The Brain is Wider than the Sky
Bryan Appleyard is a great source of interesting articles on Twitter, including many of his own. I like him because he helps me think, writes well, and – along with John Piper – introduced me to the works of Marilynne Robinson.
His book, The Brain is Wider than the Sky is a lament, an appeal, almost a manifesto for how we are to let technology serve us, rather than be served by it. He sees life as more wonderful and complex than it is often treated:
Binary code implanted in the modern imagination the belief that everything can, ultimately, be broken down into a primitively simple and irreducible pair of atomic units that specified only that there was something or there was nothing... If everything can ultimately be specified by zeros and ones, then so can humans.
We might think a machine is intelligent, not because it actually is, but because we have made ourselves more stupid to make it look smarter.
Men without chests, men as artefacts, suggest two of the great and, I believe, closely related images of our time – the robot and the celebrity, both creatures that have stepped into the void where values have no objective existence.Appleyard’s lode star is art, “the complex solution to the complex problem of our existence”, which starts and concludes a journey through medicine, philosophy, science, economics, environmentalism, and Paris Hilton. He speaks to experts in many fields (though not Hilton), generally those who agree with his perspective, or, perhaps more fairly, have helped shape his convictions. Either way, it’s an opportunity to hear smart people talking about important things, which shouldn’t be passed up lightly. He concludes with a hopefully triumphant vision: the artist David Hockney drawing with his iPad: “the artist at peace with the machine, his servant.”
It’s interesting for me as a Christian reading him, who is agnostic, summon Christians such as Emily Dickinson, C.S. Lewis, and Marilynne Robinson to his cause. The Bible pretty much commands its readers to be stunned at who we are, and warned. We are made in the likeness of God the infinite Creator (Genesis 1:26). Our fallenness is amply described in Scripture, and here. These two giddying forces are at work in each of us. A line from Ecclesiastes came to me again and again as I was reading this, a glimpse of what was being grasped: God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (3:11). There is more to us, and more to life, than we are often fooled into accepting.
The Brain is Wider than they Sky helps you look at both anew.