Probably wouldn't even notice. Why, how would the people who call you react?


Depends. Do you have a boss, spouse, etc?


Sure, I've had a few bosses, who don't call me more than a few times a year, and they certainly don't complain if I don't answer outside working hours.

I have friends and family who call me much more regularly, but react just fine if I get back to them one or more days later.

I'm guessing a spouse would be annoyed if you just disappeared without notice for a day, but then again I doubt this wouldn't be true even before phones.


>Sure, I've had a few bosses, who don't call me more than a few times a year, and they certainly don't complain if I don't answer outside working hours.

Well, if you have a boss and (a) work in the field (as lots of people do, from sales reps and messengers to technicians) or (b) are an exec that travels to meetings, customers, etc, or (c) are responsible for a system that might fail (e.g. a sysadmin, a dev whose work is deployed, etc), you'd be expected to have the phone open all the time. And even if they call "a few times a year", they'd expect to reach someone then.

>I'm guessing a spouse would be annoyed if you just disappeared without notice for a day, but then again I doubt this wouldn't be true even before phones.

If there's any kind of emergency or semi-emergency (from the babysitter called in sick to the car broke down) the spouse will usually be more than annoyed if they can't find you during the day.


I don't have a boss but I do have a spouse (and 3 kids). It's extremely rare that we call or text one another during the day. We say goodbye to each other in the morning and meet again in the evening. Of course it's useful to have a phone if/when something happens, but most days, nothing happens -- nothing that can't wait being told in the evening. The feeling of "urgency" that mobile phones create is mostly artificial.


So what you are saying is the intellectual minority is leveraging the tools of communication in a good way...

While the rest of society heads off the cliff ? ( see : internet challenges )


People who use new communication technologies wrongly aren't the uneducated masses, they're often professionals and authoritarian with an agenda (see Facebook, Putin, Cambridge Analytica), or just smart profit seekers (Macedonian fake news mills)


It is undisputable that the totality of the information available is larger than ever before, developing and expanding at great ease. But I feel that applying a weighted average to the populace rather than considering the domain of thought that people think the same ideas more-so than ever before. Dogma is overwhelming these days, when in the past people were left to their own devices for the most part.


> The main feature of the Fahrenheit 451 world is a centralized monoculture which is established through trashy tv shows, advertising, and comics.

If anything, we're seeing that realised. The diversity you speak of seems shallow. Local culture, local industries are all being displaced with homogenous values that are Western, primarily American. The same is happening in the social media space.


I don't watch TV, or follow social media. I do follow some forums that pique my interest. For me, this seems like the only way to avoid getting sucked into it.

For a lot of people that would be hard to do, though.


It doesn’t matter how available infomation or content is - it matters if it is used.


It kind of does since the book is about inaccessibility, with information literally being destroyed. If the information isn't available, how would you use it in the first place?


You don't have to resort to inaccessibility. You can just drawn in too much information, which has the same result (signal getting lost to noise, like books getting lost in fire).

Sure, in this case it remains potentially retrievable, but not in any way that really matters for society at large, ie. not practically so.


> Social media is extremely shallow, sure, but we also have historically unprecedented access to almost unlimited information.

No, we don't. We have unlimited access to text. The internet is the library of babel. You can find a community to support your view of the world, no matter how absurd or hateful that view might be.


How does that contradict what I said?


I read Fahrenheit 451 again a month ago and it was much more relatable than the first time I read it.

The pattern of going from point A to B and being told to do that by someone or something as quickly as possible is the norm. If you have a demanding job and a family at the end of most days it’s easy to tune out and only have the desire to feel comfortable. You’ve been exhausting yourself to be ‘accepted’ by society.

Thinking for yourself and finding moments to do whatever you wanted whenever you wanted was dangerous in Fahrenheit 451. I think that is becoming very real nowadays. If you told someone you went for a walk aimlessly in a park and stared at flowers for 20 minutes with your phone turned off you could be viewed as a social deviant to some degree. Your wife or girlfriend might be upset because they couldn’t get ahold of you. A friend or coworker might be frustrated because they needed to tell you something that “couldn’t wait”.

That’s where the danger lies. Society dictating how you think and how you should feel all the time. Technology is only a tool that makes it more efficient.

