-A new book by Nicholas Carr “Is Google making us stupid?” When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallised one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply? Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet’s intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”—from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer—Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways. Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic—a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption—and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection. Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes—Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter, Sigmund Freud […]
-by Sally Rooney Beautiful World, Where Are You is a new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends. Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?
Market research reveals a multi-billion dollar consumer demand that is being starved of supply. Guided by the eco-savvy consumers of today, its more than just a fad or a trend to fade away in three years; sustainability is at the core of this consumer choice, and that means the demand is also here to stay. More consumers than ever are using their purchasing power to make a genuine statement about their concern for the environment. Combined, they make a dedicated group, fond of everything from organic potatoes to hybrid cars, and marketers have given them their very own name to wear as a badge of honour; ‘Lohasian’. The latest research shows that 80% of these environmentally mindful consumers say their purchase decisions are directly influenced by a companyÕs Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies. A far more wide-reaching term than the semantics of ‘eco’ or ‘green’ could encompass, LOHAS is Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability and represents a social movement that has conscious consumption at the centre of its values. Stemming from a business movement in the USA, LOHAS has morphed in Asia to become a brand used to describe all manner of environmental products and services. First taking off in Japan, then China and Taiwan and now spreading rapidly through the Asia-Pacific region. Companies gaining the leading edge recognise that customers expect them to act more so than do their under-performing competitors, are more interested in lowering their carbon footprint, and are much more in tune with creating the image that they care. They associate environmentally sound practices with their brand image to consumers and the industry, and associate these practices with their ethical responsibility to the community in anticipation of stealing market share as the customerÕs green demands grow. Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) and LOHAS Asia’s first in-depth survey […]
On the face of it, the fact that Canada’s “two Michaels” — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — boarded a Canadian government aircraft in Beijing at about the same time that Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was being released from her extradition hearing bail requirements in Vancouver might indicate to some that China’s “hostage diplomacy” was successful. There was a clear link between Meng’s plea bargain arrangement with the United States Department of Justice, her subsequent release in Vancouver and the release of the two Michaels after more than 1,000 days in captivity. Despite consistent Chinese denials over many months that their arrest was in retaliation for the detention of Meng under the Canada-U.S. extradition treaty, the fact that the two cases were resolved simultaneously (even before Kovrig had been sentenced by the Chinese court) stripped away any pretence that there was no connection. In the past, in cases involving detention in China of foreign nationals when there have been unrelated disputes with their country of origin, the release of the “hostages” has not come for several weeks or months after the resolution of the original dispute. That’s allowed China to maintain the fiction that it doesn’t detain people for retaliatory purposes and to argue that Chinese law must run its course. This time, even that fig leaf was removed. Deferred prosecution agreement In order to secure her release, Meng was given only the lightest of punishments, a deferred prosecution arrangement that required her to neither plead guilty nor pay a fine. All she was required to do was consent to a statement of facts that outlined the U.S. view of what happened when she allegedly misled global bank HSBC into believing that a Huawei subsidiary operating in Iran was not in fact controlled by Huawei. The deferred prosecution agreement will expire in 2022, and then the case […]
Crossroads is the stunning foundation of a sweeping investigation of human mythologies, as the Hildebrandt family navigate the political and social crosscurrents of the past fifty years. It’s December 23, 1971, and heavy weather is forecast for Chicago. Russ Hildebrandt, the associate pastor of a liberal suburban church, is on the brink of breaking free of a marriage he finds joyless – unless his wife, Marion, who has her own secret life, beats him to it. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college on fire with moral absolutism, having taken an action that will shatter his father. Clem’s sister, Becky, long the social queen of her high-school class, has sharply veered into the counterculture, while their brilliant younger brother Perry, who’s been selling drugs to seventh-graders, has resolved to be a better person. Each of the Hildebrandts seeks a freedom that each of the others threatens to complicate. Jonathan Franzen’s novels are celebrated for their unforgettably vivid characters and their keen-eyed take on the complexities of contemporary America. Now, for the first time, in Crossroads, Franzen explores the history of a generation. With characteristic humour and complexity, and with even greater warmth, he conjures a world that feels no less immediate. A tour de force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense, Crossroads is the story of a Midwestern family at a historical moment of moral crisis. Jonathan Franzen’s gift for melding the small picture and the big picture has never been more dazzlingly evident. Franzen is a master of rendering the broad sweep of humanity through the (extremely human) minutia of a family … What more could a reader ask for, really? Jonathan Franzen’s work includes four novels (The Twenty-Seventh City, Strong Motion, The Corrections, Freedom), two collections of essays (Farther Away, How To Be Alone), a memoir (The Discomfort Zone), and, […]
