11 October, 2006

the internet hasn't changed the world

in response to this article on slate

actually, the world really hasn't changed much in millenia, if by "world" you mean human nature and civilization.

certainly an aspect of our world has been changed: communication. it's easier to communicate and be informed of events across great distances. however, this improved communication hasn't changed what those events are. it hasn't change what we are communicating about.

even romancing a woman 600 miles away, through the written word, is nothing new. people have been doing that for hundreds of years. they just had to write letters instead of text messages and emails. the act might have taken longer, but it was essentially the same.

what has changed, what continually changes, is technology. but remember, technology is simply our tool-set. humans are tool makers; this is an inherent, instinctive activity for us. thus we are always creating and improving upon our tools. even the reaction to new technology is the same: embraced as essential and common by the young (particularly those who grow up with it) whilst handled with a bit of trepidation and slight awe (in some cases) by those older, who grew up without these things. so, in walter's case, all these things would be going on simultaneously regardless of his knowledge of them. the only difference our brave new world has brought is the ability to access all of that information, as it happens. one doesn't even have to do that.

heraclitus claimed one could never step in the same river twice. he was both right and wrong. certainly, the exact water constantly changes; however, a river is more than just water. it is the channel, the stream bed, the banks, rocks in the course of the stream, falls, the flora on the banks, the fauna in the water. a part of the river may be in constant flux, but the river, as a whole, is fairly constant. so to with the human world. aspects change all the time, with great rapidity. fashion, technology, language, customs all fall in and out of common use. yet, the concerns of humans, the desires, needs, hopes remain remarkably consistent. so what has changed? not the world, but the means of interacting with it.

does this mean the end of the novel? of course not. if there is one constant of human nature, it is our love of discussing ourselves. even if we never really change. the novel will continue, and will, like other aspects of the human world, undergo superfical changes to reflect the superficial changes in society. but the core will remain untouched. because for all our changes, people never do change, do they?

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