Take the Long View

“The internet has quietly infiltrated our lives, and yet we seem to be remarkably unreflective about it.”

The combination of the auxiliary verb “has” and the past participle “infiltrated” combine in this quote to indicate an action “that started in the past and is (or may be) still going on”.  We are in the middle of an infiltration and transformation without the wonderful gift of hindsight.  John Naughton presents the reader with a Gedankenexperiment in an article of his that compares the adoption of the internet to the adoption of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press in 1455.  His experiment asks everyday citizens of that period to make predictions about the potential impact of the invention of movable type and his conclusion is that “There is no way that anyone in 1472, in Mainz, could have known how profound its impact would be.”

I wonder how the majority of Mainz residents felt about the printing press as it was transforming their world.  Did they embrace the new technology?  Did it scare them?  Perhaps they simply accepted it?  A few disgruntled accounts of its detrimental effects on society have survived but it is hard to guess at the general populace’s opinion of the technology.  Naughton states that we are currently unreflective about the period of change we are currently traveling through.  Is it because conclusions about its impact cannot be made?  Or is there value in questioning the potential impacts of a technology before fully embracing it and encouraging its transformation from a technology into something as “trivial and plentiful as…grains of sand”.  The transformative technology we are embracing is becoming common place.  I am interested in exploring how these new grains of sand will change what it means to take a walk on the beach.  I also want to know if we will miss anything as the waves slowly was the older grains away?

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