David Rieff Thinks Critically About the Internet

Question: Is technology killing critical thinking skills?

Rieff:    To me, it’s less about technology than about money.  I think that people fell in-love with money about 30 years ago.  And there was a lot more money… I mean, that’s what everyone forgets.  They didn’t just fall in-love with it because they were weak or wicked or… Indeed, they didn’t fall in-love with a period because they were weak or wicked.  Indeed, I don’t think people are… Just as I don’t think people are any smarter today than they were 200 years ago.  I don’t think they’re anymore vile today than they were 200 years ago.  So… But what I think happened was the potential for lots of people to make money.  Doing things in the past you couldn’t make money doing was profoundly corrupting.  And so, if you like a sort of “hollywoodization” of a spirit took place so that people wanted to do things that were money making.  My mother like living well but her idea wasn’t to… that what she would do would make a lot of money.  And there even economic… You know, when people of my mother’s generation came to New York, say, in the ‘50s, the end of the ‘50s in her case… But this was true from the 1920s through the end of the 1970s, I think.  You could live honorably.  That is to say you own an apartment.  It was a decent apartment in a decent neighborhood for not a lot of money.  You know, since the 1980s, in order to live in a great city like New York or London or Paris or LA, you pretty much have to have quite a lot of money.  Otherwise, you live 3 in an apartment or… and have a really terrible neighborhood.  And so, once you got that situation, once a dignified life on relatively small amounts of money became impossible and the possibility existed to make money if you join the kind of nexus of advertising and the media, the commercial media, well then it’s hardly humanly surprising when people went in that direction.  See, I think those issues… Maybe that’s just the vulgar materialist in me but I think those issues are much more critical… crucial, pardon me, to what happened over the last 30 years than some sort of, you know, shift in the [site crest doo doo], I don’t know, you know, people’s characters or whatever.  I mean, that strikes me as more essential.  Also, money… You know, this silly season of Wall Street, which we now… which has now ended.  George Soros said in an interview the other day… You know, I think the times of London that… You know, we’re never going back to the world of the last 25 years.  It’s not… I mean, of course, there’ll be an end to this recession or depression or whatever we want to call it.  But the idea that, you know, we’re going back to a world where markets only went up, where people, you know, seemed to have more disposable income every year where credit was promiscuously granted and promiscuously used, that’s over, he said.  And I… You know, that means that culture where someone who does video or writes novels can seriously imagine that she or he will also have the income of a, what we use to call a very rich person, now, will just be called the middle class person, that’s finished.  That’s over.  So I don’t know.  I’m not so sure that my mother’s way of being may not be more emblematic of the future than it was, maybe, of the last part of her own life.

The author says money not technology has weakened our ability to think critically.

Basic income: Could cash handouts revitalize the economy?

Americans just want to pay their bills. Is universal basic income the path to financial stability and economic opportunity?

Videos
  • Chris Hughes, cofounder of Facebook, sees universal basic income as a way to stabilize the lives of those who need it most. A foundation of $500 per month could solve many of today's economic problems.
  • Much of the criticism surrounding UBI comes from a place of myth and mistrust. If you give someone cash, how can you be sure they'll spend it responsibly? The fact is, cash is the most effective way of providing economic mobility.
  • To reboot the American dream, we must address the moral and practical issue that many Americans lack basic financial stability. To bolster the economy and avoid another depression, UBI could be the answer.
Keep reading
Surprising Science

The idea that Alzheimer's is a form of diabetic disease has been gaining currency in medical circles for almost ten years. The accumulated evidence is now so strong that many specialists are now comfortable referring to Alzheimer's as type 3 diabetes.

Keep reading

The pagan origins of three Catholic practices

A few traditions in the Roman Catholic Church can be traced back to pagan cults, rites, and deities.

Photo by Josh Applegate / Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • The Catholic rite of Holy Communion parallels pre-Christian Greco-Roman and Egyptian rituals that involved eating the body and blood of a god.
  • A number of Catholic holidays and myths, such as Christmas, Easter, and Mardi Gras, graph onto the timeline of pre-Christian fertility festivals.
  • The Catholic practice of praying to saints has been called "de-facto idolatry" and even a relic of goddess worship.
Keep reading