Sunday, June 12, 2011

New and Old, Old and New

I was recently  invited to be the guest at a book club that had chosen Prophecy of Days as their monthly selection. I was in the living room of a lovely Virginia home, watching the women speak, answering their questions, telling them a bit about book two – yet I was sitting at my desk at home. Skype is a beautiful thing.

At one point in the conversation I was struck by the delicious notion that we were using newest technology—a peer-to-peer video call system via high-speed wireless connections—to discuss the oldest technology: writing.

Roughly 5,000 years have passed since Sumerians pressed their reeds into soft clay tablets and then fired them. This encoded information allowed them to pass on knowledge; to allow future generations to learn virtually. Essentially removing the barrier of space and time, a person unrelated in place or decade could decode the wisdom imprinted on that clay and reconstruct its meaning. It’s an astonishing leap, really. A truly human invention.

Fast forward five millennia and we are using the technology of writing more extensively than ever before. More than a million books are published every year! It’s thrilling to me, this unprecedented body of knowledge growing and growing. What’s more, were applying new technology to this old technology, as in the case of Skype. Just as my book was encoded in writing and decoded by the human brains that read it, I myself was encoded by my computer in Oregon and decoded by Shawn’s computer in Virginia. 

There’s some beautiful recursion here that makes me happy late on a Sunday evening ...


Jennie Englund said...

Did you have a great time?

Did they love the book?

At the beginning of this post, I thought, "What? When did you go to Virginia, or how did I miss that?"

Skype! Of course! How fun!

Anonymous said...

I have been observing just that recently! It is amazing how knowledge can be passed through many centuries, even milleniums! Good post.

june said...

something to use in your NEXT book...clay slabs with reeds for writing instruments...heiroglypics/archeologists.