During the Summer of Love thousands of people just up and left their lives to spend a summer doing whatever they wanted. The only way they could be reached was by telephone or letter and that was if they wanted to be contacted. I honesty don’t think a movement like that or an era like the 60s is possible anymore. People are too attached to their phones and what society expects out of them.


I knew someone who’s former partner called him a narcissist solely because he’d randomly walk places or go to different coffee shops depending on if one was busy, or if one was just near a park where he wanted to exercise etc. She believed this after watching a YouTube video titled “narcissists live in the moment.” Strange times for a person to be called that when all they want to do is have a human moment outside of online connection and algorithms.

Society needs dopamine detox days as much as we need holidays.


> She believed this after watching a YouTube video titled “narcissists live in the moment.”

Micro-radicalisation. Not quite the same as flat earth or anti-vax, but still junk.


I believe this has a lot to do with the reduction of the middle class. The amount of people who can afford to go even two months with no form of income in the United States is extremely low


Rainbow gatherings are something you may be interested in attending..


Sure, but avoid ones held too near cities. There are too many violent drunks.


The Denham’a Dentriface example is a pretty accurate prognostication about what would happen to the Internet. On many sites today it is impossible to think about the content what with the interposed advertising that pops up in the middle as you’re scrolling, pops out of corners, etc. Informative content is whittled down and shifted from text to low-density media like video.

The Internet is a shadow of its former self. As a teenager I’d avidly read tech sites. This sort of in-depth article was common: https://www.realworldtech.com/jaguar. Gamers overran most of then. Today, you go to something like Toms Hardware and it’s advertising encrusted trash. RWT has been reduced to posting a couple of articles a year. Ars no longer has anyone who knows how a computer or operating system works, though at least its ads aren’t the worst.


It feels like I forgot to renew to the internet so I'm stuck with the demo version.

As you said, it's just so light on content and heavy on ads in places.


I would say this has a lot to do with the increase in accessibility and subsequent marketization reducing what used to be a fairly niche service attenuated to like minded scientific or at least exploratorily minded people to a common denominator that maximizes profits


It’s been a while since I read 451, and I definitely remember it differently than this portrayal. It sounds to me as if it was more insightful than I gave it credit for.

I’ve fallen into the pattern mentioned in the article and book: too distracted to sit down and have a long, quiet read. Part of this is due to having young kids and little high-quality spare time. But part, too, is due to addiction to distraction (such as Hacker News)!


I can give you one secret, which is that despite what you hear in the press, the phone can be a double-edged sword, one that can also cut for you, instead of against you, with just a bit of discipline. Non-zero discipline, but not impossible amounts of discipline. With a book-reading app, you can get through anything, even War and Peace, in ten minutes here, ten minutes there, and maybe 40 minutes in the evening if you can scrape it together.

I'm saying this not because I lack the attention span to read for three hours, because I still can... the problem is assembling those three hours when you've got a job and young kids.

I've also been learning a foreign language for about an hour a day over the past year and a half, and believe me, very few of those hours have been contiguous. But I can recover five minutes here and five minutes there, and finish up in the evening, and I'm making real progress. (Unlike reading, where the attention being cut up will diminish the impact, once you're memorizing vocab and such, it's actually possible that breaking it up throughout the day is a benefit rather than the same amount of time in one block. It may help convince your brain that what you're doing is important and shouldn't be discarded, because it keeps coming up, rather than being something it can compartmentalize easily.)

With a bit of creativity you can turn this to your benefit, or at the very least, somewhat to your benefit rather than merely to your continued disadvantage.


I had pretty much stopped reading for enjoyment before smart phones. Have plowed through a bunch of books now thanks to the Kindle app. It's a combination of always being with you, remembering where you were across devices, and being able to adjust the font size to whatever's comfortable at the time. The kids getting older doesn't hurt either :-).


I consumed a lot of books with Audible last year when I had a commute. It's amazing how much time you can fill during those getting from A to B trips.


I have found that I waste most of my time in the evening, when I need to "unwind" and end up watching something instead of reading or being productive in some manner. After working all day and taking care of the kids all evening, I'm mentally exhausted and prefer to have something else distract me until I'm tired enough to sleep.

