Plato at the Googleplex, by Rebecca Goldstein, is both an in-depth analysis of Plato in the ancient world through his voice of the texts and a modern re-telling of Plato through the use of various character-driven scenarios where Plato is interjected into the discussion. It's an interesting approach because we can all relate to the different types of characters who come to interview Plato. The staunch scientist, the right-wing political TV host, the left wing technology crowd, etc. Each one focusing on different topics with their own lens while Plato fills the discussion with his own views in modern terms.
As Plato becomes accustomed to our current society and our vast availability of information through the Internet, he gets interviewed by Roy McCoy, our right-leaning talk show host. Plato shows optimism at societies ability to access so much knowledge but comes to realize the nature of the information in its present form:
"Plato: ... I'd hope that so much information being made available demonstrated a great desire not only for information but maybe even for knowledge.
McCoy: Just because all of that information is out there doesn't mean that anybody's going to access it all. I mean, how could they? It's overwhelming.
Plato: So it becomes a fight to get attention.
McCoy: Exactly. Attention is the resource everybody's after, and sometimes there are huge sums of cash that are connected with the attention -
Plato: But even when there aren't the huge sums, the attention alone is motive enough.
McCoy: Right you are. Attention is power. So you've got all the specializing pastry makers out there on the Internet, baking up a storm. Anybody with a blog is a pastry maker.
Plato: I am sorry to hear that.
McCoy: There's nothing wrong with putting more pastry makers out there, all of them perfecting their own particular confection. Like I said, that's democracy. You've got a problem with it then you've got a problem with democracy.
Plato: And to me the situation seems precisely the opposite, for if the situation is as you describe it, I wonder how your democracy can continue to function."
As the conversation goes it is fascinating to see these real world problems we are faced with in the eyes of Plato. The recognition that having access to so much information is both a strength and weakness of democracy. We live in a world where we can make decisions based on so much information but at the same time, we begin to filter towards like-minded groups. So although we can each, as individuals make decisions, we tend to follow the crowd we most closely associate with and allow those decisions to be guided. Plato's concern is that he doesn't see how democracy can function and we seem to be witnessing how that plays out. Scroll through a Donald Trump tweet and comments and you will see the groups loud and clear. We are quick to jump into the fray supporting our group but are we rationally stepping back and making individual decisions in how we decide?
A small example but one that gets you thinking about the notions that Plato instilled 2,000 years ago and how they apply in today's society. One of the reasons why this book appealed to me and it may appeal to you.
Paired with Ommegang's Three Philosophers bringing a combination Belgian-style dark ale and Liefman's Kriek which is a cherry ale from Belgium. I've really enjoyed this one in the past so it was nice to find another bottle, 9.7%. Cherries all the way through which may come across a bit sweet to some but I'm a fan of the Belgian style and tend to favour that classic Belgian style sweetness.