Posts Tagged ‘ Fahrenheit 451 ’

Journal 09-19-03

Our society (it is not news) is in a conundrum.  While I believe it is partly what our professor said about our society being anti-intellectual, I have to also highly disagree, because at the same time, we are (as she also stated earlier) discriminating against the unintelligent.  We view success in knowledge.  Knowledge is power and this is our construct.  Sure, we ultimately also fear it in an anti-intellectual sense.  But, we operate within it full throttle.

The idea that the know-it-all causes a problem for society not unfounded.  But the reverse approach has not yet been considered.  Answer #1: Make everyone feel intelligent, create an intelligent delusion.  “Stuff them so full of facts, they feel like they’re thinking”, as Beatty said.  Maybe this is indeed what we are doing (with less intent and malice).  Rather, we do it ignorantly and blindly believing that we are achieving knowledge.  So our answer, answer #2, is knowledge is power, reason is highest value.  This is the goal.  You don’t necessarily have to reach it.  We’ll put all sorts of anti-discrimination laws and ideas around to counteract being uneducated.  But the key to happiness is knowledge.

Well, now that I just wrote that I guess I’m not sure that is actually what we do.  I think what I just said sounds more like Beatty.  We do that and don’t know it.  I guess bottom line is we have a warped sense of knowledge.  It is a sense that is so wrapped up in our own ego that we think we have full knowledge just by learning what we want to know.  This is an individualistic ideal to the extreme, to the exclusion of everything that is not me.

What I am trying to steer towards is humility.  I’m trying to connect the quote of not “hiding your ignorance”.  If we fear anything in this society it is being wrong or being ignorant.  Does a society like Beatty’s produce this kind of thinking?  They seem to be satisfied with their facts and no one seems to be seeking knowledge at all.  No one is holding it over anyone.  But in our society we do the same accumulating of facts in order to hold it over someone.  Not even true why knowledge to hold over people, but how knowledge, stupid facts and statistics about which we complain and fool ourselves into contentedness.

Journal 09-05-03

I just got Are We Spiritual Machines and am worried that it is going to be a difficult read.  I suppose as an optimist, I should say it will be a challenge.  Already I’ve come to these thoughts.

Does it matter?  If it is true — and I actually believe, for what its worth, it probably is possible on the terms Kurzweil describes — to have computers which exceed human intelligence.  Here is the challenge: believing in the terms themselves. As Searle explains, the theories by which Kurzweil concludes these arguments are theories of his own invention.  And this is the pattern of the entire scientific materialist, naturalist argument.  Accepting these terms goes contrary, not only to what I believe, but also to what seems common sense.  Therefore, philosophizing the possibilities of this thought seems like a ridiculous and daunting task.  I also admit my fear that I don’t have enough to refute  this thought either.  I just have what I believe, what I have faith in.  I was able to see that Searle and even Denton at times put into words the arguments I feel in my gut.  One being, from Searle, as I referred to earlier that the theory itself is based on theories that Kurzweil invented.

So, ultimately I’m back to my question of does it really matter — well I suppose ultimately this is what I am supposed to figure out through reading it.  Why does it in fact need to meet a wider audience?  What issues does it bring to the field of information management?  This is what all my friends are asking me: “So why are you reading that?”  “What does that have to do with libraries?”

To answer that at this stage seems premature, but my guesses are the same social issues that Fahrenheit 451 bring up.  Kurzweil does bring up the issue of regulation.  How do you regulate this kind of technology that is (in his opinion) only the natural next step in the evolution of man?  It is noted that the circumstances in which this is developing is not happening within the government, but with individual people and in the commercial market, making regulation of it even more tricky, and the reality and implications of it more frightening.

Kurzweil, R., Richards, J.W., & Gilder, G. F. (2002).  Are we spiritual machines: Ray Kurzweil vs. the critics of strong AI. Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute Press.

Journal 09-04-03

Back to the question of why more than how.  This was the distinguishing question in Fahrenheit 451. The people in this society are trained only to ask how, to learn how.  Asking why gets you into trouble, gets you not one, but many answers which leads to confusion and to turmoil.  On the one hand I could agree that it does, especially in today’s society, which as stated shows eerie similarities to the one in Bradbury’s novel.  I remember skimming an article in the Utne Reader (2003, May) about the consequences of choice in our society and how the amount and variety of choice has grown. Note to self to actually READ the article and bring to class.

Another thought — totally unconnected at this point and probably not original — is that the computer, specifically with the addition of the Internet, has become a large book.  Table of contents, glossary, index.  At times, and I see this as the challenge at hand, it is quite an unorganized book.  From a librarian’s point of view it might be called a poor reference source.  But I wonder, thinking of the class discussion posts, if a new Dewey were to come along to systematize it, would that be a good thing?  Are we actually at the beginning?  Are we in the dark ages of what is to come?  Hard to imagine.

