MixedThe New Statesman (UK)I have to say, I didn’t exactly yawn when Parks did his \'big reveal\' of Manzotti’s concept of consciousness on page 79 – but I almost did ... Parks’s own fantastic journey into the human brain takes him to Heidelberg, where he interviews a trio of neuroscientists – but while his prose remains as Englishly empirical as ever, his methodology is that of phenomenology from beginning to end: a consideration of his own consciousness shorn of any assumptions about what has caused it ... At the very end of the book, Parks finds in his experience of touching an old plaque in a Heidelberg park the confirmation he seeks of Manzotti’s position ... That his own experience and the world are \'the same thing\' is an insight we would have expected a little earlier from this mindfulness fanatic...
PositiveThe GuardianI suspect your enjoyment – or otherwise – of James Bridle’s New Dark Age will depend very much on whether you’re a glass half-empty, or a glass exactly-filled-to-the-halfway-mark-by-microprocessor-controlled-automatic-pumping-systems sort of a person ... to the core of our thinking about new technology there lies, Bridle suggests, a dangerous fallacy: we both model our own minds on our understanding of computers, and believe they can solve all our problems – if, that is, we supply them with enough data, and make them fast enough to deliver real-time analyses ... Bridle also believes it’s implicated in our simple-minded acceptance of technology as a value-neutral tool, one to be freely employed for our own betterment. He argues that in failing to adequately understand these emergent technologies, we are in fact opening ourselves up to a new dark age ... Intelligent computer systems are already menacing us with weird products devised algorithmically and offered for sale on Amazon, as well as bizarre and abusive \'kids\' videos, which are mysteriously generated in the bowels of the web, and uploaded by bots to YouTube ... I expect many readers will find Bridle’s perceptive and thought-provoking book terrifying rather than enjoyable – but then as I implied at the outset, I’m very much of the glass half- empty type.
MixedThe GuardianKalder begins with the dusty volumes he saw cluttering Russian bookshelves. He argues, semi-persuasively, that Lenin should be viewed as the father of dictatorial literature. (And it’s worth noting here that although Kalder is adept at phrasemaking, he manages to resist the coinage, dic-lit. Would that I were so restrained) ... Kalder likes these anachronistic tropes – but while funny, I’m not sure they serve him well. They made me insistently aware that the minds who produced these works – whether incendiary or enervating – were in fact radically different from my own; and that their authors were responding to radically different circumstances. Which is by no means to justify the papery solecisms of Lenin et al – or the horrors they justified or covered up. But ultimately cracking wise doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to either preventing tyranny, or providing nuance ... Perhaps the critical verdict on the dictators described in these pages – variously lynched, shot and otherwise extemporised to death – should make us a little more sanguine about their literary efforts. After all, it’s one thing for your books to be remaindered – quite another to have your body pulped ... True, all writers do indeed have dictatorial inclinations – how else can we rule effectively over our papery realms? But as he points out, all good writing depends on accepting the inherently chancy nature of the world – whereas all despotic governance, like all bad writing, is predicated on the exact opposite: a near-psychotic need to enforce hard-backed conformity.
MixedThe Guardian...the bulk of this book is a fairly nerdy account of the backroom whiz-kids who figured out the nuts and bolts of the system. I found Milner’s account of the infighting between Pentagon and its various contractors interesting enough, just as I enjoyed his dissection of the phenomenon of 'death by GPS' ... But I cavilled at his view that 'GPS reflects a choice, a conscious application of a neutral technology.' Surely no technology is 'neutral' – each bears the impress of the impetus for its development.