The Long Zoom by Steven Johnson

Most eras have distinct “ways of seeing” that end up defining the period in retrospect: the fixed perspective of Renaissance art, the scattered collages of Cubism, the rapid-fire cuts introduced by MTV and the channel-surfing of the 80’s. Our own defining view is what you might call the long zoom: the satellites tracking in on license-plate numbers in the spy movies; the Google maps in which a few clicks take you from a view of an entire region to the roof of your house; the opening shot in “Fight Club” that pulls out fromEdward Norton’s synapses all the way to his quivering face as he stares into the muzzle of a revolver; the fractal geometry of chaos theory in which each new scale reveals endless complexity. And this is not just a way of seeing but also a way of thinking: moving conceptually from the scale of DNA to the scale of personality all the way up to social movements and politics — and back again.

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