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The Cult of Information: A Neo-Luddite…

The Cult of Information: A Neo-Luddite Treatise on High-Tech, Artificial…

by Theodore Roszak

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Here is a critique of information technology from a humanistic perspective, focusing on the way the "data-processing model of thinking," a quantitative, ultimately binary, model of the mind on which computers are based, threatens to replace ideas as the dominant mode of thought in education, politics, and social life generally. This result of the mystifying effect of computers comes from the aura of certainty and mathematical precision bestowed on them by tech-enthusiasts.

Because it is hopelessly out of date when it comes to "contemporary" developments (1986 edition), the book is hit-or-miss. I would have liked to have seen either a deeper discussion of the philosophical argument or merely have the several chapters that ventured into highly specific cases cut out. Overall a disappointing follow-up to [b:Where the Wasteland Ends|22564|Where the Wasteland Ends Politics and Transcendence in Postindustrial Society|Theodore Roszak|http://www.goodreads.com/assets/nocover/60x80.png|1265619], but the dispersed gems of wisdom it contains make up for its problems. ( )
  dmac7 | Jun 14, 2013 |
Mostly still relevant, although first published in 1986. Maybe it was because of Herbert Marcuse I was reading at the same time, but the confrontation between "liberal arts" and "natural sciences" didn't work too well and I tended to read them as "communism" and "capitalism", respectively. The main point was, however, that machines (=capitalism) make us forget how to be humans, but it includes the whole society, even the ones dedicated to liberal arts.

Another thing bothering me were the conspiracy theories - and the "liberal arts" view point only strengthened the paranoiac feeling as it didn't only consider society or ideology as threat to the humankind, but suspected humans themselves, those working in the field of science. ( )
  Lady_Lazarus | Mar 2, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0520085841, Paperback)

The title notwithstanding, Theodore Roszak is no computer hater. But in an age that idolizes intelligent machines, he stands out as a rare cautionary voice. His book makes an eloquent case for a simple thesis: digital computing, far from being a panacea, has created as many problems as it solves. For Roszak, a fair measure of the fault lies with corporate hucksterism, a credulous educational establishment, and government's desire to control information. But the deeper worry is our own utopian techno-idealism--the belief that a scientific broom can sweep away our messy problems. The author challenges such computer messianism with a detailed, common-sense look at the history of what computing has actually brought us. The trends he sees--the conflation of data with knowledge, the erosion of human-centered values, and the rise of a digital oligarchy at just about everyone else's expense--are tough to deny. If you love computers, The Cult of Information is a provocative read, but one you shouldn't dodge.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:43 -0400)

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As we devote ever-increasing resources to providing, or prohibiting, access to information via computer, Theodore Roszak reminds us that voluminous information does not necessarily lead to sound thinking. "Data glut" obscures basic questions of justice and purpose and may even hinder rather than enhance our productivity. In this revised and updated edition of The Cult of Information, Roszak reviews the disruptive role the computer has come to play in international finance and the way in which "edutainment" software and computer games degrade the literacy of children. At the same time, he finds hopeful new ways in which the library and free citizens' access to the Internet and the national data-highway can turn computer technology into a democratic and liberating force. Roszak's examination of the place of computer technology in our culture is essential reading for all those who use computers, who are intimidated by computers, or who are concerned with the appropriate role of computers in the education of our children.… (more)

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