This book, O.B. Hardison's last, is a high-speed train ride through the history of technology and its positive (at times, liberating) impact on the sciences, art and culture. Hardison was one of those evangelists of technology who wanted desperately to help provide absorption from future shock. His obvious enthusiasm is sometimes infectious, other times naive and downright foolish.
The most intriguing part of Disappearing Through the Skylight is Hardison's exploration of the relationship between 20th century avant garde art and bleeding edge technology. In the last few decades, these two conduits of change have co-mingled like never before. He looks at the direction this relationship is taking in the closing moments of the 20th century.
When Hardison leaves the present and heads for the future is when he started to lose me. He opts for a utopian interpretation of the future, populated by intelligent robots and art/technology-saturated global and interplanetary societies. It's not that I don't find this gee-whizzing around the history of technology fun, it's just that I think a broad historical assessment of 20th (and 21st) Century technology should at least mention the exploitation, the abuses, misuses, and the other ways in which technology has (frequently) failed us.
Here is the TEXT POPUP for Disappearing Through the Skylight...
Streamlining -- the term was apparently invented by Thompson -- reduces turbulence to a minimum and thus maximizes swimming efficiency.
Einstein and Heisenberg made it clear that mind and nature -- subject and object -- are involved in each other and not separate empires. An objective world that can be "observed" and "understood" if only the imagination can be held in check simply does not exist. Facts are not observations "collected...on a wholesale scale." They are knots in a net.
...the effect of change has been a disappearance of regional and parochial identities and the emergence of a global consciousness.
Art always turns into posturing.
...language changes slowly but culture is changing rapidly. Language in its traditional forms therefore becomes less and less complementary to the world it is suppose to represent.
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