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Print is dead (film at 11)

May 4, 2004

TeleRead brings us a great excerpt from an abstract of Contes pour les Bibliophiles (Stories for Bibliophiles), with this 19th century vision of a post-literate society:

..what of the future of books? The narrator argues that Gutenberg’s invention will soon disappear. Reading causes lassitude and wearies us tremendously. Words through the speaking tube, however, give us a special vibrancy. The gramophone will destroy printed works. Our eyes are easily damaged, but our ears are strong.

It goes on that way for a ways; hilarious, from today’s perspective. In fact, it reminds me of the predictions from around the same time that by the end of the millennium, the transportation needs of an expanding population would have the world two feet deep in horse manure.

The point of all of this is that by and large, we’re all pretty crappy at making “if this goes on” predictions — it’s supremely difficult to gauge what technology is going to come out of the woodwork and change the world yet again. It was true for horseshit, it will likely be true for fossil fuels, and it will probably be true for most everything else that we get ourselves worked up over.

At the risk of doing the exact same thing, it occurs to me that if we’re really going to be dealing with extended transhuman lifespans as we go along, we really need to get better at taking the long view…

(Do go read the rest of the excerpt, btw — some good points being made there about the difficulty of preserving some of this old material.)

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