With Print Comes Power And Long Life

My interest in history and my use of popular artificial intelligences have me thinking about how we extend our human selves in terms of power and existence through our technology. Clive Thompson’s Smarter Than You Think (which I wrote about here) informs these thoughts, and I hear whispers of Carl Sagan’s famous words on the magic of books.

Alexa, Siri, Google, and Cortana haunt our house across different rooms and devices. Per my daughter, they are all sisters who go on adventures together, but don’t have bodies. Anyway, I speak a word of power and a helper spirit performs a task, saving me a sliver of time and effort. While I cook, I say the equivalent of “let there be NPR” and it is done. “Oh, Laurent Dubois will be speaking at the Schomburg Center and discussing his book on the banjo? He’s one of my favorite historians. Add that event to my calendar.” No opening of apps. No writing. Just spoken spells and a comprehensive record of my personal life in the hands of strangers.

Through this technology, I am enhanced and I am recorded. I work what would have once appeared to be miracles and my life is etched in the cloud. Impermanence is still a thing, but part of what is me is not limited to my physical body.

Maybe it’s a function of the people in my circles, but I haven’t noticed anyone freaking out about Amazon Echo or Google Home. But someone somewhere should be freaking out because that has been our pattern as human beings when new technologies, which may impact cognition, are introduced or become popular. As Thompson discusses in his book, print and writing were not exceptions.

Read the rest here: http://www.printmediacentr.com/2016/11/15/print-power-longevity/

I wrote this column very quickly when my planned piece had to be delayed. Despite a few flaws, I like it and it neatly captures some of what I have been considering recently. This picture of a thread I started on Twitter around the time this column was published speaks to another element. 

The future can see us.