A Billion Sordid Images

Disconnected is not an amusing book.  The subtitle’s “digitally distracted” doesn’t hint at its grim findings.  This short text—a long one might be too dispiriting—is nevertheless lengthy enough to expose the digital revolution as an outright calamity, though the author generally eschews the apocalyptic tone.  Of course, there is the familiar boast that children now access and share information at rates undreamt of in the pre-digital world.  (Information: that neutral word encompassing everything from algebraic formulae to pornographic circuses.)

Bombarding the unformed flickering brain (researchers speak of “brains” rather than “minds,” because brains have “waves” that can be imaged in the lab) with digital information for more than eight hours a day is distracting, all right.  It is also dehumanizing—again, not the author’s word.

In his Introduction, Kersting peers backward to a childhood before smartphones, a lost world where he and his friends lived outdoors in the wilds of something called a neighborhood, with no lifeline to the domestic cocoon.  Rather like Dr. Livingstone on the banks of Lake Tanganyika, we presume; but the outdoor boy’s life of yore never induced sleeping sickness—or “tech-neck” and deep-vein thrombosis, old-age maladies now disturbing...

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