To counter this, I decided to wake up earlier and take my time first. I get up at 5 and then exercise, read, etc, so by the time the kids are in bed, I'm pretty much ready for sleep, and sometimes I read fiction for that last 10-30 minutes until I can't focus enough to read another page. This has made it easier for me to fall asleep and ensures I have time when I'm alert for everything I want to get done. The main downside is that my wife likes to stay up late, so I'm tired for our time together, but I find I can usually go to bed a few hours late once or twice a week and be fine, so it works out.

As for things like Hacker News, I try to schedule 5 minute break throughout the day to catch up on that type of stuff. I use the pomodoro technique and catch up on stuff in the 5 and 15 minute breaks while getting a little exercise.


This. I've been getting up at 5 for the past few weeks. Initially I mostly wanted to be more disciplined, but I quickly realized the value in having my free hours at the beginning of the day instead of the end. Before, my energy level when programming from ~10PM-2AM would be completely dependent on how draining the day had been. The constant distractions throughout the day would also put me in a more fragmented state of mind by the evening. Now, I wake up fresh and spend my best hours reading and hacking on the things that are most important to me.

I'm still trying to figure out the right balance for socializing though, since I'm usually braindead by 9PM.


Go for short story compilations first and allow yourself distraction only after you’ve finished. That’ll get you back into the reading mindset.


That's exactly what Ray Bradbury himself said. He was responding to the invention of television and the addiction to shallow entertainment he believed it would bring to the society.

We don't always need to interpret literature in accordance with the author's original intentions, but it helps to acknowledge and remember them.

Having said that, though, I'd like to ask why Bradbury bothered to include a powerful image of censorship (burning of books) in the story if that was't what he intended to focus on. It would seem that a population addicted to shallow entertainment won't even need firemen to burn their books; they'll just let the dead trees rot in a basement somewhere.

Perhaps censorship was needed because there's always a small number of people who find books interesting. Who are attracted to deep thinking. Who will develop and harbor subversive ideologies as a result, and who can incite a revolution when the conditions are ripe. As long as these people exist, the powers that be have a reason to fear. As long as some of us are reading books, there's hope. Or at least that's what I think Bradbury was trying to say, especially at the end.


Yes. Bradbury himself here in an article from 2007:

https://www.laweekly.com/news/ray-bradbury-fahrenheit-451-mi...


Or maybe the general principle that if you make the wrong choices often enough, eventually you might find you've lost the opportunity to choose at all.


The Airpods article is interesting. Airpods seem to be changing the office as well.

People are doing their entire routine at the office with Airpods: going to the coffee maker, to the cafeteria, to the bathroom, going to meetings (then taking them out there, I hope!).

I'm not sure the people who do it want to portray the image of "don't you dare talk to me", but that's how I interpret it. If no one can talk to anyone without deliberate interruption, it seems like we'd lose workplace camaraderie.


I agree. I don’t walk around with mine during standard hours. I usually also only wear the one that people can’t see when they come into my hours, and I apologize if someone says something to me while I have them in. I think it’s very important to appear accessible and to hear and participate in serendipitous conversation.


Previous discussion of a similar (and IMO better) article on the book: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14992956 . The article under discussing there includes lots of quotes from Bradbury himself.


As I've gotten older, I've started noticing that culture goes through endless time loops like we're riding a toy train. Back in the 90s, we listened to disco and wore bell bottoms just like our parents did. Today, I see teenagers wearing overalls and boots and listening to Nirvana (which is quite heartwarming, honestly - at least there is hope for the future).

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that social media is just another cultural deviation. As a society, we haven't said yet that it's rude to talk loudly into your cell phone in public, or stare into it when you're surrounded by people also staring into it, or wear headphones everywhere like the gym where you might learn something if you ever talked to anyone.

It's an eerie feeling to see the world a step or two back, to take in the big picture when everyone else is jacked in. I can't really blame people for putting on blinders, as bleak as these times are. Sure, we have unlimited access to news and information. But news is mostly bad, because that's where the money is. Even the best news like NPR leads to depression, especially when you realize that the main news networks broadcast spin now instead of investigative journalism, and they're all anyone watches.

I have no deep epiphany here. But I just want everyone to know that this profound cultural cynicism we're experiencing right now is quite familiar to me, because it's what I grew up with in the 80s and 90s while most of the world was distracted with Monday Night Football. The world's been burning that entire time, most people actively tune it out, and the people like us who see through the veil see more than ever.


