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kottke.org posts about James Burke

Balanced Anarchy or Open Society?

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2019

A clip from 1985 of James Burke talking about how microchips will change politics by making it possible for everyone’s opinion about the nature of the world to be heard and tallied. This slightly longer version of the same clip is worth watching:

You can also watch the entire episode from which it was taken.

Personal computing and the internet changed (and continues to change) the balance of power in the world so much and with such speed that we still can’t comprehend it. Ordinary people have more power today than they have ever had in history, but already powerful people have seen their potential reach and influence grow even more quickly. The system enabled by connected microchips can make everyone heard, but it can also make a reality TV star President of the United States. And this dynamic is still very young…we’re in for a wild ride, folks.

James Burke’s Connections online

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 15, 2010

Every episode of the classic science/history series Connections (as well as Connections 2 and 3) is available online at YouTube.

Connections is a ten-episode documentary television series created, written and presented by science historian James Burke. The series was produced and directed by Mick Jackson of the BBC Science & Features Department and first aired in 1978 (UK) and 1979 (USA). It took an interdisciplinary approach to the history of science and invention and demonstrated how various discoveries, scientific achievements, and historical world events were built from one another successively in an interconnected way to bring about particular aspects of modern technology.

Connections explores an “Alternative View of Change” (the subtitle of the series) that rejects the conventional linear and teleological view of historical progress. Burke contends that one cannot consider the development of any particular piece of the modern world in isolation. Rather, the entire gestalt of the modern world is the result of a web of interconnected events, each one consisting of a person or group acting for reasons of their own motivations (e.g. profit, curiosity, religious) with no concept of the final, modern result of what either their or their contemporaries’ actions finally led to. The interplay of the results of these isolated events is what drives history and innovation, and is also the main focus of the series and its sequels.

Here’s the first episode to get you started.

Warning: you may not be able to stop. If you’d like to watch the series in a less irritating format, you can always purchase it on DVD.

Thermos to the Moon

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 21, 2010

Have you ever thought about a rocket as a giant flying Thermos bottle? You will now:

Lovely bit of production there as well. (via russell davies)