The powers of reason and imagination which the schools exist to celebrate are in danger of being diluted by the computer cult
Two distinct elements come together in the computer: the ability to store information in vast amounts, the ability to process that information in obedience to strict logical procedures. […] Because the ability to store data somewhat corresponds to what we call memory in human beings, and because the ability to follow logical procedures somewhat corresponds to what we call reasoning in human beings, many members of the cult have concluded that what computers do somewhat corresponds to what we call thinking. It is no great difficulty to persuade the general public of that conclusion since computers process data very fast in small spaces well below the level of visibility; they do not look like other machines when they are at work. They seem to be running along as smoothly and silently as the brain does when it remembers and reasons and thinks.
On the other hand, those who design and build computers know exactly how the machines are working down in the hidden depths of their semiconductors. Computers can be taken apart, scrutinized, and put back together. Their activities can be tracked, analyzed, measured, and thus clearly understood—which is far from possible with the brain. This gives rise to the tempting assumption on the part of the builders and designers that computers can tell us something about brains, indeed, that the computer can serve as a model of the mind, which then comes to be seen as some manner of information processing machine, and possibly not as good at the job as the machine.
The burden of my argument is to insist that there is a vital distinction between what machines do when they process information and what minds do when they think. At a time when computers are being intruded massively upon the schools, that distinction needs to be kept plainly in view by teachers and students alike. But thanks to the cult-like mystique that has come to surround the computer, the line that divides mind from machine is being blurred. Accordingly, the powers of reason and imagination which the schools exist to celebrate and strengthen are in danger of being diluted with low-grade mechanical counterfeits
When I design online ads for American Apparel, I almost always look for an angle that will provoke. Outrage, self-righteousness, and titillation all work equally well. Naturally, the sexy ones are probably those you remember most, but the formula worked for all types of images. Photos of kids dressed up like adults, dogs wearing clothes, ad copy that didn’t make any sense—all high-valence, viral images. If I could generate a reaction, I could propel the ad from being something I had to pay for people to see (by buying ad inventory) to something people would gladly post on the front page of their highly trafficked websites.
But entertainment has the merit not only of being better suited to helping sell goods; it is an effective vehicle for hidden ideological messages. Furthermore, in a system of high and growing inequality, entertainment is the contemporary equivalent of the Roman “games of the circus” that diverts the public from politics and generates a political apathy that is helpful to preservation of the status quo.