Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, critical bytes of information
stream through digital devices in your office, home, car, pocket, or purse.
Technology connects you to your colleagues, family, and friends
regardless of location all the time. Pretty great, right? Then why do we
feel increasingly anxious and distracted, often ignoring the very people
we're with to habitually (some would say, obsessively) check our e-mail or
Facebook accounts? Why does our relationship with technology feel like
In Powers's provocative and necessary book, this is a philosophical
problem:What do we do when we serve the tools meant to serve us?
What's the best way for us to live with technology so it benefits and adds
value to our lives, rather than controls us? Powers is no Luddite advocating
throwing out your cell phone; he's been seduced by technology's appeal
and utility. Hamlet's BlackBerry chronicles his personal journey to develop
a practical philosophy to wrest control of his life from a screen full of pixels,
agitation, and activity to a more thoughtful, creative abundance.
On his journey, Powers travels back in history with seven philosophers
who confronted surprisingly similar technological disruptions (and perceived
threats) in their own time: Plato, Seneca, Gutenberg, Hamlet (via
Shakespeare), Benjamin Franklin, Thoreau, and Marshall McLuhan.
Through his intelligent inquiry, Powers helps readers find their way to a
life of intention and depth, and a path back to peace.
Our discombobulated Internet Age could learn important new tricks from some very old thinkers, according to this incisive critique of online life and its discontents. Journalist Powers bemoans the reigning dogma of “digital maximalism” that requires us to divide our attention between ever more e-mails, text messages, cellphone calls, video streams, and blinking banners, resulting, he argues, in lowered productivity and a distracted life devoid of meaning and “depth.” In a nifty and refreshing turn, he looks to ideas of the past for remedies to this hyper-modern predicament: to Plato, who analyzed the transition from the ancient technology of talking to the cutting-edge gadgetry of written scrolls; to Shakespeare, who gave Hamlet the latest in Elizabethan information apps, an erasable notebook; to Thoreau, who carved out solitary spaces amid the press of telegraphs and railroads. The author sometimes lapses into mysticism—“In solitude we meet not just ourselves but all other selves”—and his solutions, like the weekend-long “Internet Sabbaths” he and his wife decreed for their family, are small-bore. But Powers deftly blends an appreciation of the advantages of information technology and a shrewd assessment of its pitfalls into a compelling call to disconnect. (July)
“[An] elegant meditation on our obsessive connectivity and its effect on our brains and our very way of life.”
“Powers mounts a passionate but reasoned argument for ‘a happy balance’. . . . [He] is a lively, personable writer who seeks applicable lessons from great thinkers of the past. . . . Lucid, engaging prose and [a] thoughtful take on the joys of disconnectivity.”
“A brilliant and thoughtful handbook for the Internet age—why we have this screen addiction, its many perils, and some surprising remedies that can make your life better.”
“In this delightfully accessible book, Powers asks the questions we all need to ask in this digitally driven time. And teaches us to answer them for ourselves.”
“Benjamin Franklin would love this book. He knew the power of being connected, but also how this must be balanced by moments of reflection. William Powers offers a practical guide to Socrates’ path to the good life in which our outward and inward selves are at one.”
“Always connected. Anytime. Anyplace. We know it’s a blessing, but we’re starting to notice that it’s also a curse. In Hamlet’s Blackberry, William Powers helps us understand what being ‘connected’ disconnects us from, and offers wise advice about what we can do about it…. A thoughtful, elegant, and moving book.”
A deconstruction of the notion that total connectedness brings happiness-or even productivity-and a concise guide to navigating social technology without sacrificing the personal or professional interactions that draw us there in the first place. Former Washington Post staff writer Powers argues that space (from connectedness) and balance (within it) are the most integral tenets to maintaining sanity within the increasingly plugged-in world. Since 2000, he writes, "the total number of mobile phones in the world went from about 500 million . . . to about 5 billion today." The author dubs this idea of continual connectedness "Digital Maximalism," a phenomenon that is "encouraging the unhealthy extreme, the digital equivalent of alcoholism." To frame his argument, Powers looks at seven renowned intellectuals and the historical movements to which they are pegged. These include Plato, and the need for occasional distance from the crowd; Gutenberg, and the idea that technology can be utilized to reflect inwardly; Franklin, and the benefit of establishing positive rituals; and Thoreau, whose Walden Pond experiment resulted in the valuable notion that solitude is a necessary part of sustaining a social existence. These ideas are echoed in the author's argument that serial focus results in less depth of experience, because endless screen time precludes true introspection. The author also asserts that it's not too late to effect positive changes in our digital habits. He proposes easy modifications like Internet-free weekends, vacations without cell phones, eschewing smart phones to eliminate the temptation to check e-mail when not at a computer, or blocking office workers from accessing e-mail for an hour or two per day. Despite the obviousness of such suggestions, it's the philosophy behind them that brings about positive and habitual change, and the author has found that, not surprisingly, routine is the key to success. Provides few new insights, but the book is interestingly packaged. Agent: Melanie Jackson/Melanie Jackson Agency