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James Gleick & Hubert Dreyfus

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Sunday, July 10, 2011 - 9:00pm

Today we often talk about the exhaustion, the surfeit and the pressure from the vast amount of electronic and digital information that is always swirling around us. But it is important to keep in mind that this has all been seen before when inventions like the telegraph and telephone threatened to eliminate time and space in their ages. Tonight on Inquiry we welcome the leading chronicler of science and technology JAMES GLEICK. His new book THE INFORMATION: A HISTORY. A THEORY. A FLOOD is an amazing account of the evolution of information technology, from talking drums to print to computers and Twitter and Facebook. Tonight we focus on one small part of that history, but a critical one.
Claude Shannon worked at Bell Labs in the 1940s as a cryptologist. From those studies he developed “a mathematical theory of communication” and was the first to use the term “a bit” to describe a piece of information. His ideas changed communications technology forever.

“The world doesn’t matter to us the way it used to.” So begins one of the most unique and thought provoking books on literature and philosophy: ALL THINGS SHINING: READING THE WESTERN CLASSICS TO FIND MEANING IN A SECULAR AGE. Authors HUBERT DREYFUS, a leading interpreter of existential philosophy and SEAN DORRANCE KELLY, Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Harvard, believe that we no longer lead the intense meaningful lives like the Greeks did at Homer’s time or the Italians did at the time of Dante. They believe that the Enlightenment’s metaphysical embrace of the individual leads not just to a boring life, but inevitably to a nearly unlivable one. Can we once again find meaning in the secular 21st Century by looking to the history of Western literature? Is the answer to today’s nihilism to be found in
Homer, Dante or Melville? Tune in tonight for the first part of a intense and lively discussion of philosophy and literature.

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