- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (24 Feb. 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0452296196
- ISBN-13: 978-0452296190
- Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,246,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Age of the Infovore: Succeeding in the Information Economy Paperback – 24 Feb 2011
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"Delightful and provocative."
"Tyler Cowen has written one of the most stimulating defenses of Internet information culture."
"A tour de force."
-Robert H. Frank, author of "The Economic Naturalist"
"Will change the way you think about thinking."--Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind
"Delightful and provocative."--Newsweek.com
"Tyler Cowen has written one of the most stimulating defenses of Internet information culture."--The American
"A tour de force."--Robert H. Frank, author of The Economic Naturalist
About the Author
Tyler Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He is a prominent blogger at marginalrevolution.com, the world's leading economics blog. He also writes regularly for The New York Times, and has written for Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wilson Quarterly.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
So a brief review of both:
This is a counter-argument to the raft of recent books published that lament the loss of deep thinking that is caused by being able to google everything and be constantly inundated with data. (the shallows, etc) I've noticed this change in myself over the years, how I read many times more information than I ever did but it's in smaller digital snippets. That I do still read books but that is no longer the majority of my information consumption and furthermore I have much less patience to finish books. On the surface, many people would just assume this is a bad thing and means I'm not as deep or critical of a thinker as I used to be. Cowen argues otherwise.
Remember how in grade school we were taught to read every boring word of the entire textbook chapter and felt guilty or were reprimanded if we didn't? Remember how we were taught that it was bad to mark up (interact with) our textbooks? We also learned that you are supposed to read the book cover to cover. I STILL have a hard time feeling guilty about not finishing books that start to become a waste of my increasing scarce attention. Cowen argues that we shouldn't confuse depth of thinking with sticking to one textbook of one subject for hours. He reminds us to let go of those old ways of learning and make it the fun exploration that it should be. I would wager that I know more about world history from reading articles on Wikipedia over the last 3 years in my spare time (maybe an hour per week on average) than all of the total history I learned about in my k-12 'education'. That's precisely due to fragmentation and focused engagement based on MY direction, not in spite of it. This is one of many examples of the advantages of information surplus.
So the book has a lot of positive reasons on why it's not so bad to keep up with many brief information streams than the few that we grew up doing. The other thing the book is about it the autistic spectrum. I now have a better understanding of why I've always been obsessed with certain narrow subjects at every period of my life. I also now see the Autistic in a new light and recognize that I, like the author, certainly have some of those traits. It makes sense to me that most people labeled as Autistic are simply further down that spectrum than the rest of us and that there are certainly a good number of 'high functioning' people that are just not as far along that spectrum. By understanding the extreme cases we can have a better understanding of ourselves.
I would like to see more books about HOW to go about filtering and organizing information that is written specifically for infovores. This is more a 'why' and 'what' book than a 'how' book. But embracing the idea that our current culture of info overload is a fundamental evolution in how we learn and live is a great start.
The central cognitive dimension that Cowen examines is the drive to create order that characterises many neurodiverse people. This drive allows such individuals to focus on a single arena of the world, and to bring a depth and scope of understanding to that arena that neurotypical people find very difficult. Sometimes the focus seems out of step with the larger society, and sometimes it seems prescient. In any event, it is driven by the internal experience of the person, and the activity brings great meaning to that person, and can do so to others (see how much of our entertainment focuses on collections).
I know in my heart what Tyler Cowen means.
I learned to read at the age of four and got my library card at the age of 6. From that first discovery of an infinite world of knowledge, I relentlessly tried to learn everything. I read whenever I wasn't asleep, and when I wouldn't be punished for it. I read everything regardless of topic. I often carried 2 or 3 books with me as I moved through my world. I won an award at a Catholic elementary school for a poem I wrote that praised science as the ultimate source of knowledge.
I was hooked.
I didn't find my personal focus until, after 21 months in Vietnam, I came to work in a medical clinic in 1970 that supported families with children who had significant brain damage and other characteristics, including autism. I latched on to the idea that I needed to understand change, and most especially intentional change, and I have pursued that understanding for the 40 years since.
Whether my particular obsession will result in anything generally useful remains to be seen. I have used what I learned in my work in human services and rights advocacy to the good of myself and others.
I want to thank Tyler Cowen for bringing dignity to what has always seemed to me a peculiar personal trait, and for his offering of a larger community to all of us with that drive for order. I think the book will have a wide audience of appreciation, but most of all to those who always felt outside the community of the normal, and wondered what good it was to be different.
Tyler Cowen also has a great blog called "Marginal Revolution".
That was the question that bugged me while I was reading. Perhaps a bigger point is that the book seems to beg the question: is being autistic actually more-suited to an information economy than not being autistic? Economists usually err on the side of trusting data that shouldn't be trusted; here, Cowan doesn't seem to have a whole lot of data. He just thinks intuitively that it must be right. Again, this could be interesting to some people, so if what I'm describing sounds awesome then you should buy this.
I thought I was buying a book on the Information Economy, which I am interested in and I did not get it.
In addition, the Library of Congress did a bad job of assigning subject headings to this book. Did anyone there really read this book?
The book was delightful and sometimes provocative. It was just too misleading for this reader. I often review books on multicultural topics. If I had this book for review, I would not recommend it. Color me disappointed.