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A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos

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Interlude: Selves, Heroes, and Dissociation

Many of the segments herein involve the notion of self. Perhaps our excessive concern with this problematic concept stems from the nagging suspicion that it is somewhat passé in this age of the planetary megalopolis. It’s not the uncertainty that we will achieve personal fulfillment (whatever that might entail) or the belief that huge government and commercial databases imperil our privacy (as they do), but rather the frightening idea that we’re easily replaceable and that the primary reality is the culture, the society, the weblike leviathan whose “mind” is reflected in the daily newspaper and in the electronic media. McLuhanesque insights about the disconnected collage that the media present and with ...

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