But I think it is important to see these connections to the “old” way of doing things.  I think our generation — and maybe it is a society more than age — has lost a connection with the past.  Aha, my connection [to the point I started with]!  History classes are about facts and memorizing how and when  certainly more than asking why.  I know that my history education is pathetic and boring [and yet in spite of this thankfully remains my favorite subject]. I have only just begun to see that value in keeping the past present in the future thought my faith.  In Orthodox Christianity the idea of remembering is a present activity.  Everyday is the remembrance of some event or lives of Christian history.  It is nor only remembered, but also celebrated and made present because the point of these lives and events is to be witness to our faith.  Likewise, if we as a culture pur more value in the asking of why about our histories and answering those whys in our present lives, it seems we would find more value and reason for our lives.

Spayde, J.  (2003, May). The unbearable lightness of choosing. Utne,(117), 66-68.  Retrieved November 1, 2009, from Proquest Research Library. (Document ID: 333748591).

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Journal 09-01-03/09-17-03

Reading Fahrenheit 451 I came upon this sentence that struck a chord.

“If you hide your ignorance, no one will ever hit you and you’ll never learn”

See also what I post on this later on  class discussion lists.  After reading some other sources, I realize why this is so personal more than anything.  It reminds me of King David’s psalm that at says “a crushed and humbled heart, God will not despise’.  I read this psalm so often without taking time to understand what that actually meant.  It wasn’t until I started reading another favorite book of mine,  The Mountain of Silence by Kyriakos Markides that I began to realize.  The author converses throughout the book with the priest-monk Father Maximos (once an Athonite monk, now in Cyprus). They begin discussing what holy fathers of Christianity call the “illness of the heart”.  It has three parts: ignorance, forgetfulness, and hardness.  In this instance I found it was the issue of hardness most relevant.  The cause of an impenatrable heart, Father Maximos says, is overpreoccupation with wordly affairs, focus on physical pleasures and obsession with wealth.   “These are the three fundamental passions that toughen the heart…our attention becomes fragmented, scattered.” he says.

This is what I see happening in the Fahrenheit 451 quote. If you do not allow your heart to be crushed (allow yourself and your ignorance to be hit), you will never grow.  In this way, if Montag continues to hide his thinking, he will never find the freedom he is seeking (in his heart, I would say — see reflections on Kurwiell’s  Are We Spiritual Machines).  But the other two illnesses also are relevant here to Bradbury’s novel: ignorance and forgetfulness.  Wile Father Maximos is speaking of God, in general terms, I can see it applied here also.  That the ignorance or making a level playing field in the world of Fahrenheit 451 is one cause of illness or what has gone wrong.  And so is forgetfulness, forgetting how it used to be, the history.  All of this kills the heart.  For Bradbury, this kills the life source, the future of humanity.  Likewise, according to Father Maximos, this kills our communion with God.

Journal 09-01-03

Stuck on I70 just past St. Louis, I came upon a threshold.  At this threshold — which varies from individual, surely — people begin to NEED desperately to have information.  We sat here on the road and I saw cars pass by slowly coming to a halt, some driving past on the shoulder to get ahead of the rest.   Next, people began to stretch their necks out their window trying to see what was going on, grasp a little visual info.  Then, people are out of their cars altogether, attempting ever more vigorously to obtain an idea, even — a why,  if not a how — for the traffic jam.  Observing this chain of events made me all the more positive about the issue in Fahrenheit that the question of why is more valuable, cuts deeper than how. Further proof in my roadway experience was that even when the traffic picked up (quickly even) there wasn’t anything left of the cause for our jam.  No cars on the shoulder, no emergency vehicles.  This left me frustrated.  I was actually more frustrated  not knowing why we were held up than I was at the fact of that I was held up. And I wondered if anyone else was too.

I also wonder about the whole cell phone phenomenon,  People walk around, drive around, sit around with it glued to the ear.  Worse, are the lack of privacy and the addition of noise pollution that these devices cause (not to mention a driving distraction).  I wonder how this has affected other libraries.  Increased cell phone usage, especially among college students,  has affected policy at my library in a couple of ways.  We have taken out all payphones  in the building (maybe one is left, not sure).  In addition, a proposal to have a courtesy phone at the circulation or reference desk was not approved for the reason that most students carry cell phones.  This not only potentially deprives those who do not have a cell phone of equal access to information, but in the case of the payphone, it deprives the library of a source of income (although I do not know how significant).  Another problem, is that many libraries have policies that require patrons to turn their cell phones off.  How does this all fit  with freedom of access issues we are constantly discussing?  How does the value of quiet of the library remain relevant?  What are the implications of these sacrifices.

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