Malcolm Gladwell on David & Goliath

Digital Technology & Culture 101

Thanks to Richard Snyder (@RichardsTeapot) for sharing a link to Malcolm Gladwell’s TED Talk on David and Goliath. During class today we talked about different kinds of technology, including some very primitive types of tools that nonetheless expanded human capacities. In passing I mentioned the story of David and Goliath as an example of how the slingshot as a technology enabled tiny-little-david to defeat big-ol-goliath.

Gladwell complicates that story in a couple ways. First of all, David didn’t carry a slingshot, but rather a sling. The sling, Gladwell explains, packed a much mightier wallop than the average slingshot. Second, Gladwell makes a compelling case for rethinking the typical underdog narrative. Instead of reading the story as pitting two unequal warriors against each other—with David at a clear disadvantage—it’s possible to understand the story as dramatizing war between asymmetrical technologies.

Slingers belonged to the artillery class of warriors along with archers…

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