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But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking…

But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were… (original 2016; edition 2016)

by Chuck Klosterman (Author)

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4061837,153 (3.56)3
Title:But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past
Authors:Chuck Klosterman (Author)
Info:Blue Rider Press (2016), Edition: 1, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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But what if we're wrong? by Chuck Klosterman (2016)


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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
What if we're right that we're wrong

This book is a great antidote to one of the diseases of our time: the self-righteous cock-suredness that if I am not absolutely right about everything I say (especially in social media) then at least I am absolutely right that you are wrong. ( )
  dasam | Jun 21, 2018 |
Maybe a 4 is too much but I like the theoretical arguments and the mind boggling-ness of the book. Essentially, how the future thinks about the present will likely be vastly different than how the present thinks about the present, because how we think about the past is how how the past thought about the past, re: best authors, artists, musicians, scientific paradigms, team sports, etc. A surprisingly interesting read since I had Klosterman on my "bad" list for hating on soccer in Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs. ( )
  nheredia05 | Jun 12, 2018 |
I am only rating this book as high as three stars because I am sure that there are people, who aren't like me, and would enjoy the book. So don't pay an excessive amount to my rating: you may just love this. I didn't finish it; I skipped the chapters that bored me, and tried out the later chapters. For the most part, Klosterman is talking about things that I really don't care about, or are not a social problem. I had expected examples of things many people once believed to be true, like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that didn't exist, or how the Black Panthers may have been demonized. Perhaps I should have investigated this book more before I read it.

Klosterman began losing me in chapter one when he got sniffy about someone giving Moby-Dick a one star rating. I gave it two stars, myself. Klosterman admitted that the reader was entitled to his own opinion, and then seemed to take his condescending permission back as he went on about how Moby-Dick is foundational to how "we" read and understand novels. "There can be no argument about its quality." I find this wrong in several ways.

One of the questions that needs to be asked more is, "Who do you mean 'we'?" (Another one is "and then what?") I am not part of this 'we,' and I don't like many of the ideas which underlie this incorrect use of 'we' and 'us.' I doubt that Moby-Dick has had much influence on how I read novels, since I was in my 40s or 50s by the time I read it. 'We' do not "all start from the supposition that Moby-Dick is accepted [by whom?] as self-evidently awesome, including (and perhaps especially) those who disagree with that assertion." I don't think that sentence makes any sense. His claim assumes that I have been trained into a consensus that I actually have very little use for, run by authorities that I mostly ignore. (I do agree with the early critic who described Moby-Dick unfavorably as "a salad.") Richard Armour, a literature professor best known for his satiric books, discussed Moby-Dick in his hilarious book The Classics Reclassified. A typical comment:

"Unless you are interested in a catalogue of famous pictures of whales, the manufacture of rope lines, the anatomy of the whale's ear, eye, and tail, how to skin a whale and cook the blubber, and the history of whaling from Perseus to the present, you would do well to turn from Chapter XXXVI to Chapter CXXXIII without further delay [...] After all, Ahab isn't the only one entitled to be a skipper." (elision added.)

It seems to me that "critics" in many fields concentrate too heavily on technique and novelty which are only secondarily important to me. In addition, they attempt to provide objective answers to subjective questions. Different people look for different things in books, in music, in art. I actually do not care who people in the future will hail as the greatest writer or composer or singer of our time; it is nothing to me. My above-mentioned former friend probably cares.

I bailed out of chapter two on music for reasons that probably don't need explaining.

As for science, which I am interested in, we've been told before that we have reached the limit of science and technology. We certainly haven't reached the end of the latter, even with the science we already know. If someone asks me how the universe came into being, I say that the preferred scientific explanation at this time is the Big Bang. Considering our rather parochial position in the universe, there is probably a lot that we don't know and I won't be surprised or chagrined if that isn't the explanation in the future.

As to football, they needn't continue to play on my account. At the same time that we are worrying about football being violent, mixed martial arts seems to be becoming more popular. According to Jonathan Gottschall's The Professor in the Cage, bare-knuckle boxing was actually less damaging than boxing with gloves. Hitting someone bare-handed damages the hand as well as the person being hit, and bare-knuckled boxers took that into account in their technique and tactics. Gottschall argues that boxing gloves protect the hand doing the hitting less than the person being hit, and do little to prevent concussions. Are some of the bloodier sports actually less harmful, if they don't cause concussions?

Klosten later gets to the Constitution, which is one thing I do care about. He's interesting until he gets to arguing that the Founders were overly concerned with freedom. I think he gets this wrong; they feared the "mob." Not only did they continue slavery, but they limited both voting and other civil rights on the basis of sex, race, and wealth. The Electoral College elected the president and vice president without regard to party (the existence of parties is one thing the founders optimistically hoped would never occur) and without any direct input from the electorate. The state legislatures selected the electors, and they also appointed the senators until the 17th amendment. I suspect that if we could tell them that we are now working on the civil rights of LGBTetc., their jaws would hit the table. Historically, the Constitution has been altered from time to time, and this may keep it alive in the future.

What I think is fascinating is how our present changes our past. Thomas Carlyle argued that history is the biographies of great men, but many historians and laypeople disagree with that. So now we have histories about common people, and the effects of such things as environment, weather, geography and disease. Women and African Americans have been able to reclaim much of their previously ignored history, and I am hoping that the future will include more about Native Americans. The recent discoveries about cities in the Amazon will rewrite a lot of history, and there seems to be more interest in the elaborate mounds, which I hope to see someday, of North America.

