The Digital Rabbit Hole

The Digital Rabbit Hole ISBN: 9780982836345, Futurebooks,info publisher, e-book by Larry Kilham,

The book is subtitled: “How we are becoming captive in the digital universe and how to stimulate creativity, education, and recapture our humanity.” The book contains an Introduction followed by a presentation in three parts with magnificent references contained in a section at the end of the book pertinent to statistics and statements offered in the body of the work. PART 1 – The New World of the ‘Knowosphere’ contains 6 chapters detailing entrée into, good and bad features, effect on children and young adults, addictive features, definition of, its best uses and ‘shadows of artificial intelligence’. Part 2 –What to Learn and How to Think in the Age of Google has 3 chapters detailing decisions to be made and considerations that must be taken into account, evolution of new thought processes where the mind merges with the internet providing collective intelligence, and advancement, education and creativity considerations. PART 3 – Escape From the Rabbit Hole contains 4 chapters examining the “Erosion of Human Values”, “Recapturing Our Minds”, “Preparing the New Generations” and finally “The Road Ahead”.

Discussion: This is perhaps one of the most scholarly, and yet most simply written discussions on the subject of today’s almost universal servitude to the digital universe that this reviewer has read. Pertinent material from recognizably knowledgeably sources not only is presented in abundance but provided in a most enjoyably readable form. The author states: “Mankind’s thinking process is changing because reality will come through computers and digital devices.” He offers a relevant quote from prominent neuroscientist Susan Greenfield: “You’re just a consumer, living at the moment, having an experience, pressing buttons but not having a life narrative anymore. You’re not defined by your family, or by what you know, or by specific events in the real world, because most of your time is spent in cyberspace. So what are you? Could it be that we just become nodes on a much larger collective thought machine?” He states further that the main entry is through the smartphone with, as of 2015, 64% of North American adult ownership and with Facebook installed in 76%. There is a noticeable “erosion of human values at a price we have become willing to pay for the costless convenience of Google, comforts of Facebook, and the reliable company of iPhones”. The decline in youth studying humanities is quite noticeable. Mark Bauerlein, English professor and social analyst asks how can historical tales of leaders/battles/other, and architecture compete with the Digital democracy that even seems to be a contributor to declining interest in classical music. Sirus XM and satellite radio has 9 jazz channels, 20 Latin, 2 traditionally classical and the core classical music public in NYC is no more than 20,000 – ¼ % of city’s 8.4 million people. These are all part of the Internet driven democratization of cultural opinion. The average user checks his/her phone 100 times/day. Children use them constantly, often for advice/guidance but many unfortunately have become self-absorbed to the exclusion of everything else. It already has been proven to lessen attention span which already is at an all-time low of slightly over 8 seconds. It provides instant gratification – a message from a boy/girlfriend, photos from a party, shopping, a game, even a ‘selfie’. Obviously the traditional interests cannot compete with such prominently ‘important’ features. All of the former activities require a desire to learn which in turn requires effort. The latter do not, and they are selected simply because human nature traditionally takes the route requiring the least effort, and especially when gratification is so easily attained by doing so. Further, this concentration on one’s digital life decreases human intercourse and companionship and is leading to an increasing U. S. population of insecure, isolated and lonely individuals and, according to frightening statistics, have been shown to provide abysmal levels in literacy, mathematics and problem solving when compared to the accomplishments of those in other countries. Studies have shown that “as the smartphone ownership increases, literacy decreases.” The author admits that “the Digital age envelops us and forces us to engage whether we like it or not” and that almost every job now requires some level of digital literacy. However, we must approach it intelligently to use it as a base for new enterprises and further education. It should not be wasted simply for social media access, entertainment, purchases, and daily routines. He concludes by providing suggestions for accomplishing this goal. This is a most timely discussion set forth in a scholarly but simply and easily read format. (96 references listed)

5* Highly recommended examination of today’s digital world.

Seventeen

Seventeen, Published by Creative Cover Art, is a fictional tale of two sisters having to survive in a suddenly vastly different world, in e-book by Suzanne Lowe.

A plane crash in Japan lets loose contaminants that gradually spread throughout the world and become known as the KV virus. It strangely appears to affect only adults, causing a terrible death. Upon the epidemic’s arrival in Australia, many flee the cities including the close friends of sixteen year old Lexi and her 12-year-old sister, Hadley in Perth. Their parents decide to stay in their home but also succumb and are removed by persons in contagious guard suits. No one comes to do anything about the two children and gradually they adjust until thieves invade. They decide to leave for a smaller town. Their parents’ automobile has been stolen, but their neighbors’ older car still works and has petrol sufficient to reach their destination. Since they also are dead, the two girls take the car and begin their journey. They meet another young boy along the way, take him along and just before sundown reach the small town of Jasper’s Bay. This town retains their electricity because it is a model community that had established a complete and well-functioning system of solar power. The town is inhabited only by children and is run by the eldest of them, Elisha and Ethan Mathews who were the children of the town’s Anglican priest. They are given permission to stay and matters begin to settle into place until Broc, a young bully type and his gang from outside start to upgrade attacks on the town’s children. Problems escalate further when a mutant version of the virus appears that first produces a noticeable rash on the arms and legs and is followed by increasingly uncontrollable rage and is reported as beginning to attack children when they reach seventeen. Elisha is the first to become infected and is forced from the community because of her resultant activity. Ethan, although her twin, seems immune. He is devastated however, and takes to drink. Further problems ensue to threaten the town’s already shaky survival structure when Kevin, one of the young siblings of Zac, the eldest son running the nearby only productive farm, deserts to join Broc and his gang creating devastating destruction to the town’s infrastructure. Eventually, the young town dwellers band together to fight the invaders and some order is reestablished with Lexi taking charge but as she turns seventeen, the question surfaces as to whether she will be immune or if she too will succumb.

Discussion: The author states “I wanted to write a story for young adults that featured two sisters having to survive in a world that was suddenly vastly different from one they had grown up in. One without adults or any rules. This was a scenario that my own two teenage daughters would often discuss and theorize about at the dinner table. I wanted to set the story in Australia, somewhere that is quite isolated and a unique setting for most dystopian stories.” The statement speaks for itself and describes exactly what was intended and what has been accomplished. As an aside, the activity of the bully Brock and his gang appear to be pictured at an appropriate level for the age group. Some further editing might have been helpful for any more mature readers, but generally the tale appears to follow the purported thought lines of her targeted audience.

5* Fascinating plot, setting and presentation for target audience.