Steven Johnson, Consilience defeats miasma

Posted on Tuesday, May 15th, 02007 by Stewart Brand
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Steven Johnson

Consilience defeats miasma

Steven Johnson began his long zoom survey with the “prior art” of Joyce’s Stephen Daedalus locating himself in himself, his neighborhood, Dublin, on out to the universe. The value of a long zoom is in identifying and employing every scale between the very large and very small, noticing how they change each other when held in the mind at the same time.

Johnson’s core story (and current book) concerned London in 1854, when it was the largest city in the world and in history with 2.5 million people…

Read the rest of Stewart Brand’s Summary

  • In response to Johnson’s assertion that we are, with each successive generation, able to process more information streams simultaneously someone in the audience asked whether he thought there was any (physiological) limit to this? Cultural anthropologist Thomas DeZengotita elaborates on this theme in his book “Mediated”. He picks up where McLuhan left off and talks about the overall “thinning” of experience that is happening as a result of our need to process more and more information over the course of a day.

  • PS: DeZengotita’s ideas would be an excellent Long Now seminar as well.

  • Matt

    Thinking about ‘seeking circuitry’, (which seems to be a twist on pattern finding) and ‘the regime of competence.’, is it any wonder we see the rise of the search engine as an enabler.

    If the sweet spot is ‘I think I can solve this, so I will try’, then clearly being able to Google for information is going to have a profound impact, compared to the yesteryear activity of going to the library.


    Stephen clearly has broad interests and talents, talks about consilience, how fitting.

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