Tech phobia is nothing new

Posted on June 5, 2010  /  0 Comments

We have had occasion to tangle with the Luddites, especially the critics of the mobile phone. It was somewhat comforting and definitely educative to see a nice summary of historical and current facts related to the topic in this review of a techphobic book by Nicholas Carr, the head priest of Internet criticism these days:

Socrates started what may have been the first technology scare. In the “Phaedrus,” he lamented the invention of books, which “create forgetfulness” in the soul. Instead of remembering for themselves, Socrates warned, new readers were blindly trusting in “external written characters.” The library was ruining the mind.

Needless to say, the printing press only made things worse. In the 17th century, Robert Burton complained, in “The Anatomy of Melancholy,” of the “vast chaos and confusion of books” that make the eyes and fingers ache. By 1890, the problem was the speed of transmission: one eminent physician blamed “the pelting of telegrams” for triggering an outbreak of mental illness. And then came radio and television, which poisoned the mind with passive pleasure. Children, it was said, had stopped reading books. Socrates would be pleased.

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