The library of humans

1. Working  2. How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read  3. Lucretius, The Nature of Things  4. The Most Human Human  5.  Herodotus, Histories  6. Susan Sonntag from On Photography  7. The Fault in Our Stars

Working, by Studs Terkel My library shows a variety of perspectives on the human experience, and what that means to different people. The first book in my library is "Working", which is distinctive because it shows the viewpoints of many people, all from different walks of life. Everyone in this book comments on what makes their life different, and what is unique to them. I found it particularly interesting when people talked about the effects of upcoming technology on their profession, and how it made them feel. It is fascinating to look back now on how people felt at the time about "new" technology that I have seen around me for my entire life. A lot of people expressed their opinions about whether robots or computers could eventually take over their jobs, and if they thought that it was a good idea. A few people seemed to think that it was a good thing, but many of them seemed to worry about technology taking away the human aspect of work. There was a general concern that technology replacing people in the workplace would make the personal aspects of jobs - where people would talk to each other and make connections - suddenly become cold and impersonal. This is interesting to look back on now, because some of these jobs have become much less personal, but at the same time have gained profound advantages in productivity and organization. All of this makes you wonder when efficiency becomes a fair trade for humanity.
How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, by Bayard I think that this book provides a very different perspective on humans gaining knowledge than the norm, which makes for a fascinating contract. In today's society we seem very intent on acquiring a great deal of knowledge, as quickly as possible. One of the largest companies in the world right now is Google, of which the sole purpose is helping people connect to information as fast as possible. Using these searches, we acquire many individual details pertaining to whatever information we need at the moment; and we try to memorize whatever we feel may be necessary. Contrary to this, Bayard is proposing that the more specific knowledge you acquire, the less able you are to see the larger picture and the connections between things. As human beings, our brains cannot hold all of the information, which is partially why we made computers. We do seem very intent on holding as much of it as possible by memorizing details. It seems to me a lot like my new cover picture for this book; at first you see the large picture of the trees, but the closer you look the less you see the trees and the more you just see stairs.
Lucretius, On The Nature of Things Lucretius explores human beings' place in the universe, and how we fit into it all - and he does it all in a poem. He talks about science, the quest to further knowledge, and the structure of the universe. He moves on to discuss mortality, death, the senses, and human perception. Finally, he takes on the earth and how it functions, the sky, and weather. Unbelievably, he expounds on all of these while maintaining a constant poetic style of Latin hexameters. Lucretius' work was lost for centuries, but when it was rediscovered it is considered one of the things that helped to spark the imaginations of many of the key players of the Renaissance. I think that Lucretius would have been happy to know that his work influenced such a great expansion of human knowledge.
The Most Human Human by Brian Christian Brian Christian provides a very unique perspective on what it means to be human through getting ready for the Turing Test. The Turing Test is a test designed to determine if the artificial intelligence of a computer system is able to mimic the responses given by actual humans. Through writing this, Christian is preparing to represent the human race. This test was made to measure the advancement of artificial intelligence, but the way Christian: if we can program computers to be like humans, then what is left that makes us human? I think this is an interesting point, because all that computer programming comes down to is a series of zeroes and ones. If it is true that the essence of a human can be recreated with a series of numbers, then what do we have left that makes us unique? Christian is trying to determine exactly what humanity is and how he can best embrace it in an attempt to defend the human race.
The Histories by Herodotus This is the story of a man wandering the world in curiosity, and exploring humanity in different cultures. Herodotus tells the stories of those who he meets - sometimes individuals, sometimes an entire group or culture. Through his stories he gives the reader a view of how humans interact with each other, and with the world around them. He covers a wide variety of topics, everything from the traditions and beliefs to the geography and politics of those he meets along his way. He seems particularly fascinated by telling the stories of cultures going to war; and he examines the causes of going to war - political and personal - as each side tries to justify their position. Throughout his writings, Herodotus seems to be trying to tell a complete story - so that every side and angle is given a voice, and so that no one's deeds will be forgotten. He sees the world as a large and beautiful place, and he does his best to appreciate and tell the stories of those he meets in it.
On Photography, by Susan Sontag Photography, for Sontag, is about catching the human moments. She believes that people have become so wrapped up in taking photographs that they have changed their focus from living in the moment to recording the moment. She makes an argument that anyone who is recording an event cannot intervene in that event. This means that instead of being a part of what is happening around them, people just want to capture it to keep it. She thinks of photography as slices of life and individual moments captured, that make people feel something. I think that she would not be overwhelmed with the current trend of the selfie movement. People are now overpowered with the desire to see pictures of themselves (with different hairdos, different outfits, different expressions) on a constant basis. I believe that she would rather see people out interacting with others and recording just those special moments - which would be a part of what makes them special.
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Greene The book "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Greene is one of my favorite books. It is about the final human experience, death, and what that means. The main character in this book is a teenaged girl dying of terminal cancer. She has had a while to come to terms with this, and is mostly okay with it; however, just as they find a way to stabilize her condition for the time being, she finds out that her boyfriend is dying also. Her boyfriend had previously been in remission, but his illness returned, full force, and she has to face the fact that she will not be dying first. This brings up a lot of emotions, and the book explores how she faces loss. This includes finally understanding what her parents are experiencing - that feeling when you know that someone you love is dying, and there is nothing that you can do. Throughout the book she struggles to accept her fate, but not let it ruin her will to live as well as she can, for as long as she can.
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