The Pinball Effect - GE 393 DEG

The Pinball Effect
How Renaissance Water Gardens Made the
Carburetor Possible – and Other Journeys Through
By James Burke
Summary by Horace L. Flournoy
Coordinate System of the Web
• "We all live on the great, dynamic web of change," writes Burke,
" person acts without causing change on the web...The Pinball
Effect takes 20 different journeys across the great web of change.“
• Open-ended approach to reading the book. I purposely read this
book like a web, I jumped from experiment to experiment in an
extremely non-linear fashion.
• 447 different ways to read the book…
• I guess I did start from page 1 though, and I finished the first
chapter, but I was curious to find out where some of the other
“gateways” lead to so I went back….
Thoughts on the Pinball
• I thought it was phenomenal how Burke is able to connect an
everyday house-hold item or a modern idea to a possible invention
or idea which is completely irrelevant to end product.
• Trust and the central theme of the book: I found that as I was
reading the book in a non-linear fashion, I thought that I may be
missing something…But I had to keep reminding my self that this
was in fact advice from the writer himself.
• I later came to realize that even during the points in the book that I
found myself “reading straight through” and not skipping from
gateway to gateway, I still felt like the paragraph junctions from one
theme to another, perhaps connected by one central event, person,
country, or thing (eg. Yankee clipper), was still skipping me around.
Which leads me to conclusion 1…
Conclusion 1: You are the ball
and not the player pressing the
flipper buttons
• In reading The Pinball Effect, I realized that author James Burke
intentionally takes “linear control” and thinking out of your hands.
• He does not intend his readers to feel like they are traveling from
point A to point B, instead you must travel the web, whether you like
it or not.
• As I said earlier, even if you “fight the pinball machine” and
purposely read through the book in a linear fashion, the author still
makes it seem as if it is non-linear.
• (eg. Read transition on pg. 124)
Conclusion 1 (cont.): Know your
• In this way, I began to think of myself, the reader, as the pinball in a
pinball machine, constantly getting bounced around and hitting
various gateways, or bells, or 1000 point bonuses.
• In contrast, James Burke is the pinball machine player, sending the
minds of his readers in unique pathways.
Conclusion 2: everyone’s
conclusions will be different
• Burke intends this book to spark a sense of innovation
and creativity to the reader.
• By journeying the web, individual minds will encounter
individual conclusions to the exact same text.
• “Burke’s implicit claim, they are not series of connected
events, forming chains that leads back to the dawn of
human technology. Mostly, they form an integral part of
human culture, advancing where circumstances permit,
or not, in other cases. Burke’s attempt to overlay on this
some retrospective order are misleading and
unnecessary. “(1) Do you agree?
I do not agree.
• Burke really intends on the reader to look deeper into the stories and
somehow deduce that human inventions and discoveries, much of
the time, are somehow tied into one another…
• If Burke had written this book about inventions and discoveries in
the late 1990’s until the present, then I would agree. With the
invention of the telephone, the automobile, and the airplane, and
now the Internet, I think that human interaction and heightened
communication would lead to increased “connectivity of inventions.
• Remember the story of the tower of Babel?
• In conclusion, I found it interesting to see other’s opinions on this
book, and I also want to hear yours now!
Where is the Proof?
• everything is connected on the web of life…