June 21, 2005
News & Opinion: Everything Bad Is Good For You
Steven Johnson's new book Everything Bad Is Good For You takes on the myth that modern media is rotting our brains. I have seen some reviews for the book, the latest from Taylor Antrim in Forbes FYI:
Here's a sentence you don't read every day:"[P]opular culture has, on average, grown more complex and intellectually challenging over the past 30 years." So writes Steven Johnson at the start of his compelling-- and yes, convincing--defense of video games, TV, the Internet and Hollywood movies. The work-and-reward structure of games like the Zelda and Grand Theft Auto series develops patience and perseverance, a kind of cognitive resolve, argues Johnson. And TV, even reality TV, offers complicated narrative structures and emotionally rich lessons in human relationships. Your kids aren't zoning of in front of the tube; they're focused on it. If Johnson's capacity to look on the bright side can seem extreme, it's nonetheless exciting to hear from such an articulate optimist. We live in a kind of anti-Brave New World, he assures us, in which economic incentive creates increasingly complex media, which in turn makes us smarter. The only loser in Johnson's happy sense of things? He gives us the answer with a knowing wince: book reading.