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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Hariri. Gawd he has a fascinating brain! A historian who sees beyond the limits of his speciality, and wanders of into philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and predictions about the future based on an understanding of the present. John Gray probably said many of the same things but I think Hariri explains it all better.

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18 minutes ago, Fluent In Silence said:

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Hariri. Gawd he has a fascinating brain! A historian who sees beyond the limits of his speciality, and wanders of into philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and predictions about the future based on an understanding of the present. John Gray probably said many of the same things but I think Hariri explains it all better.

How can you say he has a fascinating brain? By definition, history concerns the past. You cannot have a history of tomorrow. His title makes him look like an idiot.

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1 minute ago, jt07 said:

How can you say he has a fascinating brain? By definition, history concerns the past. You cannot have a history of tomorrow. His title makes him look like an idiot.

I don’t agree. If he covers “philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and predictions about the future”, he’s writing with imagination, like a sci-fi writer might. The title is eye-catching, which is part of what a title is for

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8 minutes ago, Iguana said:

The title is eye-catching, which is part of what a title is for

If we allow such abuses of the English language then words mean nothing and the English language is doomed. Since he is a professor, he should know better than that. He has a mediocre mind at best.

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14 minutes ago, jt07 said:

How can you say he has a fascinating brain? By definition, history concerns the past. You cannot have a history of tomorrow. His title makes him look like an idiot.

But to understand history requires some understanding of human nature. History is just a story we tell about how we got where we are, which makes all sorts of assumptions that have often been nothing more than myths. Manifest destiny? The white man's burden? Our understanding of the past has never been divorced from the present. It's always made certain assumptions about what's important and what causes historic events. If we could perfectly understand the past and the present then maybe we could understand the future. Hariri is no prophet, and he writes about historic trends when he talks about the future. Might be complete shite but it's interesting to consider.

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7 minutes ago, Fluent In Silence said:

But to understand history requires some understanding of human nature. History is just a story we tell about how we got where we are, which makes all sorts of assumptions that have often been nothing more than myths. Manifest destiny? The white man's burden? Our understanding of the past has never been divorced from the present. It's always made certain assumptions about what's important and what causes historic events. If we could perfectly understand the past and the present then maybe we could understand the future. Hariri is no prophet, and he writes about historic trends when he talks about the future. Might be complete shite but it's interesting to consider.

In my opinion, this is what happens when a mediocre academic decides to write a popular book.

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Have I pissed you off in some way? Perfectly willing to admit that I sound like a pretentious prick sometimes but I find this book interesting. Wasn't expecting to need to justify liking a book.

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2 hours ago, Fluent In Silence said:

Have I pissed you off in some way?

Not in the least.

2 hours ago, Fluent In Silence said:

Wasn't expecting to need to justify liking a book.

You don't have to justify liking the book. I'm just giving my opinion of it, and in my opinion, I think it's the author who needs to justify his book. With a title like that it sounds like a piece of science fiction. I'll admit that I haven't read the book, but the idiotic title together with the synopsis on Amazon is enough to put me off ever reading it.

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3 hours ago, Fluent In Silence said:

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Hariri. Gawd he has a fascinating brain! A historian who sees beyond the limits of his speciality, and wanders of into philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and predictions about the future based on an understanding of the present. John Gray probably said many of the same things but I think Hariri explains it all better.

I read his 21 Lessons for the 21st Century - which was indeed interesting (but I'm someone who's keen to futurist thinking, science & tech ethics stuff). Some of it borders on sci-fi (which I like) and some people claim he's a bit too "sweeping" surface-level, but he raises some good questions that society should be thinking about.

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Early Riser by Jasper Fforde. I love it, but can’t seem to find more than ten minutes at a time to read lately. 

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3 hours ago, jt07 said:

If we allow such abuses of the English language then words mean nothing and the English language is doomed. Since he is a professor, he should know better than that. He has a mediocre mind at best.

Would you object so vigorously if the book were fiction?

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13 minutes ago, Iguana said:

Would you object so vigorously if the book were fiction?

I would object to be sure because it is an abuse of the English language, but maybe not as vigorously. It just disgusts me that an academic would write such trash.

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2 hours ago, Iguana said:

Would you object so vigorously if the book were fiction?

 

2 hours ago, jt07 said:

I would object to be sure because it is an abuse of the English language, but maybe not as vigorously. It just disgusts me that an academic would write such trash.

To sort of tack on to what Iguana/Gearhead asked, what if "history of tomorrow" were used in a poem or as the title of a poem (and I'm not talking "vogon poetry"* here--though I'm hesitant to get into a discussion of what counts as the good, the bad, and the struggling in poetry or what even constitutes a poem**)?  I don't consider poetry to be an abuse of language (even though it does take some liberties, I think it makes quite interesting use of language and can even improve our understanding), and I can think of a "history of tomorrow" definitely being possible and true in a poem, in the right context of course (but again, not just spewed vogon stuff, no offense to vogon poets everywhere).

Basically what I'm asking is: can writers of poems and poets get a special dispensation from being said to look like idiots and from being accused of committing crimes against language? (I know you in no way called out writers of poems or poetry in general, and yet I'm feeling a little defensive/sensitive on behalf of poem writers everywhere, some of whom may be "abusing" language quite skillfully and making a lot of sense in the process, in many senses of the word sense.) Or do you exclude all poets (and fiction writers for that matter) from the academic ranks entirely? (In that case, oh dear.)

*I first heard of vogon poetry here at crazyboards and that (plus the first couple of google search results) constitutes most of my limited understanding of it.

