For all of those thousands of years, most important communication in civilization has been vertical, and almost always from the top down.
Think of a church bell (or before that, and in other places, a drum or a gong): a means of communication far too expensive in a primitive society for an individual to own, one with extremely low bandwidth, conveying simple imperatives that individuals had been conditioned from earliest childhood to obey: wake up, serf! Come to prayer, serf! Go to work, serf! Come back to prayer, serf! Go to bed, serf!
There was no talking back to the commanding bells.
Over the centuries, nothing changed except the bandwidth. By turns we had Big Ben, Rudy Valee, D.W. Griffith, Arthur Godfrey, I Love Lucy; but there was no way to talk back to them, either. Nor to the “news” thrust upon us by media controlled or even owned outright by authority.
Then, suddenly, the whole situation, the entire 8000-year-old structure of human interaction, was pitched on its ear. The Internet landed with a crash and knocked communications sideways, making it an egalitarian — “peer-to-peer” — undertaking. Information traveled uncontrollably, in both directions, to the anger and distress of those who still believed that they were in authority. (One politician, a wealthy former governor and senator has recently announced that he’s leaving politics, having previously claimed society would be better off had the Internet never been invented.) And all the pus, 8000 years of dictatorial threats and dirty lies, burst out with the fall of power.
Humanity will never be the same again. This is change at the most fundamental level conceivable, barring the evolution of new limbs or individuals developing gills. As a student of history, I believe it to be more significant than Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, possibly more important than the invention of writing itself. And authority, as it disintegrates, is striving hysterically to bring it all back under control. But it’s too late by at least a decade. We have the idea of laterality now, and it cannot be disinvented or unlearned.
L. Neil Smith, “‘And That’s the Way It Is…’”, Libertarian Enterprise, 2013-02-03
February 10, 2013
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