The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World — Laurence Scott

I like it when people think abstractly about things rather than just giving a straight forward internet ready thought vomit. I picked this book the other day when I was in Waterstones and carried it around the shop for ages before deciding I probably didn’t want to read it.

Then when I got home, I picked up my Kindle and bought it from Amazon.

Which is ironic given the topic of the book.

Scott’s book has a mixture of wonderful and terrible reviews. Some people said that it is too meandering and I can’t help but feel these are the kind of people who enjoy pop psychology books a little too much.

I, personally, enjoyed every minute of the book. It’s a witty meandering (positively) look at how we live now that the internet is permeating our every day lives.

This is the best book I have read about the internet to date.

Main highlights:

It’s astonishing to think how in the last twenty years the limits and coherence of our bodies have been so radically redefined. We have an everywhereness to us now that inevitably alters our relationship to those stalwart human aspects of self-containment, remoteness and isolation.

On how even modern formats change:

I was struck by the change to our inherent self-containment on hearing of the demise of the phone-a-friend lifeline on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? In 2010 the US version removed this option because, over the years, these friends had become little more than mediums for Google. As the presenter Meredith Vieira explained, almost everyone’s friend was ‘Mr Internet’. The UK franchise held on longer. In later series, when a struggling British contestant sent out the SOS, the host Chris Tarrant had to assure viewers that this Samaritan was in a specially isolated environment, removed from smartphone and internet. This proviso would have seemed bizarre when the programme began in the mid-1990s, and shows the extent to which humans in their homes no longer possess their once innate separation from the world and its oceans of facts.

On the inconvenience of always available living:

your day is punctuated by people you know staking their flags into the moment. Sometimes, if you work at home, the timing may be unfortunate: your mother’s standard, for instance, unfurling just as Jizz Bratz is picking up steam. In calmer times, these short-lived alerts can be melancholy depending on one’s mood, like watching the sails of far-off boats catching and losing the sun. At other times they’re inconsequential, but isn’t there something melancholy in feeling the inconsequentiality of other people’s presence?

And this beauty of a clause which I’m thinking of getting tattooed to my eyelids:

Presence is often partial