Boris Smus

interaction engineering

Building a Bridge to the 18th Century

Neil Postman has strong opinions:

  • The 18th century was awesome.
  • Postmodernism is always, unequivocally bad.
  • You don't need typewriters or computers, paper and pen is good enough.
  • People are getting stupider and stupider.
  • Defeating straw man arguments is super fun.

Postman cites many great thinkers in a way that is clearly erudite. However the book is rather short and covers a lot of ground, making his name dropping quite annoying. Rather than delivering deep points, Postman remains on the surface, hinting at the existence of various philosophical ideas that he is intimately familiar with. All this while struggling to structure a coherent narrative.

I found the book mostly useless. It's a shallow summary of some stuff I already knew, and set forth an exaggerated technological pessimism that I, to some extent, share. In my most charitable view, Postman's over exaggerated positions were intended to provoke thought for some hypothetical starry eyed silicon valley entrepreneurial techno-optimist. Unfortunately, Postman's position is so extreme and arguments so cliched, I found myself rooting for the other side.