Monday, September 21, 2009

What a fascinating, modern age we live in

It's funny how after something is invented -- a blender, the Internet, whatever -- that we get so used to it we can't imagine life without it. Yet somehow we survived for many years doing just that.

Life before the Internet? I think I can remember. We all lived in caves, right? I think my dad worked at a quarry and slid down a dinosaur at the end of the day.

What seems even stranger to me is the fact that we (I) didn't even yearn for the Internet before we had it. Oh no, I was perfectly happy with my printed books and actually visiting the library in person and writing letters and talking on the phone. It didn't seem like I was missing out.

Maybe that's how it was before the printing press. Could it be that most people, when they weren't being repressed or plowing icy fields (for some reason my image of the Middle Ages is hunchbacked, ancient thirty-year-olds groveling through ice and mud while the stern manor home rises in the distance) simply never thought how nice it might be to have some form of accessible printed books?

I guess what I mean is: accurate relativity. It's tempting to look at those who came before and wonder if they knew how much they were missing. In most cases that's not quite the right question, because they weren't "missing" anything. (Except maybe a good set of insulated clothes and a toothbrush for the medieval peasants.) We don't just invent products, we often invent the need for those products.

Which is why it's such a funny, perspective-inducing moment in the Master and Commander film, when Jack Aubrey looks at a hand-carved model of a ship in astonishment. Referring to some slightly different underwater shape, he remarks, "What a fascinating, modern age we live in."


Cristina S. said...

I often wonder what I did with my time before the internet came along. There are often things I look up online now because I can get an answer quickly. In the past I would never get around to looking up something because there was so much time between when the question came into my head and when I actually made it to the library to find the answer.

S R Wood said...

Hi Cristina! I used to make special trips to the library for research, but frequently couldn't find what I needed. That's never the case anymore.