June 8, 2014

Ellul on big data, circa 1965

It is a fact that excessive data do not enlighten the reader or the listener; they drown him. He cannot remember them all, or coordinate them, or understand them; if he does not want to risk losing his mind, he will merely draw a general picture from them. And the more facts supplied, the more simplistic the image.
Jacques Ellul, Propaganda, 1965

Neil Postman on what we haven't understood about technology

Public consciousness has not yet assimilated the point that technology is ideology.
 Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

June 7, 2014

"Now, what I want is Facts."

Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them.” 
Charles Dickens, Hard Times


June 2, 2014

To rediscover fear and trembling

Our world, so completely stripped of its taboos, must voluntarily establish new ones to match the new types of power it possesses. We must understand that we have ventured very far, and must relearn to understand that there is such a thing as "too far."...We must rediscover fear and trembling and, even without God, awe of what is holy. There is work enough to be done this side of the boundary we should be setting ourselves.
Hans Jonas,  1985

June 1, 2014

A Felicitous Environment, Achieved

"The overall sociological conditions in a society must provide a favorable environment for propaganda to succeed.” 
 Jacques Ellul, 1965