2014, Books

The End of Absence (2014) by Michael Harris

The End of Absence is a thoughtful and sometimes thought-provoking examination of my generation – the last generation to remember life before the internet – and the consequences of technological change for this generation and subsequent generations. It is entirely too personal a work for me – it reminds me a little too much of a film where the filmmaker cannot help inserting himself in front of the camera (or into the narration) – but I get that this is what sells nowadays and it’s how many people connect with intellectual ideas.

Michael Harris is, at times, a little curmudgeonly, but since I can be too, I don’t fault him for it. And, on the whole, he is pretty balanced between seeing the downside (that few want to see) of constant connection and the pluses at the same time. The book is much better researched than I imagined it would be, and could easily lead me down numerous little rabbit holes if I were intent enough on pursuing those various avenues. I also appreciate how Harris refuses to proscribe specific solutions to us, even though he does give us a vague one.

(I would also like to note that I lived without the internet in my home for years – literally half a decade – and you don’t see me writing book chapters about that. Does that mean I’m terrible at turning my personal experience into profit or does it give me some kind of integrity?)

It’s certainly an interesting read, whether you are one of those technological utopians or you are a recovering borderline Luddite, like me.


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