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Friday, March 20, 2015

Faster and faster (Graedon)

Some say history is a forward march—a line advancing toward a target. Maybe this view was just a mirror of its time: the 19th century saw the rise of what we came to call linear thought, a way of processing the world that was made possible only by the medium of books. By accident, the bound codex taught us sustained focus, abstract thinking, logic. Our natural tendency is to be distracted—to scan the horizon constantly for predators and prospects. Books made us turn that attention inward, to build higher and higher castles within the quiet kingdoms of our minds. Through that process of reflection and deep thinking, we evolved. There was no going back—only ever forward.

Others say that history isn't straight but curved, a circle, constantly repeating; ouroboros, the eternal return. But ouroboros isn't just a circle; it's a serpent eating its own tail. What if, right now, as we're immolating language, we're doing away with ourselves? Maybe we've regressed. The skills we once used for survival—scattered attention, diffuse concentration—have been adapted to finding glowing dots on screens, skimming pop-ups, beams, emails, video streams. Our thinking has been flattened; our progress ceded to machines. It's happening faster and faster. Accelerated obsolescence accelerating.

Alena Graedon, The Word Exchange

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