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  1. this is nonsense because there is no known mechanism for the global self-immolation of books but there are many possibilities how the internet etc. could fail (it does not have to fail suddenly everywhere all at once). Therefore probabilities can hardly be the same. It is also beside the point I was making which was about general dependence on some additional infrastructure that has to be maintained, affordable, accessible etc. and therefore makes a clear difference, not about possible catastrophic scenarios (the "flash" I mentioned was not meant to be a real scenario, just to compare with ca. 1990). In any case it is a tangent because the main point here is not failsafe infrastructure but cognitive and other changes associated with media use. We probably do not have clarity about causation here but all kinds of psychological, behavioral problems, personality disorders etc. (especially but not restricted to children and adolescents) have skyrocketed in the last few decades. Not only the specific things mentioned in the smartphone article above but far more general problems. ADHS was virtually unknown or at least rare before 1980s or so. And I wonder in which world people get the impression that we (or the average or even the well educated person) today is better at "critical thinking skills" than in former times...
  2. I finished "Jingo" a few days ago. It was good, but not among the best discworld (somewhat too preachy and predictable). Earlier (probably mostly in June) I read my first non-SoIaF by George Martin: Tuf Voyaging, a volume of loosely connected novellas/short stories. This was pretty good; the first story is really good, the rest is a mixed bag and I had to take a break because the protagonists very quickly develops from likeable underdog to insufferably righteous after he has acquired great powers (this is even acknowledged in the last story but most of the time we apparently are so sympathize with his righteousness because his clients/opponents are so very stupid).
  3. That media (per se, not actual information providers) are not neutral was claimed by many, including Neil Postman about 40 years ago. Because some doomsayers were wrong in some details or had exaggerated their point (virtually everyone does that) does not prove that they are completely wrong. More recent research: And the analogy with "self-immolating books" is obviously misleading. If there was a flash and we would be back in 1990 almost nothing would really change in everday life (there would be cars, planes, trains, TV, radio, CDs, movies, books, most other pleasant things of late 20th century civilization) except everything internet based. So there is obviously a huge infrastructure we are dependent on now we were not (or far less) dependent on 25 years ago. This has to be maintained, paid for etc. Whereas the "reading/writing/printing books/letters infrastructure" is basically 500 years old (or maybe 200 if we are talking about books as a widespread commodity or >2000 if we include handcopied scrolls and books) and comparably resilient (unless one makes up stuff like self-immolation).
  4. Long John Silver (Treasure Island) The Aleutian (Snow Crash)
  5. Does the Underground Man ever do anything bad? He hates everyone including himself but he mostly broods and does not do anything, or does he? The worst Dostoevsky character is probably Fyodor Karamazov; an unrepetentant asshole if there ever was one whereas I think most "bad guys" in "The Demons" (who might be technically worse) or Svidrigailov can evoke some compassion. (Dostoevsky gave the old Karamazov his first name and patronymic...) Another complete bastard is the seducer/"benefactor" of Natalya Filipowna in "The Idiot" but he is comparably pale (I even forgot his name).
  6. This generation (at least in Europe) is still mostly alive (so "current" in some sense) because TV was not widespread before the early/mid 1960s. The "good old days" (if they existed) were obviously before TV (cf. Neil Postman).
  7. Is he sufficiently developed as a character for such a judgement? (That's what I doubt but it's been a long time I read the books, so I am not sure.) And if he is mainly stupid or prone to mistakes is he rather to be pitied than censored?
  8. I can only speak from anecdotal evidence, but if one looks at some older (say early 20th century) school or reading material for elementary school, I think there are indications that not only rote learning but also understanding of fairly complicated texts was valued higher. Of course without any actual research I have no clue how many of the students back then were hopelessly overtaxed by the material. Overall, I am as wary about the millenia-old complaint about the useless youth (although I have unfortunately entered an age where I tend to share the impression) as about a "generalised Flynn Effect" or similar claim that we are so much smarter than all or most former generations because of technology.
