Babel

Last night I set up on-line billing for my gas account (we have only just started using gas in our house, but that’s another story). Rather than bits of tree being pulped, pressed, printed and posted, I will receive future demands for money via electrons and electrickery. Now demands with menaces will be less "We know where you live" and more "We know where you sign on (and who your friends are on Friendface or whatever)".

And so the brave new world of instant communication marches ever forward.

One of the reasons this struck me as worth a comment is that I have also been reminiscing over old television programmes with friends recently, and then I fell over an article by Ursula K LeGuin on the social function of reading. The article talks about the importance of a communal experience to bind society together. This made me think about how the rise of instant cheap global communication seems to have shattered our communal spaces.

Nothing new in that thought, I agree, but that does not invalidate it.

It is true that technology seems to acquire a life of its own once it is released into society. For instance, consider that the telephone was envisaged as a way of broadcasting concerts direct to people in their homes rather than providing point-to-point conversations; and that videos were expected to be used for renting films rather than time-shifting our TV viewing. I like the idea of the subversiveness of technology but that very unpredictability also gives it a threatening edge, and until we get to grips with the shiny new world the Internet can give us, it will continue to scare and confuse many of us for some time.

After all, can your Granny text? 

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