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The web is indeed a remarkable thing but it isn't revolutionary - it simply makes information available dramatically faster and more easily.

It accelerated things dramatically but didn't fundamentally change anything. The disappearance of BlockBuster and a small percentage of people telecommuting is not exactly the fundamental change wrought by the Model T, let alone the moveable type printing press (the single most important invention in human history).

In the case of Ol' Bessie, society went from one that was 85% agrarian to one that was 95% urban - all due to the near universal availability of the car.

In the case of the Gutenberg press, information became available to the masses instead of just the clergy and the aristocracy.

The web has not created anything like that sort of transformative change.

At least not yet.
 

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Arguably, the invention of the transister has brought about that fundamental change, at least on a par with the Model T.
How so? What have computers, I-Phones, stereos etc. etc. fundamentally changed in our society?

They've made things better, faster, cheaper, more convenient and more complex but the essential structures and processes of our society are little different from the days of vacuum tubes.

Very different from the mass migration from farms to cities spawned by Tin Lizzie, let alone the near universal literacy triggered by Gutenberg.

The virtually total electrification of our countries had a more profound effect than transistors or the net I'd say.
 

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Transisters, and their subsequent miniaturization, and the subsequent development of complex circuit boards to use with them, revolutionized electronics, which, in effect, relieved humans of the need to make long and complicated calculations and to keep paper records. As a result, computers can make tens of thousands of calculations almost instantly, which effectively increases the ability of humans to do work that previously had to be done laboriously with the human brain. Computers can keep, sort and search through data, and human minds are freed up to think more creatively. Indeed, that was what was so significant about the invention of the printing press. Like computers and other electronic devices, it represented a quantum leap forward in making information accessible to the masses.

If you don't see their significance, maybe you're already beginning to take them for granted. ;)
 

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The web is indeed a remarkable thing but it isn't revolutionary - it simply makes information available dramatically faster and more easily.

It accelerated things dramatically but didn't fundamentally change anything. The disappearance of BlockBuster and a small percentage of people telecommuting is not exactly the fundamental change wrought by the Model T, let alone the moveable type printing press (the single most important invention in human history).

In the case of Ol' Bessie, society went from one that was 85% agrarian to one that was 95% urban - all due to the near universal availability of the car.

In the case of the Gutenberg press, information became available to the masses instead of just the clergy and the aristocracy.

The web has not created anything like that sort of transformative change.

At least not yet.
And yet, what would happen to the world economy if the web...died? :)

I love books and reading. I do calligraphy, so I know how much work goes into even a single page. I am in awe of the people who created works like the "Lindisfarne Gospels" and the "Book of Kells". The following is not an attack or rebuttal of your paean to the press -- I am thankful every day for Mr. Gutenberg's inventiveness. I don't think people are consciously aware of how lucky we are, and I hope to shine a little light on that luck.

Text that looks like this is quoting Ray Bradbury. If you haven't read "Fahrenheit 451", you need to.

The press by itself is worthless, there is a huge network of other technologies necessary for it to be the transformative tool you postulate.

You need:

A message worth reading.

Cheap durable paper or other substrate to take the ink.

Cheap durable ink.

Cheap metal or other material with supporting technologies to easily make type.

A simple-enough language-coding system to make printing practicable. Our 26 letters, 10 digits and handful of punctuation are orders of magnitude easier than ideographic writing systems.

An efficient distribution system for the printed matter.

A large-enough fraction of the population educated enough to read, and rich enough to be able to afford to read, what you print.

The political freedom to print & distribute what you want people to read.

"Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian,Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib/Republican, Mattachine/Four Square Gospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme."

"For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangutan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversationalist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics."

"There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches."


...and the hardest thing of all to find: people with the interest and will to read.

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."

"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them."
 

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They've made things better, faster, cheaper, more convenient and more complex but the essential structures and processes of our society are little different from the days of vacuum tubes.
I do not agree, especially with regard to "the essential structures and processes of our society." Here are some examples why:

- There is no longer any such thing as "a person I used to know." I've contacted people I knew in 4th grade with a couple minutes of searching on the Web (for me, that was almost 40 years ago.) Before the Web that was not possible in any realistic way. This has fundamentally transformed the meaning of human relationships in the context of a life. A relationship that would have lasted a couple years and then receded into the past can now easily go on for decades, along with the influence that one person has over another.

- Being in a particular place at a specific time is far, far less important than it used to be. I can work from a ski lodge, attend a meeting in New York while on a beach in Spain, buy just about anything I want while sitting in the Dr.'s office, etc. This is analogous to the Tin Lizzie enabling us to go anywhere; the Web enables us to NOT HAVE TO go to any particular place. This has a huge impact on how and why people move themselves around.

- Experiences are no longer fleeting things with limited influence. We can look up things we used to know but have forgotten, find copies of things we read long ago, re-discover music based on a tiny snippet of remembered lyrics, etc. Far from being merely "more convenient," this fundamentally changes how the things we experience shape our lives thereafter.

