Since the publication of my essay Is Google Making Us Stupid? in The Atlantic, I’ve received several requests for pointers to sources and related readings. I’ve tried to round them up below.
The essay builds on my book The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, particularly the final chapter, “iGod.” The essential theme of both the essay and the book – that our technologies change us, often in ways we can neither anticipate nor control – is one that was frequently, and deeply, discussed during the last century, in books and articles by such thinkers as Lewis Mumford, Eric A. Havelock, J. Z. Young, Marshall McLuhan, and Walter J. Ong.
The screenplay for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey was written by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke’s book 2001, a lesser work than the film, was based on the screenplay rather than vice versa.
Scott Karp’s blog post about how he’s lost his capacity to read books can be found here, and Bruce Friedman’s post can be found here. Both Karp and Friedman believe that what they’ve gained from the Internet outweighs what they’ve lost. An overview of the University of College London study of the behavior of online researchers, “Information Behaviour of
the Researcher of the Future,” is here. Maryanne Wolf’s fascinating Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain was published last year by Harpercollins.
I found the story of Friedrich Nietzsche’s typewriter in J. C. Nyíri’s essay Thinking with a Word Processor as well as Friedrich A. Kittler’s winningly idiosyncratic Gramophone, Film, Typewriter and Darren Wershler-Henry’s history of the typewriter, The Iron Whim.
Lewis Mumford discusses the impact of the mechanical clock in his 1934 Technics and Civilization. See also Mumford’s later two-volume study The Myth of the Machine. Joseph Weizenbaum’s Computer Power and Human Reason remains one of the most thoughtful books written about the human implications of computing. Weizenbaum died earlier this year, and I wrote a brief appreciation of him here.
Alan Turing’s 1936 paper on the universal computer was titled On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem. Tom Bodkin’s explanation of the New York Times‘s design changes came in this Slate interview with Jack Shafer.
Eric Schmidt made his comments about Google’s Taylorist goals during the company’s 2006 press day. The Harvard Business Review article on Google, “Reverse Engineering Google’s Innovation Machine,” appeared in the April 2008 issue. Google describes its “mission” here and here. A much lengthier recital of Sergey Brin’s and Larry Page’s comments on Google’s search engine as a form of artificial intelligence, along with sources, can be found at the start of the “iGod” chapter in The Big Switch. Schmidt made his comment about “using technology to solve problems that have never been solved before” at the company’s 2006 analyst day.
I used Neil Postman’s translation of the excerpt from Plato’s Phaedrus, which can be found at the start of Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Walter J. Ong quotes Hieronimo Squarciafico in Orality and Literacy. Clay Shirky’s observation about the printing press was made here.
Richard Foreman’s “pancake people” essay was originally distributed to members of the audience for Foreman’s play The Gods Are Pounding My Head. It was reprinted in Edge. I first noted the essay in my 2005 blog post Beyond Google and Evil.