Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Edward De Bono vs. Sam Harris

Philosopher Edward De Bono on social media:

THE world's leading thinker says social networks are making people lazy and stupid.

Edward De Bono, Maltese philosopher and inventor of the “six hats method”, told news.com.au that he doesn’t use social networking because “he doesn’t want to be bullied by information”.

“There’s a danger in the internet and social media,” says Mr De Bono.

“The notion that information is enough, that more-and-more information is enough, that you don’t have to think, you just have to get more information - gets very dangerous.”

The author and philosopher says that people take the information they receive through social media at face value.

“That we can get information our computer and our communication systems are getting better and better, people say ‘I don’t have to think, information will make my decision for me’, and that completely rules out creativity using the information in a different way, or new way,” he says.

Neuroscientist and thinker Sam Harris on embracing e-books:

I love physical books as much as anyone. And when I really want to get a book into my brain, I now purchase both the hardcover and electronic editions. From the point of view of the publishing industry, I am the perfect customer. This also makes me a very important canary in the coal mine—and I’m here to report that I’ve begun to feel woozy. For instance, I’ve started to think that most books are too long, and I now hesitate before buying the next big one. When shopping for books, I’ve suddenly become acutely sensitive to the opportunity costs of reading any one of them. If your book is 600 pages long, you are demanding more of my time than I feel free to give. And if I could accomplish the same change in my view of the world by reading a 60-page version of your argument, why didn’t you just publish a book this length instead?

The honest answer to this last question should disappoint everyone: Publishers can’t charge enough money for 60-page books to survive; thus, writers can’t make a living by writing them. But readers are beginning to feel that this shouldn’t be their problem. Worse, many readers believe that they can just jump on YouTube and watch the author speak at a conference, or skim his blog, and they will have absorbed most of what he has to say on a given subject. In some cases this is true and suggests an enduring problem for the business of publishing. In other cases it clearly isn’t true and suggests an enduring problem for our intellectual life.

[The above is a build-up to the argument that e-books allow people to publish very short works, such as Harris's own e-book, Lying.]

You might come away from this thinking that De Bono and Harris aren't saying opposite things. After all, De Bono seems to be focusing on social media, even though he includes "the internet," that nebulous entity, in his critique. Harris, meanwhile, is a critical thinker par excellence, so he may, in a sense, be in full agreement with De Bono. But look at what Harris says above. Is his youthful impatience, visible in the above-quoted text, perhaps a vindication of De Bono's claims? Read both articles in their entirety to get the full context.

Or are you, perhaps, too impatient to do that?



Charles said...

If I had a dime for every "tl;dr" I saw on an internet forum, I could probably by the internet from Al Gore.

My problem isn't so much a short attention span, though, it's procrastination. But I'll come back to that later.

(Oh, how painfully true this is...)

Kevin Kim said...

You might appreciate this.

Charles said...

That's a fascinating idea. I usually rely on the small bursts of satisfaction I get from checking things off a list. What I try to do is divide tasks into units that are as small as reasonably possible, and then every time I complete a sub-task I get to check it off my to-do list. Visible progress toward a goal really helps.

I'll have to give the structured procrastination thing a shot, though. Maybe next week.