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Why Fear? – Sehoon Min on As Future Catches You September 23, 2009

Posted by Sehoon Min in As The Future Catches You.
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Overall, the book read like a threat rather than the communication of new knowledge or perspective. Therefore, I couldn’t help but being surprised to find out 41 readers did log on to Amazon.com to give book four stars in average.

It was interesting that we were asked to read this text primarily “online”. This declarative text with somewhat threatening tone actually seemed to have been written and edited with non-immersive reading habits, which is typical among readers familiar with PC-based reading, in mind. The declarative and threatening nature of the content was well matched with the format that conveys the content. I guess this integration of content and format of the book is what led many readers hail for this book.

Three interrelated ‘devices’ of the text caught my attention.

(1) It was not just the format of the text. The author intentionally chose story telling rather rigorous academic discourse as the major tone of the book. Logically read, the book seems be full of false causality or hasty conclusions. (For instance, I don’t think he is proving that countries’ development and underdevelopment can be all traced back to the emphasis on technological literacy of their people. The text is alleging but not proving properly that technological, especially genomic, literacy is the foremost thing to develop an underdeveloped country.)

Rather than resorting to logic, he chose to evoke fear or worries in readers. And he does so very persistently throughout the book. Talking about the hope that the technology can bring to mankind was not the author’s appetite. In most of the chapters, he makes certain countries or a person as a tragic protagonist who had to go through the downfall due, allegedly, to the lack of technological literacy. I felt I was helplessly enforced to identify myself with them. Simplification (i.e. “Technology is THE engine for growth”, “Genomics is THE technology”, etc), repetition and analogy were dominant way of fortifying the story.

To make this story even stronger, the author and the editors effectively utilized some formatting tools.

(2) Images and graphs were fun and striking to enhance the effectiveness of the argument. Quoting numbers exaggerates the righteousness of the story. There remains, however, much room for arguments about whether those data really support author’s argument.

(3) The variation in typography was effectively laid out throughout the book to make the text more daunting and catchy.

Despite all these efforts and those devices in the book, however, I don’t feel persuaded or moved by the book. Monolithic or reductionistic view of the world and life is not usually very persuasive. I feel unpleasant rather than inspired and invigorated to go out and grasp the horizon of new possibilities.

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