Books, Technology, & Loss of Humanity: Deep Thoughts

Ok, first off, when I say “Loss of Humanity”, I don’t mean end of the world, comet striking the earth kind of loss of Humanity. I mean the age old debate of whether or not Technology is going to eliminate the Humanity, or Comfort, of long standing traditions.

I was at Chapter’s Books yesterday – the Canadian version of Barnes and Noble. I was hunting for two books. One was a Dinosaur book for my daughter, the other was another book from the “Small Business” section for me. I didn’t have a title in mind for either of them, but I knew the basic gist of what I was after in both cases. My daughter and I sat and flipped through 4 or so Dinosaur books, looking at pictures and “losing ourselves” for 30 minutes if not more. It was awesome. I went though a similar process looking for my book. I found one that I connected with and the process of flipping pages, reading blurbs and figuring out which of the hundreds actually connected with me was most definitely part of the pleasure.

Like many, I have considered the purchase of a Kindle or, in my case, a Sony Reader. While I was sitting and reading my new found book last night, it dawned on me, that if I was reading this on a Sony Reader, that the content of my purchase would be the same, and I would likely be just as satisfied by that. But I would not have had that Human moment I had at the store. I likely wouldn’t have had that same experience with my daughter. The latter saddens me.

Is it simply the changing of times? Or are we truly losing part of ourselves through Technology? Is a bookstore something worth clinging onto? Is the experience of purchasing something simply tied to a capitalistic upbringing that I shouldn’t be concerned about?


Is part of my job as an industrial designer to hold on tight to these pieces of Humanity and make sure that we keep those feelings tied into future experiences, even though they’re different?

Also, in addition to a loss of humanity, you get a loss of function. I doubt it would have been as easy to browse for the two books on Amazon as it was at Chapter’s. I love ThomasNet but sometimes I miss the old books. There are times I don’t know exactly what I am looking for and I need to browse the book in a section that will give me leads to exactly what I want. Hopefully I’m not being too vague.

As for the job of the IDer to hold on to that humanity, probably not. I think that is up to the individual and the choices they make which will then become a part of the culture/society. Some things will go on the wayside while some things will stay. I think of Danny DeVito’s speech in Other People’s Money, “And I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company? You invested in a business and this business is dead.” Some things/experiences become obsolete. I don’t think an IDer has the power to will it one way or another.

As for more about the “Human” experience you had at the store with your daughter, there is a great book. It is called Art As Experience by John Dewey. It is a wonderful thesis about art and aesthetics that parallels what you described in this thread. I would highly recommend it.

I think that books will never go away, or at least I hope they don’t. I guess some experiences just shouldn’t ever be replaced, as they are already perfect. The tangible qualities of a book have such strong aesthetics.

Speaking of dinosaur books, I would really recommend this one, although it’s a little out of date:

I had it when I was 5 y/o (dinosaurs were my childhood drawing obsession), and memorized all the stats and stuff. Good times…[/url]

books, 5 speed manual gear boxes, analog gauges, copper cook pots, open fires, paper maps, movie theaters and even newspapers need to be kept in my opinon.

Dinosaurs just fascinate kids. I remember when my brother was younger he was obsessed & to this day you can ask him a random question & he just knows the answer. I’ve been to see Sue at the Field museum in Chicago & it’s great how many people are just fascinated. Definitely take your daughter if you ever make it down that way.

As for books… I need my books hardback, paperback, 3D - tactile. The only thing better than getting the latest from your fav author is digging through a used book store & finding tons of random treasures. I’ve found some of my fav authors that way.

I think that in an ever increasingly wired world, a person needs simple pleasures. One of the best ways (IMHO) to relax is with a good book, a great page turner. Book reading is just calming from the repetitive task of page turning while taking a person away from their world & into another. Reading on an electronic device just doesn’t seem relaxing on a rainy day to me. I wouldn’t recommend a good soak & read with one! :smiley:

However, I love the idea of all my technical books & manuals in electronic form. When I think about how much time I spend yanking books off the shelf to find the info I need, 1 search phrase across all of them would speed up the process.

