What we can learn about books and their relationship to the ideas they supposedly contain has everything to do with the ways in which people interacted with them and the ways in which books conditioned those interactions. In short, another way of asking what we can learn from books might be to ask how we learn from books. At a moment when so many of us are moving ever more rapidly away from “hard copies” and embracing eBooks of all varieties, it is worth remembering that the material properties of books long set important conditions for their reading. Indeed, even the electronic simulacra to which we now find ourselves accustomed imitate physical acts like turning pages, inserting ribbons, and dog-earing corners. Virtual book collections take on the appearance of wooden shelves and follow organizational schemes derived from physical libraries. All such mimicry, of course, comes at great expense both to processing resources and programming hours. Yet it is deemed indispensable because reading remains a stubbornly material act.
– Sean Roberts, Printing a Mediterranean World: Florence, Constantinople, and the Renaissance of Geography, p. 175.
This is why I always pair privilege with obliviousness; obliviousness is privilege’s form of deprivation. When you don’t hear others, you don’t imagine them, they become unreal, and you are left in the wasteland of a world with only yourself in it, and that surely makes you starving, though you know not for what, if you have ceased to imagine others exist in any true deep way that matters. This is about a need for which we hardly have language or at least not a familiar conversation.
– Rebecca Solnit, The Loneliness of Donald Trump
What is kind of amusing — and telling — is that as John McCarthy, who invented the name “Artificial Intelligence”, noted, the definition of specialized AI is changing all of the time. Specifically, once a task formerly thought to characterize artificial intelligence becomes routine — like the aforementioned chess-playing, or Go, or a myriad of other taken-for-granted computer abilities — we no longer call it artificial intelligence.
– Ben Thompson, The Arrival of Artificial Intelligence
Going deeper into the stories of Others afar and Strangers at home means dispensing with the idea that global integration was like an electric circuit, bringing light to the connected. Becoming inter-dependent is not just messier than drawing a wiring diagram. It means reckoning with dimensions of networks and circuits that global historians – and possibly all narratives of cosmopolitan convergence – leave out of the story: lighting up corners of the earth leaves others in the dark. The story of the globalists illuminates some at the expense of others, the left behind, the ones who cannot move, and those who become immobilised because the light no longer shines on them.
– Jeremy Adelman, What is Global History Now?