Obsessions, new and old, in literature and technology
This week on The Forum we explore something we all succumb to now and then: obsessive behaviour. It may be an infatuation with another person you can’t get out of your head or a fixation on a single object or idea that, like a talisman, you are scared to let go of. But what is it that drives our obsessions? Joining Bridget Kendall are internet analyst and cyber-sceptic, Belarus -born Evgeny Morozov; leading Spanish novelist and translator, Javier Marias; and Indian-American mathematics professor and author, Manil Suri. Photo Credit: Science Photo Library
Writer and researcher of the digital world Evgeny Morozov is the author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom and To Save Everything, Click Here. He suggests that what he calls ‘Solutionism’, an obsessive belief in data-driven technology as the only answer to societal problems such as conflict and obesity, may be preventing us from finding more durable and more appropriate political solutions to these problems.
Manil Suri was born in Bombay and is a professor of mathematics and affiliate professor of Asian studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is also the author of the novels The Death of Vishnu, The Age of Shiva, and The City of Devi. Obsessions are at the core of The City of Devi, whether it’s the preoccupation of his main character with acquiring a pomegranate, the mutual fixation of India and Pakistan, or the existence of mathematical trinities and triangles within the plot.
Born in Madrid, Javier has published ten novels, two collections of short stories and several volumes of essays. His work has been translated into thirty-two languages and won a dazzling array of international literary awards. His recent novel, The Infatuations, traces the fine line between fantasy and obsession, a complicated mix of wanting something and trying to resist it, through an unsettling mystery of murder and love.
60 Second Idea to Change the World
Manil Suri suggests that whenever someone made a promise, no matter how casual, they would be required to back it up with a monetary deposit. If the promise was broken, the recipient would get to keep the money as compensation. Different kinds of promises, such as dinner invitations or declarations of undying love, would carry varying financial penalties. Politicians would have to be particularly careful about what they pledged: they'd probably need to raise a lot more money for the massive payouts expected if elected.