Aug 10, 2010

Humans repeat themselves

It's true. We're not as original as we like to think that we are. This fact pursues me constantly, often with debilitating effects.

Understanding that it is something that I am constantly trying to get away from, it should come as no surprise that I saw the theme of repetition in Snow Crash. (Yes, I finally got around to reading it. What one 5 hour search of every bookstore in the Atlanta Airport was unable to satisfy was finally encountered hundreds of miles away in an Arkansas library.)

The 'discovery', however, that I have made about human beings is that we are utterly and inescapably captivated by new technologies. The creation of a new form of expressing or transmitting information is particularly susceptible to inspire new forms of ridiculousness and quasi-religious devotion.

We, humans, believe that knowledge is power. We, as humans, are seduced by anything powerful (or apparently powerful). Therefore, it makes sense that we would be seduced by the means of transmitting information.

What I'm (slowly and grandiosely) getting to, is that the creation of the written language and the religious devotion and veneration that the written alphabet created in humans (in the alphabet's early creation, that is) can be paralleled with our current fascination with the internet and the "collective consciousness" that search engines produce.

What's Snow Crash have to do with any of this? Snow Crash centers on the Sumerians, a culture (tribe, clan?) of people from the BCs that created one of the first alphabets. It wasn't the alphabest, but they managed to communicate any sort of information via clay tablets.

But they didn't just write things down: they wrote on the bricks they used to build, they wrote down incantations that they believed had mystical powers - they believed that words, especially the written word, had some magical power. That words were able to communicate certain things to the brain and to reach some place that other means of conversation (I'm guessing the visual or auditory sort?) were not able.

Couple this Sumerian alphabet-worship with our current fascination with Google or anything "computer intelligent", and my point begins to become clear. (Goodness, i"m bad at laying things out. They should all just be self evident!)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/09/opinion/09lanier.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

What does Sumerian obsession with alphabest and our current day obsession with social media and the hivemind have to do with each other? Nothing, other than the fact that they're merely humans doing what we always do - finding awe in the power of knowledge and our tendency to edify and deify that knowledge just for knowledge's sake.

Weird. Slightly obvious. Still cool.

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