End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection
Soon enough, nobody will remember life before the Internet. What does this unavoidable fact mean?
For future generations, it won't mean anything very obvious. They will be so immersed in online life that questions about the Internet's basic purpose or meaning will vanish.
But those of us who have lived both with and without the crowded connectivity of online life have a rare opportunity. We can still recognize the difference between Before and After. We catch ourselves idly reaching for our phones at the bus stop. Or we notice how, mid-conversation, a fumbling friend dives into the perfect recall of Google.
In this eloquent and thought-provoking book, Michael Harris argues that amid all the changes we're experiencing, the most interesting is the one that future generations will find hardest to grasp. That is the end of absence--the loss of lack. The daydreaming silences in our lives are filled; the burning solitudes are extinguished. There's no true free time when you carry a smartphone. Today's rarest commodity is the chance to be alone with your own thoughts.
To understand our predicament, and what we should do about it, Harris explores this loss of lack in chapters devoted to every corner of our lives, from sex and commerce to memory and attention span. His book is a kind of witness for the straddle generation--a burst of empathy for those of us who suspect that our technologies use us as much as we use them.
By placing our situation in a rich historical context, Harris helps us remember which parts of that earlier world we don't want to lose forever. He urges us to look up--even briefly--from our screens. To remain awake to what came before. To again take pleasure in absence.
"This is a lovely, direct, and beautifully written book that will make you feel good about living in the times we do. Michael Harris is honest in a way I find increasingly rare: clear, truthful, and free of vexation. A true must-read."
--Douglas Coupland, author of "Worst. Person. Ever." and "Generation X"
""The End of Absence" is a beautifully written and surprisingly rousing book. Michael Harris scans the flotsam of our everyday, tech-addled lives and pulls it all together to create a convincing new way to talk about our relationship with the Internet. He has taken the vague technological anxiety we all live with and shaped it into a bold call for action."
--Steven Galloway, author of "The Confabulist "and "The Cellist of Sarajevo"
"Everybody over sixty should read this book. The rest of the population will need no urging, unless they are too far gone to read anything longer than a blurb. The first part reads like a horror story, a shocking mind-thriller. In the second half the author, despite real foreboding, demonstrates in his own person that all is far from lost. Relief, after much learning."
--Margaret Visser, author of "Much Depends on Dinner"
"In this thoughtful, well-written book, Michael Harris combines personal narrative with the views of experts to show us that the digital revolution that envelops us contains traps that can lead us to understand less even as we seem to know more."
--Barry Schwartz, author of "The Paradox of Choice" and "Practical Wisdom"
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