Everything Bad is Good for You

My book group met last night…we read Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good for You, which was a short, but interesting read. I think we all saw Johnson’s point that TV and video games are growing more complex (life in general is growing more complex!). I don’t watch any reality shows, so his take on them was interesting…I DO watch 24, though…and according to Johnson, watching that show is making me smarter.

Actually, as a writer, I can’t help but study the structure of 24 (or any other show I watch). I study how the plot rises not only throughout the episode, but throughout the season…the twists, the cliffhangers, motivation (why I care what happens)…it does help me in my own writing. But is watching 24 truly making me “smarter?” I don’t know…I’m not sure any of us bought into Johnson’s argument on that.

I don’t doubt that IQ scores are rising (and IQ is just one measure of intelligence)…but I think there are other explanations for that. Explanations that might also explain why TV and video games are growing more complex. In other words, I think the real question is: is dealing with the complexity of popular culture making us smarter or is popular culture growing more complex because we’re getting smarter? It’s another chicken/egg problem…

It was a great book for a book group, though.

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