  9. I am not sure if they are tech savy. They can play with their gadgets but the fraction who is interested in understanding them is probably as low as in former times, or actually lower. In my generation some (not I) painstakingly copied BASIC code from computer magazines to have games or simple programs on their early/mid 1980s computers, so they were forced to gain some understanding. Similarly with radios, cars, motorcycles etc. even earlier. As for more traditional knowledge, these things shift all the time and it always depends which fields and which segments of the populace one compares. In my grandparent's (born in the early 20th century) and parent's generation (born in the 1940s) many people with 8 years of schooling would know dozens of longish poems, songs, bible passages by heart, could do sums and percentages in their head or at least on a bit of paper without electronic help. They had also all kinds of practical knowledge in gardening, cooking, household stuff I and many others today are hopeless with. Today someone with the lowest school degree (which is now 9-10 years in Germany) will often fail at rather elementary calculations and hardly be able to write a comprehensible letter in acceptable orthography. But of course back then 50% or more of the populace only had 8 school years whereas today many of this lowest tier have special needs and issues, so it is hardly a fair comparison. But "average" college(-bound) students of today (in Germany) speak (according to my anecdotal) evidence overall considerably better English than my generation (born in the 70s) did (or does) but they also have all kinds of gaps I often find astonishing. (I easily retain lots of exotic "useless" sundry miscellaneous knowledge so I am often surprised at what people I consider intelligent and knowledgeable do not know. And admittedly I am pissed at smartphones that allow people to look up everything everywhere quickly, so I cannot stun them anymore with knowing/quoting/citing all kinds of stuff without looking it up... ;))
  10. I have the Gollancz volume with the four novels; I read the Ghost pirates and the boats of the Glen Carrig (I don't even recall the latter as all that archaic in style). I will try at least House on the Borderland at some stage but I am sure I can take the style of the Night Land. (I've read some books with archaic (Ouroboros) or dialectal (Welsh's Filth) language and I did manage, but it is far harder than ordinary English). ISBN-10: 0575073721
  11. of course! I have one fat pbck volume of Hope Hodgson but being not really enthusiastic about the two I read (ghost pirates and the one with the shipwreck in the country of strange monsters that pound things to pulp) and not sure I can take the archaic style, I hesitated about trying the othes, especially "The Night Land".
  12. I only encountered this today, so I was not aware of it when a posted here a few days ago, but as so often "Scott Alexander" has a very valuable comment I cannot hope to add anything to. He has lots of data/links that confirm some stuff (like veterinarians vs. programmers etc.) I wrote above unsystematically. He also cites studies and data for a pretty good explanation (gender differences in preferences, interests and personality, not capabilities seem to be the cause).
  13. According to her criteria in the first post she is basically looking for "classic" epic fantasy, neither "low fantasy" sword and sorcery like Leiber nor more recent takes on epic fantasy that give a taste of despair and disgust rather than a "touch of magic, feeling of wonder". Note that she is not a native speaker and might not have been familiar with the more restricted meaning of "sword and sorcery" as something different from "epic fantasy".
  14. Lovecraft: The Outsider maybe because this was the very first weird tale in a narrower sense (other then more common/traditional spook/ghost stories) I encountered. Then the one with the Hare's foot or whatever it was. Apparently it was something else because I cannot find it with these search words. It is a talisman that grants wishes (and they are used foolishly in the story). I just read "Necromancy in Naat"; it's a little too close to being involuntarily silly for me. I prefer The Tale of Satampra Zeiros (read this a while ago), now checking "Singing Flame" (not sure I have read that one, probably not). Of novellas, for sheer weirdness, I found that Blackwood's "The Willows" deserves its reputation, it is fairly slow, though.
  15. I reject 1. If this was the case, capitalism would solve it by offering far better salaries and work conditions to STEM graduates (capitalism probably solves it by outsourcing IT to India or elsewhere). When I studied physics in the 1990s there was a trend for theoretical physics PhDs to join consulting firms like McKinsey after their PhD. So clearly, there were too many physics PhDs because (disregarding potentially interesting research those guys might have done for their theses) it is a colossal waste to train someone in a comparably esoteric subject like quantum field theory and then let him do consulting (something with virtually no intellectual/scientific and highly dubious societal value (better: consequences) that could as well be done by people with lower degrees in economics). Of course employers always want more people to choose from because than they can pay them less. I accept 2 to some extent. I hesitate because it is not really clear to me why this should be a problem mainly/only in male dominated fields like engineering and not in female-dominated fields like some sections of education, psychology and some sections of medicine. It seems to presuppose that CS or some other parts of STEM (certainly not most biology or geology, I guess) are "higher status", so it is only worth to suspect discrimination there but not in education or vet med. Again, the curious thing here are the local differences. How could some gender+subject differences completely flip in 20-30 years (veterinary med) and others (like CS in the last 10-15 years) experience a rollback after some development towards a more balanced gender participation. I am not sure I understand 3. CS wields "extreme power" compared to law, finance, politics, genetics, nuclear physics, certain other fields of engineering? This might be true but it is not at all clear to me. Does the Apple CEO (or some of their senior developers) wield more power than the respective person at Daimler, Boeing or Siemens? More than some hedgefond sociopath? More than a Supreme Court Judge or Chancellor Merkel? But this is beside the point. Most people in a field are low or middle level "grunts", not senior researchers or CEOs. You pointed out yourself that a lot of IT/CS work is boring drudgery and not very attractive per se. Disregarding the pay, these are not really jobs with a high social status. If someone can become a small town GP or veterinary (especially in countries without expensive med school) or a judge or a headmistress (all of which have IMO higher social status than someone doing CS gruntwork) why should she rather go into CS?