Uh, I think you're missing my point. I do not assume a continuity of civilization. I see a fracture right now as industrialization fails (in North America) as the chief economic driver of our culture and the digital/information staggers in an unrealizeable effort to do what industry used to do. There's a big gap between the two and I see signs of that all around. I agree with your fundamental point that there's no reason to expect the current prosperity to continue. In fact, I'd suggest that our notion of what prosperity is needs to change if we're going to survive. In other words, industrial-era culture is dead- what now?
And nobody said that we get to choose the direction of change, collectively or individually, but there certainly has been some ongoing continuity in the direction of civilization toward increased prosperity. Not that it cannot go away. By and large, significant change is not achieved through selection by people within a generation. Changes, shifts, adaptations are largely intergenerational. It's a bit of social Darwinism, if you like, though a different application of the term. Modifications to anatomy occur between the generations. At some point in history, on the way to becoming human, our ancestors gave birth to one or more individuals with oppositional thumbs. They did not just wake up and find thumbs newly sprouting from the side of their hands, is my pont. The human mind is different only in that it is born with potential but shaped mostly in the few years after birth, when language is learned and even more basic concepts of time and space are formed. Something like mil
lions of new brain cells made each day before the child even enters school in most western cultures, but still the child is learning, often very complex concepts, at a truly awsome pace that is not matched in later life. The child interacts with the world as it surrounds her/him and accepts this as his/her reality. For at least a couple of generations now, that reality has been digital. Therefore, I'm saying that as challenges arise people are turning to digital solutions as much as, or more than industrial era solutions because that is the reality for the people who will outlive those adapted to industrial-era realities. Further, the book is an industrial product. In fact, the invention of the printing press with moveable type was one of the most significant steps toward industrialization, and not just for the information in the products produced but for the process involved in producing the products.
And finally, no replacement for oil? Agreed. So how would new books be published without the energy to harvest and mill the paper pulp, drive the printing presses and distribute these artifacts? If there's going to be any new storytelling at all, it will more likely be through digital media or some medium that follows than by returning to the book. Or we may both be surprised.
I do believe in the continuity of storytelling. To be human is to communicate. When it comes to energy, one computer can store more stories, in text, music, movies, games etc., using far less energy than it takes to heat/cool, clean and maintain a room full of books. An automobile may never be powered by the sun, but a computer can. Personally, I found McCarthy's "The Road" more entertaining than convincing precisely because he failed to present a community struggling to survive through digital communications. If I missed something, as I so often do, it's probably because I'm more impressed by the consistency of Camus' Sisyphus. There's something in human nature that makes us persist in our doomed endeavours. Sure, if Sisyphus keeps rolling that rock the mountain will eventually erode to nothing. To you that may mean the end of the endeavour. To me it means that the rolling becomes a whole lot easier.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, August 12, 2010 8:59 PM
Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: Dorchester goes digital and POD
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "gsp.schoo@..." <gsp.schoo@...> wrote:
> Talking about Bludisian noir? We are? Okay, works for me. But I still don't buy your energy argument. The part about problems with oil etc., okay, though there's still an abundance of coal, but my real point would be that the internet is being accessed by smaller and smaller devices which run on batteries that can be recharged with a relatively small solar panel, only slightly bigger than the one that runs hand-held calculators. Maybe we'll have to give up on 50+ inch screen displays, but the hand held? Printing presses and logging equipment however run on pretty significant amounts of petroleum products. The books we have may survive, but publishing new ones is a high-energy activity.
I don't think you got my point. You are assuming the continuity of industrial civilization, different versions of the same thing. That is an impossibility in anything but the very short term. A lifetime, and even more the life that you and I may have left, is but an instant. The continuity of the whole enterprise is not possible. There is no hydrogen economy coming, no solar economy coming. I understand that the thought of this is disturbing but hey,
> You're right that the internet will cease to exist, or at least change into something less recognizeable but if you've grown up relating to the world through devices such as cell phones and smart pads you won't give up on these things easily.<
Again, you misunderstand me. You are still thinking of "choice" of "lifestyles". Those concepts are part of the very short-lived prosperity era that has lasted... only a few decades, and that only in a relatively small part of the world. Think longer term and you may see how people will relate to the world in any way they can, not in any way they choose.
>> From this point of view, books simply do not do what these devices and the internet do. On the other hand, folks like you and me will die much sooner. In fact, I believe one of the contributing factors to the recent economic recession was that boomers are entering their retirement years and beginning to shed automobiles, going from 2 or 3 per household to 1 or 2. Many are downsizing their houses too, looking for 2 bedroom condos in stead of 3, 4, 5 bedroom breeding facilities. These sorts of circumstances contribute to financial bubbles that leave recessions when they burst.
> There are a host of existing technologies that will mitigate and even work as alternatives to oil. Solar energy may be only a mitigating factor, for instance, but it's amazing what really thick rock-wool insulation can do for your heating bill. Stuff like that. There are no guarantees for the future of course, and most people are slow to adopt these technologies until the shortages really hit home, but much as I enjoyed McCarthy's "Road" I'm not rushing to build my suvival shelter just yet. I have been looking on the internet for good ideas for a low-cost retirement home, however.
No replacement for oil, unfortunately. For example, try to run the highway system in the US with... what? You are thinking there are technological fixes for everything but this is simply a wish. Right now, the grossly overpopulated planet can only be fed because of nitrogen-based fertilizers. Remove that (because it requires enormous amounts of energy to produce them) and you have about two-thirds redundant population. Add to that that the naturally arable land has been destroyed in large parts, that the oceans and seas have been largely fished out, and the remaining third would have a hard time surviving. Wishes are a different thing, but wishes have never been worth much.
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