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I Think the Written Word Can Take Care of Itself June 14, 2016

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.

Facebook thinks that the written word is dead, to be replaced in its entirety by videos.  It claims that videos convey more information.

Well, maybe. I am no longer willing to bet against Facebook, even as it gets even more asinine every year.  I am a mere human, while it is an unstoppable force.  And it is correct from a simple number-of-bits standpoint.

But information is more than bits and bytes. Video is art, too, but blending words in the right ways lets people use their imagination to build alternative realities.  It exercises our minds in ways that video cannot.

To be fair, I am the one that laughs at people who still cling desperately to the printed word on paper. I have heard “I just like the feel of paper in my hands,” which seems to me nonsensical.  But the written word, apart from defining in world history what is means to be human, is something that stimulates us to imagine very different things, something that video is ill-equipped to do.

We may go all the way to a video society, although I hope not. I am reminded of an old speculative fiction story by the late great Isaac Asimov that envisions a future society in which mathematics is done entirely by calculator, and pencil and paper (or mental) mathematics is a long forgotten art.  So when someone brings it back, that person is looked upon with both wonder and suspicion.

It frightens me, though, to think that Facebook actually has the wherewithal to make this happens, if it furthers the company’s business goals. We should not give up the written word just because Facebook says we should.

I don’t think this comes as any surprise to anyone, but Facebook is shallow.  Its fundamental problem is that it also promotes shallowness as communication.  If we succumb to Facebook, we fail to connect as humans.



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