In the New York Review of Books, Bill McKibben uses his review of David Sax’s new book, The Revenge of Analog to meditate on the enduring joy — and human necessity — of playing board games or writing things with paper and pen.
But back up far enough and many things our species does are silly. The premise of the digital world is that we can do all these silly things…faster and more easily. But why exactly would we want to? Why should efficiency be the standard measure, and not pleasure? I defy you to read Sax’s book without wanting to buy a Moleskine, put an LP record on a turntable, or play a game of Scrabble with your friends. It’s true that he mostly ignores some of the deepest questions raised by the digital age: the obsolescence of human labor against the tide of automation; the endless, uncheckable spread of surveillance. But the small rebellions he chronicles help us understand the general shape of a threat that goes beyond Karl Marx and his nineteenth-century complaints about capitalism; it’s in our digital era that all that was solid really did melt into air. Or into Wi-Fi, anyway.