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Mónica Guzmán

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June 30, 2014 at 3:31 PM

#techbookbinge: ‘Smarter Than You Think’ leaves tech open to surprises

smarterthan100

Now that I’ve finished “Smarter Than You Think,” I’m realizing that the thing I like most about author Clive Thompson’s approach is captured nicely in what follows each chapter title.

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Works that crunch technology’s goodness or badness like closure. “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr was last week’s read in my summerlong #techbookbinge and it might as well have boomed when it shut:

Here’s what’s going on. Here’s why you should be worried about it. Now — worry.

To say Thompson’s outlook is just more optimistic dismisses how thoughtfully it strikes an open-minded, open-ended balance. Thompson manages to put today’s tech in the context of history and human agency without assuming it’s about to hit some major peak or pit.

The human agency part was the most refreshing. While it’s great to cite smart studies and books and philosophies (and Thompson actually shoos away a ton of counterarguments by calling brain science too “premature” to trust — not sure how I feel about that), I think Thompson has Carr beat on method: Thompson talks to people doing fascinating things in technology while Carr treats them, too, like closed books.

“Smarter Than You Think” ends up celebrating how little we can predict about what people will do with new toys and new tools. And it adopts the ethic of public thinking the Internet has made so pervasive and powerful.

If we don’t have all the answers, it’s probably because we’re still figuring it out.

Next up: “Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution” by Steven Levy…

See all the books in my summer #techbookbinge.

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