In the time since our last email, there’s been plenty of content about that U of Toronto professor, and you’ve probably read most of it, so we’ll spare you. Instead, a reminder that not all the suited gentlemen of the academy are bloviating blithering fools – Jürgen Habermas, as he describes himself in this El País Q&A on the occasion of his 89th birthday, carefully referring to nobody in particular, is “not one of those intellectuals who shoot without aim.” It’s refreshing to read his thoughts on Facebook, privacy, Trump and intellectual decadence, and be reminded that the role of the philosopher in society hasn’t been completely debased. Yet.
From the time the printed page was invented, turning everyone into a potential reader, it took centuries until the entire population could read. Internet is turning us all into potential authors and it’s only a couple of decades old. Perhaps with time we will learn to manage the social networks in a civilized manner. Internet has already opened up millions of useful niches of subcultures where trustworthy information and sound opinions are being exchanged. – not just the scientific blogs whose academic work is amplified by this means, but also, for example, [forums] for patients who suffer a rare disease and can now get in touch with others in the same situation on another continent to share advice and experience. There are undoubtedly great communication benefits and not just for increasing the speed of stock trading and speculation. I am too old to judge the cultural impulse that the new media is giving birth to. But it annoys me that it’s the first media revolution in the history of mankind to first and foremost serve economic as opposed to cultural ends.