The World Beyond Your Head

by Matthew B. Crawford


This book begins with standard observations that we live in “a culture saturated with technologies for appropriating our attention… [where] our interior mental lives are laid bare as a resource to be harvested.” How, in such a world, do we seek out differentiated, individual lives? Crawford proceeds to derive answersfrom Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse, organmaking, glass blowing, car mechanics, cognitive embodiment, and philosophy. He argues against becoming an individual through seeking radical autonomy, itself an outgrowth of the larger Englightenment project. Instead, he suggests seeking individuality by embedding ourselves in concrete social practices and traditions—not uncritically, but carefully and through hard work.

This is a hard book to summarize, and I’m not sure I’ve done it well. But it’s proved an extremely formative book for me, and one I commend to anyone building technology or seeking individuality. (And I hope that’s everyone!)