The problem is that everyone is cynic now and the extremes seem so... mainstream. Where's a pre-Cambrian cynic go?

Weird when the most woke person on a crowded bus is a homeless guy trying to exit "GTF out of my way, you phone zombies!"


It seems naive to think the exponential technology revolution will be a replication of what you experienced growing up.

The fact is, what you experienced growing up was an exponential technology curve compared to the generation that came before you. As time goes on, this will be more evident.


>Today, I see teenagers wearing overalls and boots and listening to Nirvana (which is quite heartwarming, honestly - at least there is hope for the future).

I'm puzzled what in that is at all heart-warming? Or hope-giving?

edit: They're genuinely curious, non-rhetorical questions!


The person that you are replying to presumably grew up with overalls and Nirvana.


No hah :-) I grew up in the the Donny Darko era of pastels and nanny state 1950's era abstinence of the late 1980s and early 90s which resulted from AIDS and the war on drugs. Grunge/alternative/Nirvana was the first "real" cultural experience I had. Saying no to materialism by wearing overalls is the visible expression of questioning authority and the status quo.

I miss many aspects of the 90s and what they stood for. But I'm inspired by today's youth and how they will pierce the veil in their own way.


> Bogost examined Airpods’ potential long term social consequences. “Human focus, already ambiguously cleft between world and screen,” he suggests, “will become split again, even when maintaining eye contact.” A little further on, he writes, “Everyone will exist in an ambiguous state between public engagement with a room or space and private retreat into devices or media.”

I do think the Airpods are pretty revolutionary. For starters - Apple built a custom chip for them. There are very few companies that have the resources to do such a thing. As a result, even though they are imperfect, they are still far and away a pretty revolutionary technology.

It is interesting to look at the social consequences of the Airpods. For starters, they are expensive, so in some sense they are a status symbol, especially for the younger generation.

The Atlantic Article the author mentions is interesting though - the thought that a technology melds so well into our daily lives and workflow that it creates a further social rift is scary.


Reading this reminds me how my High School Teacher prodded a cold-war, Orwellian, censorship interpretation out of us in exams.

But Bradbury was definitely on to something deeper.

I'd forgotten all about the Seashells and 4 walled televisor in this classic novel. Definitely a great metaphor for today's social media.


FYI the audiobook version narrated by Tim Robbins is fantastic. It is more of a performance than a reading.


I enjoyed reading this post, thank you. The cultivation of attention and thus self care is a significant theme in the work of Bernard Stiegler, which, if you haven’t encountered it, may be of interest.


Our attention is a valuable resource that we too easily give away for free. Social media (and in the past, television) are the junk food of information.


required reading for Professor Brody's class. Stevens Higher Institute of Technology circa 1966. I still don't understand what it had to do with fixing radios tvees and computers.


(2018) June 15, 2018.


Thanks! Updated.


Wrongly.


Actually "wrong" seems OK here, according to the first and only page I consulted:

"...wrong can also be an adverb. There’s nothing in the least new about this — the Oxford English Dictionary has examples from the thirteenth century onwards.

Robert Burchfield noted in his 1996 revision of Fowler’s Modern English Usage that “The subtleties attending the various uses are considerable”, pointing out that the OED devotes five times as much space to adverbial wrong as it does to the notionally correct wrongly.

The quick and easy rule is that wrongly appears before the verb being modified (“the earlier case was wrongly decided”) and wrong after the verb (“he answered the question wrong”). Like most such rules, it’s not even half the story. Style guides and grammars for learners try to give more complete guidance, variously stating that, if the situation is formal, wrongly may be the better choice in either position; if the adverb comes before the verb, wrongly is the only possible form; if the verb is a common short one, such as do, get, have or go, it often forms a set phrase in which wrong is the idiomatic choice (“don’t get me wrong”, “she did him wrong”, “how did he go wrong?”); wrong is preferred after the verb when the intended meaning is “in an unsuitable or undesirable manner or direction” or “incorrect” (as in spelling something incorrectly); if it means “falsely”, then wrongly is the correct form (“rightly or wrongly”, “the award was denied him wrongly”, “he was incapable of acting wrongly”..."

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-wro2.htm

So..maybe your objection stems from the over-informal feel of adverb "wrong" in a headline.




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