General Magic

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Great interview with the team behind the long gone company General Magic. They invented an iPhone like device two decades too early. Proving once again that for everything there is a season.

“Chances are that you’ve never heard of General Magic, but in Silicon Valley the company is the stuff of legend. Magic spun out of Apple in 1990 with much of the original Mac team on board and a bold new product idea: a handheld gadget that they called a “personal communicator.” Plugged into a telephone jack, it could handle e-mail, dial phone numbers, and even send SMS- like instant messages—complete with emoji and stickers” – New York Magazine

The erotics of the anonymous space

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Geoff Dyer’s essay about the erotics of the anonymous space is again available online thanks to Slate Magazine.

“You look out through the smear-free windows at the soundless city that could be any city. No one can see you, and even if they do it’s not you they see: All they can make out—as in a memorable sequence from Ryu Murakami’s Tokyo Decadence—is a figure silhouetted in the window: a figurehead and totem of the depraved, atrocious, inhuman sexiness of hotels”

The Mind is Flat

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The Mind is Flat: The Illusion of Mental Depth and The Improvised Mind  by Nick Chater

I’ve lost count of the number of popular science books I started and never manage to finish. I’m attracted to them by reviews that make them sound more accessible than they often turn out to be. I got to the end of this one and feel I understood most of it. I love it for its clarity and the boldness of its central premise. Which basically is that the idea of the subconscious and inner mind is a bit of a hoax we play on ourselves to help us make sense of the world we inhabit. I’m not sure I agree fully with the idea that all we add up to is a moment by moment invented interpretation of ourselves. But he argues his case so well and so poetically that I was always engaged. And by the end I was on the verge of almost total conversion.  Some thoughts and lines from his book still echo around my flat mind:

“Our thoughts are not shadows of an alternative inner reality, to be charted and discovered; they are fictions of our own devising, created moment by moment”

“Beneath the momentary flow of fragmented and astonishingly sketchy experiences and even sketchier recollections from memory, there is precisely nothing. Well, of course, there is a frenzy of brain activity, but there are no further thoughts. The only thoughts, emotions, feelings are those that flow through our stream of consciousness”

“We are being hoaxed: both our verbal explanations and our sensory experience are vapours, masquerading as solid form”