Tech-pontificator Kevin Kelly has a long piece in the NY Times magazine about screens. An excerpt:
When technology shifts, it bends the culture. Once, long ago,
culture revolved around the spoken word. The oral skills of
memorization, recitation and rhetoric instilled in societies a
reverence for the past, the ambiguous, the ornate and the subjective.
Then, about 500 years ago, orality was overthrown by technology.
Gutenberg’s invention of metallic movable type elevated writing into a
central position in the culture. By the means of cheap and perfect
copies, text became the engine of change and the foundation of
stability. From printing came journalism, science and the mathematics
of libraries and law. The distribution-and-display device that we call
printing instilled in society a reverence for precision (of black ink
on white paper), an appreciation for linear logic (in a sentence), a
passion for objectivity (of printed fact) and an allegiance to
authority (via authors), whose truth was as fixed and final as a book.
In the West, we became people of the book.
overthrowing the dominant media. A new distribution-and-display
technology is nudging the book aside and catapulting images, and
especially moving images, to the center of the culture. We are becoming
people of the screen.
I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I'm skeptical. One of the messages from Naomi Baron's book Always On was that, perhaps surprisingly, today's youth are likely reading and writing more text than their parents did. There are differences in how they use text (and some reasons for concern) but there's little doubt that they're still hooked into a kind of word culture. So I don't buy Kelly's idea here, unless he has some real evidence for it (and Kelly's style seems heavy on opinion and low on evidence).
Kelly has been posting many lengthy articles like this one to his blog recently, which has made me suspect that he has a book forthcoming, and indeed he does according to the blurb at the end of the NYT piece: "Kevin Kelly is senior maverick at Wired and the author of “Out of Control” and a coming book on what technology wants." What technology wants? Interesting…
One of those recent blog posts in particular caught my eye. It's called The Pro-Actionary Principle and in it he rejects the precautionary principle, or at least his interpretation of it, which looks a lot like a straw man to me. He argues instead for his own "pro-actionary principle" based on extropian/futurist Max More's earlier document by the same name. I think Kelly and More's project is flawed from the start because it is based on a faulty premise – that the precautionary principle means "technology must be proven safe." Perfect proof is almost never possible and the intention is not to hold up progress until it is achieved. Governments that use the precautionary principle seem to understand this without any difficulty.