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The End of Patience: Cautionary Notes on the Information Revolution
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 1999
David Shenk writes with wit and warmth about profound matters that affect us all, and manages to make high tech information intelligible and enjoyable.
I was introduced to Mr. Shenk's work in "Data Smog", an earlier publication about the impact of technology on us mortals. Time and time again, I experienced that 'click' of recognition, as Mr. Shenk articulated what I had been feeling, but unable to voice.
Mr. Shenk hasn't let us down with his current work, "The End of Patience". One warning, though - this book will make information technology addicts very grumpy. For those of us who have embraced this technology without question and spend most of our lives 'plugged in' on an endless quest for more and better and faster, Mr. Shenk's insights will not be welcome.
For the rest of us, those who just want to retain our humanity in cyber-world, it's a must-read.This is especially true for those who are privileged to work in developing our information technology and communication systems, and have the power to deeply impact our futures.
Mr. Shenk does not advocate disrespect for our modern miracles. On the contrary, he reminds us that it is in the nature of miracles to overwhelm those who are touched by them.
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on April 19, 2000
The End of Patience: cautionary notes on the information revolution by David Shenk
This is a very fast, fun read, and I found it simultaneously interesting and frustrating. Every chapter/article is a reprint of a previously published (either in print or online) essay - for the material that is 2-3 years old - I would have liked to also read additional current follow-up or commentary. It would be fascinating to know, in this time of exploding commercial enterprise on the web if the author still holds the same opinions about the need for a World Wide Library ("a regimented, filtered, ultra-reliable segment of the World Wide Web") as he did in mid-1997. And how he thinks it might be accomplished given the current free market boom.
Every essay provided food for thought, even if only to wonder "is this still true?" The author writes clearly, humorously and cogently. I would be pleased to see book length treatments of many of the themes he treats in just 2 or 3 pages ("Hall Pass to the Twenty-first Century: the problem with putting schools online" would be a particularly juicy book topic). In light of the coming anti-trust judgment remedies in the Microsoft case - a book extrapolating on the essay "Hating Gates: the culture of Microsoft bashing" could be quite provocative. His conclusion that "as long as Microsoft keeps its focus on itself, maintains that hungry feeling, and stays (more or less) within the bounds of the law, they're bound to succeed ... [but] technology has a way of turning the tables rather suddenly. Regardless of Microsoft's foresight, toughness, breadth of investment, and research, Gates knows as well as anyone that his days as technology king could come to a fairly swift end" (p. 88) seems especially prescient.
The concluding section on Technorealism, while 2 years or more old - still resonates and is a very appropriate way to end a book by the person who coined the phrase "data smog". I think it is important to try and retain a sense of proportion about the high-tech "information society" - and his basic principles are a good thing to keep in mind: 1. Technologies are not neutral 2. The Internet is revolutionary, but not utopian [...] 4. Information is not knowledge 5. Wiring the schools will not save them. [...]
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is trying to find a point of equilibrium between boosterism and neo-Luddite rejection of high tech and the changes it is bringing to us all.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 1999
Faster is not always better. Our linear minds do not "click" too well in this evergrowing hypertextual world. You have the right to feel overwhelmed by this new speed dogma. This book tells us it's a normal feeling we shouldn't be afraid of admitting. It's clever but never forgets to be down to earth and witty. It's clearly a great gift for anybody living in our fantastic and hysterical world of bits and speed.
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on April 3, 2001
David Shenk has a gift for giving voice to my nagging anxieties, and an ability to discover the essential features of complex problems. I think he is a truly fine essayist, and all of the ones in this slender volume are wonderful. "Stealing Calm," however, is in a very rare class. It even approaches the likes of Loren Eiseley's "The Bird and the Machine," and for me, there are no higher accolades.
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on December 28, 1999
I enjoyed The End of Patience very much. I had to laugh at how many of David Shenk's insights I could relate to, although I had never slowed down enough to consider them. I highly recommend this book. If you've never considered the effect of the constant barrage of digital information The End of Patience will be an eye opener.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2009
While Shenk's "cautionary notes" err on the side of the measured critiques of a turn-of-the-century technological participant-observer, this book's potential value as a bellwether of, for instance, conscientious information consumption is completely undermined by the braying topicality of the project. Because these articles were largely written as either pointed and timely inquiries into the social value of very particular and short-lived services (e.g. Pointcast), or as more diffuse, exploratory works on the ethical considerations underlying the adoption of certain technological advancements (e.g. cloning and the Human Genome Project), they betray their age rather poorly.

Shenk here sits atop the comfortable perch of a guarded cum unassailable optimism that comes packaged as some sort of "objective" or "realist" cynicism about the progress/efficiency narrative of the Web age. The author and his contemporaries coin their approach "technorealism", which can often be reduced to sloganeering about cost/benefit games and "faster not being better". Very fine and good, but this collection is all too piecemeal to accumulate the needed momentum to allow such obvious umbrellas to hold fast. Shenk even pads the page count with excerpts of email communications with his friends! Not to mention the articles about photojournalism and Photoshop or ticker news feeds and personalized homepages that seem downright, naively folksy ten years down the line.

The one excellent piece herein about the marriage between Biotech and University laboratory science does not a book make. (Granted, in light of another Amazon reviewer's comments, there's some merit to "Stealing Calm", a paean to radio in soundbite times). There's also better book-length arguments regarding the matters of import here (see Fukuyama's "Our Post-Human Future" on cloning, or any Neil Postman for heartier humanism). Is it a coincidence that writers of the mid-20th Century like Jacques Ellul (The Technological Society) or Orwell wrote more convincingly on our current socio-technological dilemmas? Their isolation from the modern ubiquities of information technology allowed for the kind of thinking we don't seem capable of as we're strapped in for the ride. No disrespect to Shenk, but this sort of journalism should really just hit the microfiche. ...Google books, that is!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 1999
In his second book "The End of Patience" we have David Shenk's self aggrandizing insights into the complex dark canyons of the technological revolution we have been drawn into. Like a prophet from above Shenk has generously mined from his own omni-present commentary on the mélange of "our" patronage of all that is technologically new and shinny in order to sound a warning.
This warning - in and of itself - might be easier to take seriously were it not itself coming from one whose success is built, and dependent on, the very industry he seeks to protect "us" from. However, looking at Shenk through the filter of the book's point of view, it is hard not to agree with the basis of his premises. And we can hardly blame him for only nibbling the hand that feeds him.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 1999
"Our attention is the most precious resource we have," says Shenk. Well...I'm not sure everyone would agree. But this is the way he would like to slice the whole matter of information technology, the media, etc., etc., and that's fine. Shenk's standpoint is amazingly isolated and will make sense only to an elite ensconced in the same high fallutin' mix of punditry/technology/leisure time he is. Information overload, or "data smog" as the author terms it, is certainly a relevant and important area to explore, but Shenk, in is privileged world, really can't nail down what might be so detrimental about it. His examples illustrate just how removed his is from the vast majority of American society: minute-by-minute news reports diluting the quality of info and the ability to sort it, not feeling so apt to respond to your friends' email because you get too much, the end of patience? As he represents it in "the end of patience," data smog really ain't no big woop--it's just some tacks on the erogomic seats of a pampered minority into which Shenk seems to fit. Where's the politics, I wonder? How does this trivia fit into the lives of Middle Americans or working people? To the point, Shenk might benefit from a step or two away from his computer. Rubbing shoulders with the common folk might hip him to serious problems like acne or Monday Night Football.
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