In short, the Web has placed knowledge, markets, and communication into the hands of everyone in any place at any time of day.
 

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Transisters, and their subsequent miniaturization, and the subsequent development of complex circuit boards to use with them, revolutionized electronics, which, in effect, relieved humans of the need to make long and complicated calculations and to keep paper records. As a result, computers can make tens of thousands of calculations almost instantly, which effectively increases the ability of humans to do work that previously had to be done laboriously with the human brain. Computers can keep, sort and search through data, and human minds are freed up to think more creatively. Indeed, that was what was so significant about the invention of the printing press. Like computers and other electronic devices, it represented a quantum leap forward in making information accessible to the masses.

If you don't see their significance, maybe you're already beginning to take them for granted. ;)
I worked in the business since the days of electomechanical core storage so I'm pretty familiar with it and the effect it's had, along with the changes it wrought.

Everything you listed falls under what I said about "faster & easier". That is not a fundamental change to society. Looking things up via Google is a hell of a lot faster & easier than searching a library but it is not fundamentally different. A productivity increase, no matter how great, is not a fundamental change, only a change in performance.
 

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I do not agree, especially with regard to "the essential structures and processes of our society." Here are some examples why:

- There is no longer any such thing as "a person I used to know." I've contacted people I knew in 4th grade with a couple minutes of searching on the Web (for me, that was almost 40 years ago.) Before the Web that was not possible in any realistic way. This has fundamentally transformed the meaning of human relationships in the context of a life. A relationship that would have lasted a couple years and then receded into the past can now easily go on for decades, along with the influence that one person has over another.

- Being in a particular place at a specific time is far, far less important than it used to be. I can work from a ski lodge, attend a meeting in New York while on a beach in Spain, buy just about anything I want while sitting in the Dr.'s office, etc. This is analogous to the Tin Lizzie enabling us to go anywhere; the Web enables us to NOT HAVE TO go to any particular place. This has a huge impact on how and why people move themselves around.

- Experiences are no longer fleeting things with limited influence. We can look up things we used to know but have forgotten, find copies of things we read long ago, re-discover music based on a tiny snippet of remembered lyrics, etc. Far from being merely "more convenient," this fundamentally changes how the things we experience shape our lives thereafter.

In short, the Web has placed knowledge, markets, and communication into the hands of everyone in any place at any time of day.
All true, but is that anything but "speeding things up"? Everyone still goes to work (very few really telecommute), drive cars, shop at the nearby markets and so on. Is no longer needing a travel agent to buy tickets a fundamental change? The reduction in bookstores? Internet shopping, while big, is still a fairly small part of the economy - people like to touch what they buy. It also isn't necessarily a big savings either. I have bought everything from books to sets of high performance tires over the web and have found that local shopping is usually cheaper in the end.

I never said it didn't change anything, I said it hasn't yet made a fundamental change to the way we live our lives. It well may eventually, but it hasn't so far IMO.
 

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You're cherry-picking all the activities that you think haven't changed very much. After the invention of the printing press, people still worked and shopped the same as they always had, but like computers, the accessibility of printed literature by masses of people increased the ability of humans to access knowledge and to use their brains efficiently.

I can only tell you that, in my experience, computers radically changed the way I worked. Instead of having to search through dozens of books to find a particular quote, I could type a few words into a search engine and it would instantly search all recorded literature to find it. If I wanted to find something that I vaguely remembered having written before, I could search all my archived works, instead of having to search through dozens of file cabinets and hundreds of file folders.

The ability of humans to think creative, complex, imaginative thoughts is what sets us apart from lower animals. No change could be more fundamental or transformative than a change in our ability to think and to access knowledge efficiently.
 

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You're cherry-picking all the activities that you think haven't changed very much. After the invention of the printing press, people still worked and shopped the same as they always had, but like computers, the accessibility of printed literature by masses of people increased the ability of humans to access knowledge and to use their brains efficiently.
The printing press led directly to the Reformation - a radically fundamental change in society.

I can only tell you that, in my experience, computers radically changed the way I worked. Instead of having to search through dozens of books to find a particular quote, I could type a few words into a search engine and it would instantly search all recorded literature to find it. If I wanted to find something that I vaguely remembered having written before, I could search all my archived works, instead of having to search through dozens of file cabinets and hundreds of file folders.

The ability of humans to think creative, complex, imaginative thoughts is what sets us apart from lower animals. No change could be more fundamental or transformative than a change in our ability to think and to access knowledge efficiently.
Dramatically faster & easier, as I said, but not essentially different.

One possibly fundamental and, ironically, negative change that seems to be occurring is being seen in politics. The increasingly rigid ideological divisions in society are being fueled by the decline in newspapers with their inbuilt variety of opinions in favour of individually selected web info which by its very nature feeds the readers preconceptions. Or so it appears to me.

