Critics: Just point to Google

Is criticism worth reading, or merely a pointer to Google?

Tyler Cowen wonders what critics are good for. He says he looks for only one thing when reading a book review: Whether he should Google it. He calls it a binary decision. The next binary decision is whether he should Amazon it.

If you look at life as a series of decisions about what to acquire, maybe these binary processes make sense. But imagine someone is talking to you about a fascinating book. Are you thinking: I wish this person would shut up and go away so I can get busy Googling and Amazoning the book? It might make more sense to focus on what the person’s talking about, to process a thought or two—and maybe later move into the acquisition mode.

In a way, this thinking Cowen describes is like when we walk through the forest or along the shore and think non-stop about taking pictures. Instead of concentrating on the present experience, we obsess about what we can harvest from it. I’m guilty of that.

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