Barbara Newman Northwestern University In his provocative essay "Slow Knowledge," David Orr outlines the countervailing assumptions of what he calls "the culture of fast knowledge." Among these are the widely shared, though rarely examined, beliefs that "only that which can be measured is true knowledge; the more knowledge we have, the better; there are no significant distinctions between information and knowledge; and wisdom is an undefinable, hence unimportant category."1 If all this were true, it would follow that computers are fast overtaking humans as the next intelligent species. Or, to put it differently, the two species have been colluding for some time to produce smarter machines and dumber people, as we humans abdicate more and more of our mental tasks. Moreover, when it comes time to weigh values--to ask not how quickly or efficiently some task can be done, but whether it ought to be done at all--we are strangely disinclined to challenge digital fatalism, which has become the default logic of late capitalism. Whenever a new digital option appears, we assume that if it can be done and someone somewhere is doing it, then it should be done and we ought to do it too. So even
Buddhist-Christian Studies – University of Hawai'I Press
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