Intelligent conversations can be hard to come by these days. Strong emotions and strong “party lines” are partly to blame. The near over-abundance of information and perspectives also makes it virtually impossible to create supposedly air-tight cases. What, then, is a society in desperate need of dialogue to do? Well, if you’re Alan Jacobs, you fall in line with Martin Luther and create your own list of thoughts. In Jacobs’ case, it’s “79 Theses on Technology. For Disputation.” Assuming we know what theses but not assuming the same for disputations, Chad Wellmon at The Hedgehog Review defines the term:
. . . disputations were not just formal arguments. They were public performances that trained university students in how to seek and argue for the truth. They made demands on students and masters alike. Truth was hard won; it was to be found in multiple, sometimes conflicting traditions; it required one to give and recognize arguments; and, perhaps above all, it demanded an epistemic humility, an acknowledgment that truth was something sought, not something produced.
Jacobs’ thoughts have already garnered intelligent responses, including one from Nicholas Carr, one of my favorite technology writers. That’s exactly what quality, whimsical writing and thinking should do.
Where does Jacobs begin his thinking about technology? With attention. The first seven of his theses:
- Everything begins with attention.
- It is vital to ask, “What must I pay attention to?”
- It is vital to ask, “What may I pay attention to?”
- It is vital to ask, “What must I refuse attention to?”
- To “pay” attention is not a metaphor: Attending to something is an economic exercise, an exchange with uncertain returns.
- Attention is not an infinitely renewable resource; but it is partially renewable, if well-invested and properly cared for.
- We should evaluate our investments of attention at least as carefully and critically as our investments of money.
It really is the beginning of something good. And thanks to the wonder of virtual reality, Jacobs is able to reference many thinkers from various fields and link us to other sites and sources.
The more I’m around technology, either for personal or professional use, I find very little thinking about technology going on. This list is a great place to start. You can read the whole thing here. Let me know if you do. You can also read an interesting interview with Jacobs about the project here.