Steven Johnson: Everything Bad Is Good For You riff

Today's New York Times Magazine has an excerpt from Steven Johnson's new book, Everything Bad Is Good For You. I can't wait to read the whole book! From the excerpt, entitled "Watching TV Makes You Smarter":

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For decades, we've worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards, presumably because the "masses" want dumb, simple pleasures and big media companies try to give the masses what they want. But…the exact opposite is happening: the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less. To make sense of an episode of (for example) "24," you have to integrate far more information than you would have a few decades ago watching a comparable show. Beneath the violence and the ethnic stereotypes, another trend appears: to keep up with entertainment like "24," you have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships. This is what I call the Sleeper Curve: the most debased forms of mass diversion — video games and violent television dramas and juvenile sitcoms — turn out to be nutritional after all.

I believe that the Sleeper Curve is the single most important new force altering the mental development of young people today, and I believe it is largely a force for good: enhancing our cognitive faculties, not dumbing them down.


Steven also tells Boing Boing:

I've posted on the blog one of my favorite riffs from the book, which is a little thought-experiment: imagine video games came *before* books — what would all the scolds be writing about in the op-ed pages when the kids dropped their gameboys and started reading all of a sudden?