More about the book
Hamlet’s BlackBerry is about our connected lives and how to make them better. It began in 2006 when I spent a semester at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center researching and writing an essay about people and technology. The essay focused one of the oldest connective technologies, paper, and why it persists and remains useful even in the digital era.
Writing the essay got me thinking about the larger question of how to live productively and happily in a world of 24/7 connectedness. We’re all struggling with how busy life has become in the last decade – at home, at school, in the office, everywhere we go. In Hamlet’s BlackBerry I write that we’ve been living by a philosophy I call Digital Maximalism, which says that the more connected you are, the better. It’s not working. We need a smarter approach, a new practical philosophy anyone can use to build a good life today.
To find it, I go back to seven moments in history when a powerful new technology came along that presented much the same challenge we face now – information overload, that sense of life spinning out of control. In my research, I was astonished to learn that people struggled to manage their connectedness not just one or two hundred years ago, but two thousand years ago. At each of these key moments, I focus on one thinker who came up with unusually useful solutions to this problem. I call them the Seven Philosophers of Screens and they include Plato, Shakespeare, Ben Franklin and Henry David Thoreau. I take their ideas and apply them to our time using specific real-world examples, some drawn from my own life.
Hamlet’s BlackBerry offers a fresh way of thinking about how to thrive and find fulfillment in this exciting age. The ideas I present have helped me and my family manage our digital lives more wisely. I hope others will find them useful.
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