“The Future of Reading Depends on the Future of Learning Difficult to Learn Things”

Socrates’ complaints about writing included “Writing removes the need to remember”. He meant that a prosthetic brace on a healthy limb will induce withering. On the other hand, if we think of new technologies as amplifiers that add or multiply to what we already have rather than replacing them—then we have the opportunity to use writing for its reach over time and space, its efficiencies, and its ability to hold forms of argument that don’t work in oral discourse. And we can still learn to remember all we’ve read! In other words, writing is not a good replacement for memories used in thinking—too inefficient—but is a great way to cover more ground, to cover different ground, and to have more to think about and with.

…[McLuhan said] that new media which are adopted at all first take their content from older and more familiar media. For example, it was important that the printed Gutenberg Bible be a Bible, and also look like a hand-made manuscript copy. Gradually, if the new medium has powers of its own, these will start to be found and used. The real message of printing was not to imitate hand-written Bibles, but 150 years later to argue in new ways about science and political governance. These are what forever changed Europe, and then America.

-Alan Kay, “The Future of Reading Depends on the Future of Learning Difficult to Learn Things” (via Chris Granger)