I have a strange relationship with technology. I purchase a lot of gadgets, but I don't really know how to use them. In fact, I probably use them more inappropriately than the average, and then I complain that they don't help me become more productive. One of my former PhD students Dan D'Amico loved to make fun of me in these situations and just say "User Error". Pete Leeson and Chris Coyne could give you quite a chuckle by telling you stories of my Palm Pilot with its portable keyboard. And Rosemary, my lovely wife, can certainly make you laugh with stories of my "Power Paragraphs" rather than Power Points.
I have multiple laptops, and e-readers, and I have a large library of iBooks, Kindle and Google Books, but I prefer physical books. Starting a year ago, I began writing out my talks rather than preparing Power Points, and this year I am not even typing up those talks but writing them first out long-hand with a felt pen and pads of paper. I write in books, I have post-it notes in books, slips of paper and notes that I take. I have gone back to a technology I employed when I was 19 and first reading seriously, and I think I am better for it. But others will ultimately be the judge of all that in how they perceive my talks and my papers that get published based on these academic scribbles.
But I remain in awe of technology, I just learned from my grad students about the income potential that some academic peddlers of lectures have realized on You Tube. How did I miss that? Heck, I bet folks might have paid to watch me try to work with that Palm Pilot and keyboard with color commentary from Coyne and Leeson! Still, this led me to clicking around the web earlier this week and low and behold I found amazing intellectual material. Not just current podcasts -- many of which I listen to faithfully already such as EconTalk -- but older shows that have now been uploaded, such as Bryan Magee's "Great Philosophers". I know the web has numerous content, but I couldn't help thinking that the sort of ideas that I care about are under-represented in a serious way. There are lots of talks and shows that touch on aspects, but we could do much better and especially in raising the intellectual bar.
Earlier this week I posted a conversation with Magee and Herbert Marcuse about the Frankfurt School of social theory. It reminded me so much of endless conversations I had with Don Lavoie, Steve Horwitz and especially Dave Prychitko and it made me wish that we have more recordings of Don. But there isn't enough content about Hayek or Buchanan or Ostrom; not enough content concerning Kirzner and Lachmman content is non-existent.
Still, just a click away and you can experience some of the best minds discuss fascinating ideas. For example, watch this lecture from Paul Seabright on the second edition of his wonderful book, In the Company of Strangers.
When I was a teenager one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs was Gimme Shelter -- you know "War, children, it's just a shot away.. It's just a shot away ..War, children, it's just a shot away ..
It's just a shot away." That song was a warning about the fragility of our human existence. But the world of knowledge -- the best antidote to the madness of inhumanity -- is just a click away. And that is pretty amazing -- even with "User Error" I can benefit from that and do.