Life: The power of the book and the power of memory

“If bookishness were just a niche pastime, like stamp collecting or waveboarding, none of this would really matter. But it’s more than that. It is the collective memory and accumulated wisdom of our species.

The rough-and-ready intellectual consensus of the mid-Twentieth Century is being pushed out by a New Superstition whose victims can find testimony on the Internet for anything they choose to believe. The only cure for it is reading books, and lots of them. When all things bookish are edited out of public discourse, strange things happen, or seem to. When our societal attention span becomes shorter than the lifetime of a steel bridge over a river, what appears to be a solid strip of highway can suddenly fall out from under us. Like a portent from the medieval world.”

—Neal Stephenson, from Some Remarks; see also “Twilight of the Books.”

That being said, I don’t think the Internet is only for “New Superstition,” and some of the “intellectual consensus” was and is wrong. Knowledge that people post and read on the Internet is neither right nor wrong, superstitious nor factual.

Links: Drugs (not the fun kind), misers, questions, and more

* Phages versus drug-resistant bacteria—really?

* “What I Like About Scrooge: In praise of misers;” it may be that “people who consume a lot. . . are selfish. Misers leave more for others to consume.”

* Stupid Questions: “Most writers complain about the people who come to hear them talk. Or rather the questions they ask. It’s time to wonder whether these people are really asking dumb questions. Why are writers so determined to focus exclusively on their novels, as if there were no continuity between writing and life?”

* It’s been at least 800,000 years since carbon-dioxide levels were this high. See also Snails Are Dissolving in Pacific Ocean.

* “Why the Smart Reading Device of the Future May Be … Paper;” I still strongly prefer paper books.

* What would happen if everyone in the world stopped eating meat?

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