March 21, 2013

Things to worry about.

Here is computer scientist David Gelernter’s [1] answer to the annual question “2013 : What *Should* We Be Worried About?” at the website Edge [2].

Worry About Internet Drivel. If we have a million photos, we tend to value each one less than if we only had ten. The internet forces a general devaluation of the written word: a global deflation in the average word’s value on many axes. As each word tends to get less reading-time and attention and to be worth less money at the consumer end, it naturally tends to absorb less writing-time and editorial attention on the production side. Gradually, as the time invested by the average writer and the average reader in the average sentence falls, society’s ability to communicate in writing decays. And this threat to our capacity to read and write is a slow-motion body-blow to science, scholarship, the arts—to nearly everything, in fact, that is distinctively human, that muskrats and dolphins can’t do just as well or better.

Read his full answer here. A version of this article appeared Feb. 25, 2013, in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal.

If that knocked your socks off, take a look at our next cool topic, coming soon. And if you want to peruse all of the previous sock-knocking blog entries, visit the Knocked My Socks Off archive.

[1] David Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale University. His research centers on information management, parallel programming, and artificial intelligence.
[2] According to Kevin Horrigan, Edge is a website where really smart people write about subjects that make most people’s heads hurt. This year’s question was suggested by the technology historian George Dyson. Dyson’s premise: “[P]eople tend to worry too much about things that it doesn’t do any good to worry about, and not to worry enough about things we should be worrying about.”


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