By Tim Burrowes Media Unmade presents the definitive story of the decade in which big media in Australia was cut down to size – a decade that forever altered what had until then been perceived as the unbreachable foundations of the industry in this country. Drawing on insights from his ringside seat, independent journalist, commentator and Mumbrella founder Tim Burrowes knits together the big events and conversations with key players then and now to reveal the drama and tell the stories behind the changes that every consumer of Australian media has witnessed over the past decade. In this unprecedented account, Tim considers how the newspaper rivers of gold evaporated, TV viewers turned to Netflix, and radio listeners started streaming instead. He covers how networks went broke, the ABC came under sustained attack, and how News Corporation’s phone hacking drama in the UK delivered Rupert Murdoch to the most humble day of his life. Of course there is no drama without people and as much as Media Unmade is the tale of the fluctuating fortunes of some of the country’s best-known companies, it also presents the compelling stories of the powerful personalities who have shaped them – from the Murdochs, to Antony Catalano and Greg Hywood, to Kim Williams and James Packer, Gina Rinehart, Alan Jones, Michelle Guthrie, Justin Milne and Kerry Stokes. Against the existential threat embodied by Google and Facebook, Australia’s media companies remade their broken business models and plotted takeovers in a battle for survival. And just when the worst seemed to be over, COVID-19 delivered the biggest advertising recession of all time, pushing every media company to the brink. Tim Burrowes is the award-winning founder of Mumbrella. Working on newspapers, magazines and online, he has been a journalist for more than 30 years and has worked in the UK, Middle East and […]
In the headline-making and bestselling tradition of Bill Browder’s Red Notice comes a unique and incendiary memoir from an entrepreneur who rose to the zenith of power and money in 21st century China and whose wife was disappeared – and then mysteriously reappeared four years later on the eve of Red Roulette’s publication and global media coverage about it. As Desmond Shum was growing up impoverished in China, he vowed his life would be different. Through hard work and sheer tenacity, he earned an American college degree and returned to his native country to establish himself in business. There, he met his future wife, the highly intelligent and equally ambitious Whitney Duan who was determined to make her mark within China’s male-dominated society. Whitney and Desmond formed an effective team and, aided by relationships they formed with top members of China’s Communist Party, the so-called Red Aristocracy, he vaulted into China’s billionaire class. Soon they were developing the massive air cargo facility at Beijing International Airport, and they followed that feat with the creation of one of Beijing’s premier hotels. They were dazzlingly successful, travelling in private jets, funding multi-million-dollar buildings and endowments, and purchasing expensive homes, vehicles and art. But in 2017, their fates diverged irrevocably when Desmond, while living overseas with his son, learned that his now ex-wife Whitney had vanished along with three co-workers. In Red Roulette Desmond Shum pulls back the curtain on China’s ruling elite and reveals the real truth of what is happening inside China’s wealth-making machine. This is both Desmond’s story and Whitney’s, because she has not been able to tell it herself.
The 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington carries with it two punctuation marks. The first are the attacks themselves on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. These shocked a country that was both psychologically and physically unprepared for such a brazen assault on American soil. The second are the chaotic events of the past several weeks, in which America was forced to admit its two-decade mission in Afghanistan was, to all intents and purposes, an expensive – more than US$2 trillion ($A2.68 trillion) – failure. The merciless truck bombing on August 26 near Kabul airport, in which 13 US military personnel died as well as scores of Afghan civilians, underscored the futility of an unwinnable conflict in a country that has resisted outside influence for thousands of years. One of the most pressing issues now is where America stands in the Middle East, where its power and influence have receded as a consequence of its ill-fated decision to invade Iraq before completing its mission in Afghanistan. The two disasters cannot be separated, since they were driven by a global policy enacted by the George W. Bush administration under the rubric of the “war on terror”. This was used to justify a series of decisions that led to American forces and their allies being mired in post-9/11 conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere. Together, they have cost more than 7,000 American lives, an estimated 900,000 war dead and expenditure of US$8 trillion (A$10.73 trillion). This does not include 30-40 million refugees who have been displaced in various conflicts across the Middle East and beyond. There are more to come judging by the rush in Afghanistan to escape the Taliban. William Galston of the Brookings Institution puts the case colourfully for the degree of self-harm America has inflicted on itself as a consequence of flawed decisions […]
Organic farming has huge potential. Not only does it have many benefits over conventional farming practices, but that with adjustments organic farming could yield as much produce. By Angela Singleton An independent report suggesting that organic farming has huge potential and could even be ‘mainstream agriculture in waiting’ has been welcomed by the Soil Association, the UK’s leading environmental charity campaigning for sustainable, organic farming and healthy food. Peter Melchett, policy director for the Soil Association, said: “Organic farming does not have all the answers to the challenges of climate change and diet-related ill-health and there is still a lot of work to do to improve organic systems. But the report shows the positive impact that organic farming could have.” The key findings include increased beef production by 68 per cent and lamb by 55 per cent; a fall in energy-intensive inputs: fertiliser inputs could be cut by 95 per cent and sprays by 98 per cent; and an estimated 73 per cent increase in farm employment. The survey also argues that organic farming has many benefits over conventional farming practices – water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions would reduce, spray use would be cut by 98 per cent and fertilisers by 95 per cent. With adjustments, organic farming could yield as much produce as conventional farming. The report – England and Wales under organic agriculture: how much food could be produced? – shows the positive impact that such farming could have. It was carried out by Philip Jones and Richard Crane at the University of Reading, and was funded by independent trust the HCD Memorial Fund, and the Soil Association. While the survey acknowledges that organic farming aims to be an optimal output system rather than a high output system, it suggests that, as consumers, we need to consider […]