Books: You’ve stumbled upon that quality of a bookstore that can’t be easily replicated online. The book you are looking for isn’t the critical elements, it’s the books next to the book you are looking for. This is why I still love libraries. The best books I’ve ever read were on the same shelf as the boring book that I was looking for.

I have noticed this quality in wikipedia’s use of hyperlinking. How many of us have lost a couple hours clicking through links on Wikipedia after a fairly simple search?

When the search narrows however, as with a Kindle, where one has to buy access to each book seperately (with the exception of previews, albeit) this is lost. Kindle will only find the book you were looking for.

On a side note, I’ve heard of a new music service online that is a subscription service for a catalogue of music. Therefore, in lieu of $.99 per song, one gets access to thousands of songs for $15.00 a month (if I recall correctly). The subscriber has access from multiple locations and doesn’t have to lug around anything (USB keys, laptop, iPod). I would love to see an internet library built around a product like the Kindle using a subscription model. Ironically, pay libraries have existed before…nothing completely new.

Funny, I just recently started reading “The Universe in a Single Atom”, but the Dalai Lama. It addresses science and empirical data in relation to spirituality and Buddhism. Incredibly insightful and I highly recommend it if you’re really that concerned about technology detracting from the “human” experience.

It addresses science and empirical data in relation to spirituality and Buddhism. Incredibly insightful and I highly recommend it if you’re really that concerned about technology detracting from the “human” experience.

Something can be said for the longevity of the simple written word.

Oldest known writing (on clay tablets); 4100-3800 BCE (6,100 years)
Oldest know writing (on papyrus); 2600 BCE (4,600 years)
First printed book (Gutenberg Bible); 1455 AD (455 years)
Magnetic Information Storage (on tape); 1928 AD (81 years)
First Optical Storage (Compact Disc); 1982 AD (27 years)

Until as recently as 81 years ago, the only thing one needed to read, and learn, was the human eye.

With the lifespan of compact discs being estimated to be between only 70-200 years, and more importantly, the availability of hardware and software required to “read” them, will the history of the modern world, of our existence, even be readable in 1,000 years … in 6,100 years?

Imagine if you needed to read something on a 1.4mb floppy disk today. Man, I wouldn’t know where to start!

funny…I just went through this with my father-in-law

IP: How did that turn out?

Searched about 5 local small computer stores and finally found a USB floppy drive for $20

Ironically, I got this link from Yo on mySpace…but very fitting to the feeling I had after going to the bookstore.

Great link ip_w.

I don’t think there is anyway to design patience into modern life. I wish there was a way; I could certainly use a lot; but it sounds like a Catch-22 to me. Instantaneous electronic communication must be fostering intolerance between humans. I’m betting more than we suspect.
I’m so short-fused now, that I might as well tape the channel select button down so I don’t have to hold my thumb on it. The only form of entertainment, including cinema, that holds my attention nowadays … is a book.

He mentioned manually dialing the phone and having to stand next to it while you talked. I remember my parents having to call an operator and then waiting to be called back by the operator while the connection was made between southern Indiana, and eastern Illinois. You picked up the phone and heard, “Long Distance Calling for (the name of your party), will you accept the charges?”. Our home telephone number was 3198; four digits fer cryin’ out loud. You had to get up from your seat and actually turn the tuner knob to change channels (we received four, the rest of the dial was “snow”), and there was no television after the midnight (except the “test pattern” and accompanying monotone audio signal). The news came on at 6 p.m., and only at 6 p.m.

As far as the sum of human knowledge is concerned, perhaps we should remember the lessons learned from the Library at Alexandria.

vinyl is still alive, and it better not go away. The same argument happened with the tape, then the CD. There will always be a market for information, in every medium available.