No theoretical choice will end theoretical choices.

I am amused and interested in the propositions of Chris Anderson more for his certainty and for his audacity.  His article can be classified in the category of tea leaf analysis because it ignores the past and answers questions of today, without identifying what the questions will be for the future. I would suggest Peter Galison’s Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics as exploring the role and realm of models at the beginning of the digital age, having relevance to the current hubris involving massive data analysis.

Perhaps one should distinguish between those who inform and those who create new paradigms of perception, model, and significance. Mr. Anderson has no dog in the race. He is free to write and opine that data collection on formerly unimaginable scales makes history bunk.  Seers and journalists exist in a world of possibility. Yesterday is past, tomorrow never comes, and we live in today. Oddly, a seer is praised today and not scorned, or discredited, but ignored tomorrow. It is certainly exciting for some to imagine that life’s mysteries will soon be solved, and that no intermediate steps of refinement will be necessary.  Audacious and eye-catching, but revelatory—probably not.

2 comments

  • I found Anderson’s article to be Exhibit A of “Why Wired Magazine Is Best Left On The Coffee Table At Dentists’ Offices.”

  • I guess I agree. We could probably produce a list of visionary writer’s and their works. The topic and their seeming mastery is compelling in the short term, but doesn’t stand the test of time well. And that is why historians or people who work professionally in a historical field, such as myself, are in agreement with you. Predictive and prescriptive writings are certainly the stuff of future historical analysis, so I’m glad that Wired is around.

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