When the Lilliputians first saw Gulliver's watch, that "wonderful kind of engine...a globe, half silver and half of some transparent metal," they identified it immediately as the god he worshiped. After all, "he seldom did anything without consulting it: he called it his oracle, and said it pointed out the time for every action in his life." To Jonathan Swift in 1726 that was worth a bit of satire. Modernity was under way. We're all Gullivers now. Or are we Yahoos?
The microwave oven is one of the modern objects that convey the most elemental feeling of power over the passing seconds ... If you suffer from hurry sickness in its most advanced stages, you may find yourself punching 88 seconds instead of 90 because it is faster to tap the same digit twice.
"Half genius and half buffoon," Freeman Dyson ... wrote. ... [Richard] Feynman struck him as uproariously American-unbuttoned and burning with physical energy. It took him a while to realize how obsessively his new friend was tunneling into the very bedrock of modern science.
The Internet has taken shape with startlingly little planning? The most universal and indispensable network on the planet somehow burgeoned without so muchasa boardofdirectors, never minda mergers-and- acquisitions department. There is a paradoxical lesson here for strategists. In economic terms, the great corporations are acting like socialist planners, while old- fashioned free-market capitalism blossoms at their feet.
The library will endure; it is the universe... We walk the corridors, searching the shelves and rearranging them, looking for lines of meaning amid leagues of cacophony and incoherence, reading the history of the past and of the future, collecting our thoughts and collecting the thoughts of others, and every so often glimpsing mirrors, in which we may recognize creatures of the information.
The basic idea of Western science is that you don't have to take into account the falling of a leaf on some planet in another galaxy when you're trying to account for the motion of a billiard ball on a pool table on earth. Very small influences can be neglected. There's a convergence in the way things work, and arbitrarily small influences don't blow up to have arbitrarily large effects.