Alan Jacobs is a distinguished professor of humanities in the honors program at Baylor University and a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. A prolific essayist, reviewer, and blogger, he is the author of Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind, The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis, “The Book of Common Prayer”: A Biography, and The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, among others.
I envision a world in which the increased fragmentation of our media scene leads, over time, to the rise of new institutions that are built on stronger foundations.
The question I want to ask is simply this: Is the writing of a Life a game that, in our current moment, can be played?
If you get out in your yard with a push mower, everyone who passes wants to talk with you about it.
Like the tenants of the Bishop of Worcester, they know that in a tightening job market they have leverage.
What if the more successful political commentators on Substack, or music teachers on YouTube, or masters of the podcast interview, began to teach their craft to others?
Well known free speech advocates may not always be free speech absolutists.
“Quality of life” calculations leave out far too much that matters for human flourishing.
Call them warlords or the manorial elite, our massive transnational tech companies will protect us only when they believe it is in their interest to do so.
What in the world does the division of labor have to do with campus protests, the curse or blessing of “wokeness,” or the populist movement centered on Donald Trump?
Herzen won’t stop striving for social transformation with every ounce of energy he has, but also won’t pick up Chernyshevsky’s axe.
By forcibly breaking some of our technological habits, Covidtide creatively destabilizes others.
To make promises, to stand by one words, to be answerable for them, is to open oneself to blame.
Ghost stories and other tales of horror concern unpredictable, sometimes ambiguous or indescribable, forces that display hostility or at best indifference to us.
If you listen to the machine telling you how to get out of it you only get sucked into it more, like a con artist that lulls you into trust by telling you he is conning you. The promised liberation from technology is usually just another technology that you don’t recognize as such. This is one reason why a fuller appreciation of our diverse techniques is so vital.
Humility, laziness, true confessions, and The Karate Kid—an interview with Alan Jacobs on his 79 Theses for Disputation.
Once you start to think of technologies as having desires of their own you are well on the way to the Borg Complex: we all instinctively understand that it is precisely because tools don’t want anything that they cannot be reasoned with or argued with. And we can become easily intimidated by the sheer scale of technological production in our era. Eventually we can end up talking even about what algorithms do as though algorithms aren’t written by humans.
The resources of the household are indeed limited, and the steward does indeed have to make decisions about how to distribute them, but such matters do not mark him as a “sovereign self” but rather the opposite: a person embedded in a social and familial context within which he has serious responsibilities.