As for dreams, I suggest that the reader try keeping a dream log. I, and some of the people that I have talked to, find that doing so makes the dreams more coherent and they often seem to become didactic. No winning lottery numbers, alas.

I don't think this is a bad book per se, just not for me. I hope that other potential readers are able to decide for themselves if it is of interest to them. ( )
  juglicerr | May 1, 2018 |
I enjoyed the mental gymnastic and general brain trippiness of this book which looks at the present and all the things we take for granted as universally true through the lens of time and asks...In the future will we still feel the same about this as we do now, and what if a great many of the things we accept as fundamentally true at this time are looked back on as fundamentally wrong by the future. After all, every generation has felt like they have known 'the truth', but every future generation looks back on the greats as being fundamentally wrong because we have learned something they didn't know then. Through many examples and some fun thought experiments, we get a glimpse at what the future might think looking back on today's certainties, but of course we could be wrong even then. ( )
  RivetedReaderMelissa | Mar 22, 2018 |
Finished in the not-quite-wee-hours of the morning. I picked this up from the library the weekend before the election and it ended up being a bit too relevant, at least re: the mountains of thinkpieces and criticism re: why so many people seemed to be wrong in the aftermath. What happened? Is there an unseen piece to how we got to this result? Will it ever be knowable?

This is my first Klosterman book, so I don't know if philosophical essays are his thing (guessing they are), but I was fascinated by how any subject- music, television, the nature of our reality - could be placed in this hypothetical archaeological site by the civilizations of the future. Much of this seems like a bar argument gone on too long (and I'm guessing some of these passages probably stemmed from such).

I do disagree with his criteria for how future generations will view television- as far as I know, while people enjoy the mundane texts of the ancient world (I've seen the tumblr post recently musing on things people take for granted but we don't write down, with some user citing Punt, Egypt's trading partner that they wrote extensively about- except for where it's located), people also enjoy the epics of ancient mythology. It's pretty improbable that a deity came down in the form of a bird or a bull to have sex with a human, but it makes for a luridly entertaining story. I'm also not sure how he thinks TV is its own distinct medium, birthed from radio but categorized differently- similar genres can transcend medium like epic fantasy, historical pieces, comedies, etc.

The musings on the permanence of history or science was more interesting to me- the idea that a paradigm shift *will* happen, but we can't see/predict what it will be because we're in the current paradigm. I do think the presence of the internet changes the idea of history with the presence of web archives, though future archaeologists will have to be vigilant on what's real and what's a Poe's law facsimile.

Overall, a recommended read, especially if you want to be slightly comforted by the idea that nothing happening now matters (or maybe it does, but we don't know how yet). ( )
  Daumari | Dec 30, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chuck Klostermanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hardingham, Fionasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Office of Paul SahreCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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If what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I'll have failed completely.
—Arthur C. Clarke, speaking in the year 1964, attempting to explain what the world might be like in the year 2000
For Silas and Hope
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I've spent most of my life being wrong.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
We live in a culture of casual certitude. This has always been the case, no matter how often that certainty has failed. Though no generation believes there's nothing left to learn, every generation unconsciously assumes that what has already been defined and accepted is (probably) pretty close to how reality will be viewed in perpetuity. And then, of course, time passes. Ideas shift. Opinions invert. What once seemed reasonable eventually becomes absurd, replaced by modern perspectives that feel even more irrefutable and secure--until, of course, they don't.

But What If We're Wrong? visualizes the contemporary world as it will appear to those who'll perceive it as the distant past. Chuck Klosterman asks questions that are profound in their simplicity: How certain are we about our understanding of gravity? How certain are we about our understanding of time? What will be the defining memory of rock music, five hundred years from today? How seriously should we view the content of our dreams? How seriously should we view the content of television? Are all sports destined for extinction? Is it possible that the greatest artist of our era is currently unknown (or--weirder still--widely known, but entirely disrespected)? Is it possible that we "overrate" democracy? And perhaps most disturbing, is it possible that we've reached the end of knowledge?

Kinetically slingshotting through a broad spectrum of objective and subjective problems, But What If We're Wrong? is built on interviews with a variety of creative thinkers--George Saunders, David Byrne, Jonathan Lethem, Kathryn Schulz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene, Junot Díaz, Amanda Petrusich, Ryan Adams, Nick Bostrom, Dan Carlin, and Richard Linklater, among others--interwoven with the type of high-wire humor and nontraditional analysis only Klosterman would dare to attempt. It's a seemingly impossible achievement: a book about the things we cannot know, explained as if we did. It's about how we live now, once "now" has become "then.""-- Provided by publisher.
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We live in a culture of casual certitude. This has always been the case, no matter how often that certainty has failed. Though no generation believes there's nothing left to learn, every generation unconsciously assumes that what has already been defined and accepted is (probably) pretty close to how reality will be viewed in perpetuity. And then, of course, time passes. Ideas shift. Opinions invert. What once seemed reasonable eventually becomes absurd, replaced by modern perspectives that feel even more irrefutable and secure--until, of course, they don't. -- But What If We're Wrong? From the Hardcover edition.… (more)

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