People go to websites they agree with for their news & op/ed info and are thus exposed less often to alternate opinions or views. It appears to be having the effect of hardening their views.

Another change that may be due to the web is the rise of the economies of obscure places. For example, I just learned that a new Farr sport boat is being manufactured in Dubai. Would that have happened without the web? I don't know - it may simply be due to all the oil money and the push to develop the country with it.

There is no question that the web has wrought many changes, I just haven't seen any yet develop that I would class as fundamental, even in total.

I remember when the web first gained some traction, there was speculation that cities would shrink. As people became able to work from home they would move away from cities. THAT would have been a fundamental change, but it hasn't happened.
 

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The printing press led directly to the Reformation - a radically fundamental change in society.



Dramatically faster & easier, as I said, but not essentially different.

One possibly fundamental and, ironically, negative change that seems to be occurring is being seen in politics. The increasingly rigid ideological divisions in society are being fueled by the decline in newspapers with their inbuilt variety of opinions in favour of individually selected web info which by its very nature feeds the readers preconceptions. Or so it appears to me.

People go to websites they agree with for their news & op/ed info and are thus exposed less often to alternate opinions or views. It appears to be having the effect of hardening their views.
Personally, I believe that ideas are powerful things, and that, over time, the best ideas prevail, so long as there is a free and open exchange of ideas. It sounds like you're suggesting that society would be better off if people only had access to the ideas that conform to your personal political ideology. I don't believe that's what you mean to say, but you're dancing awfully close to that line.

Moreover, even though the internet has made a wider variety of political opinions more accessible, the internet hasn't changed basic human nature. Some people are only interested in opinions that conform to their own, and others are interested in hearing a wide variety of opposing opinions, so that they can pick and choose the opinions that are the most reasonable and compelling. The same people who were narrow-minded when reading newspapers are still narrow-minded when surfing the internet, and the same people who were interested in weighing both sides of each issue are just as open-minded in surfing the internet as they were prior to the advent of the internet. The internet hasn't made people any more or less narrow-minded than they ever were. I think the biggest difference that the internet has made in that regard is that it has provided the ideologues of the narrow-minded left and the narrow-minded right a forum where they can broadcast their narrow-minded views to others. In the past, the newspapers only had enough space to publish a sampling of letters-to-the-editor. Now, on the internet, anybody can post any opinion, however shallow or uninformed.

I remember when the web first gained some traction, there was speculation that cities would shrink. As people became able to work from home they would move away from cities. THAT would have been a fundamental change, but it hasn't happened.
That isn't the first time the talking heads have been wrong, and it shows a lack of understanding on their part of the complexities of the matter. First, if you decide to sell your home and move to the suburbs, you can't just abandon your home. You have too much of your savings invested in it. You have to sell it. If you sell it, someone will buy it, and someone will live in it. Thus, you will still not have a net change in the number of residents in the city. Generally, it takes much longer for any change of that sort to have an appreciable effect. Moreover, one's ability to work at home is only one of an infinite variety of reasons why people choose to live in or out of the city. They might be interested in educational opportunities for their children, or accessibility to the arts, or job opportunities, or availability of shopping and services, or availability of public transportation, or less expensive housing, or a host of other reasons. Any notion that cities would shrink appreciably because of the internet is simplistic.
 

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Personally, I believe that ideas are powerful things, and that, over time, the best ideas prevail, so long as there is a free and open exchange of ideas. It sounds like you're suggesting that society would be better off if people only had access to the ideas that conform to your personal political ideology. I don't believe that's what you mean to say, but you're dancing awfully close to that line.
Quite the opposite - I referred to it as a negative. I think it gives people the easy opportunity to restrict their input to that which conforms to their ideology - a Very Bad Thing.

Moreover, even though the internet has made a wider variety of political opinions more accessible, the internet hasn't changed basic human nature. Some people are only interested in opinions that conform to their own, and others are interested in hearing a wide variety of opposing opinions, so that they can pick and choose the opinions that are the most reasonable and compelling. The same people who were narrow-minded when reading newspapers are still narrow-minded when surfing the internet, and the same people who were interested in weighing both sides of each issue are just as open-minded in surfing the internet as they were prior to the advent of the internet. The internet hasn't made people any more or less narrow-minded than they ever were. I think the biggest difference that the internet has made in that regard is that it has provided the ideologues of the narrow-minded left and the narrow-minded right a forum where they can broadcast their narrow-minded views to others. In the past, the newspapers only had enough space to publish a sampling of letters-to-the-editor. Now, on the internet, anybody can post any opinion, however shallow or uninformed.
It is indeed a big forum and there is a preponderance of crap on it. ;) Seems the essential difference between your perception of it and mine is that you see it as providing the opportunity to spread the crap while I have seen it as allowing people to narrow their range of input.

Probably some of both in reality. There sure is some scary ignorance out there - and they vote and breed! :eek:

One thing is for sure, it has shrunk the world a whole lot more than jet airliners did. :)
 
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