**Regarding what counts as truly bad poetry, I tend to adhere to the supreme court's test for what constitutes hardcore porn--I know it when I see [read] it. But often some "bad", or less than great, or struggling poems have glimmers of "good" stuff that can be worked with and built upon. And if there weren't bad poems in existence, there probably wouldn't be many good ones either because everyone has to start somewhere (and though I don't write all that well now, I can certainly admit to writing some really (in hindsight) embarassingly bad stuff in the past. Come to think of it, I still write some things that I'd never let anyone see unless I was in a safe workshop environment, and maybe not even then).

I can further make the case for badly written poems by pointing out that the writing of "bad" poetry is still an expression of self and trying to express oneself is usually a good thing, especially if it also serves as catharthis or as a form of reaching out to other people or even just as a way to try to make sense of oneself or of something that's happened or of life itself, the universe, etc. etc. (humans being the meaning-making creatures we seem to be--well, that's one takeaway from my liberal arts type degree). I could go on in defense of bad poetry, but I think I've now quelled my feelings of guilt for calling/labeling some poetry "bad" in the first place.

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56 minutes ago, aquarian said:

Basically what I'm asking is: can writers of poems and poets get a special dispensation from being said to look like idiots and from being accused of committing crimes against language?

No. The same applies. Perhaps even more so. I have a very low opinion of poetry to begin with, vogon or not, so I am particularly against poetry that butchers the language. My opinion of poetry can best be explained by a quote from the late great physicist P. A. M. Dirac:

"In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in the case of poetry, it's the exact opposite!"

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Gee ... I'm sorry for the way this comes off as hostile, but I wrote it late, late at night. I'm really not hostile, but I am a stickler for adhering to proper English because if words change their meanings then I'm screwed. That and the fact that I have a low opinion of academics who write popular books covering areas outside of their expertise.

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, jt07 said:

I would object to be sure because it is an abuse of the English language, but maybe not as vigorously. It just disgusts me that an academic would write such trash.

Yeah, I think as an Oxford academic, you'd assume his writing would be more scholarly (I don't know the range of his work well, never heard him speak). Publishers probably wanted his books to be as accessible to the mainstream reader as possible (hence why it's on best sellers lists). He was attempting to digest extremely complicated, meaty topics (of wide breadth), considering multiple perspectives, all in one book... framing it in a creative, simplified way. In many ways, this is good...

Yet it also comes across as watered down, overly simplified, non rigorous- the ending annoyed me because he starts waxing on about his subjective meditation practices, like it's a panacea. That was the main rub for me...otherwise, it was an interesting and engaging book.

Edited by Blahblah

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21 minutes ago, jt07 said:

Gee ... I'm sorry for the way this comes off as hostile, but I wrote it late, late at night. I'm really not hostile, but I am a stickler for adhering to proper English because if words change their meanings then I'm screwed. That and the fact that I have a low opinion of academics who write popular books covering areas outside of their expertise.

One of my favorite academic essays in my discipline is called "The History of the Future." It looks at the rhetorical construction through history of notions of the future as it relates to technology, and how technology has often been evoked as the solution to problems that have actually been caused by technology, all of which likely foretells a certain future in which the latest and greatest technologies are privileged, for better or worse.  It's an apt title I think, even though, strictly speaking, one can't write a history of the future (but arguably "the future" itself is an intellectual construct, and not even every culture has the same notion about what "future" means). I'm not explaining this well because my brain is foggy today. I agree with you to a point about language, but also language is always fluid and contextual, and a good writer pushes the boundaries of language, and relies on things like metaphor to do that. I have no opinion about the book in question, having never read it, and it may be low-brow popular book you're suggesting it is (though obviously Fluent found something thought-provoking in it so perhaps there's more to it than you're allowing). I do think that trans-disciplinarity can be a really good thing for fermenting interesting ideas (I'm in a field that is inherently transciplinary ), though of course one has to have some notion of what one's talking about as you suggest, and I absolutely, positively don't think that obtuse academic writing read by a small select group of "experts" should be the end goal of writing for academics. I think it's perfectly acceptable and laudable for academics to write in such as way as to convey their ideas to a wider audience. This book may fall short (but again Fluent obviously took some things away from it, so I hesitate to dismiss it out of hand), but I don't think I agree with all of your premises as to why it falls short. Not everyone has a PhD in a given field, and certainly there is room to convey complex ideas in a more easily digestible way to people outside of academia. Personally, when I do academic writing, I try to make it not soul-squelchingly sucky and decipherable only by academics, and I would be much more interested in having my ideas make their way into the popular imagination than to die a slow death in somebody's works cited list.

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, jt07 said:

Not in the least.

You don't have to justify liking the book. I'm just giving my opinion of it, and in my opinion, I think it's the author who needs to justify his book. With a title like that it sounds like a piece of science fiction. I'll admit that I haven't read the book, but the idiotic title together with the synopsis on Amazon is enough to put me off ever reading it.

It's ok, I don't expect everyone to agree with me but it was just the way you did which made me wonder "Have I made an enemy? How did I manage that?" I said how impressed I was with the breadth of his knowlege, and you said he's an idiot and a mediocre academic. So what sort of moron would be impressed by his work? That would be a moron like me. You probably didn't mean to say anything of the sort, and I can be over-sensitive sometimes, but you can see why I might have thought such a thing.

No harm done though. His first book was called 'Sapiens: A brief history of humankind.' So 'A brief history of tomorrow' might sound like a contradiction but it's a continuation of the ideas he outlined in his first book, hence the title. And he's not so arrogant to think he can tell the future.

Edit: Yeah I meant that I expect people to disagree with me but it was the way you... fuck it! you know what I was trying to say.

Edited by Fluent In Silence
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