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Opening Arguments

Is the overload here yet?

We are in danger from information overload. The modern world overwhelms people with data, and this overabundance is both confusing and harmful to the mind.

That's not a current warning about the digital revolution. It was from a book by Swiss scientist Conrad Gessner in the 16th century about the unmanageable flood of information unleashed by the printing press. It's the opening anecdote in "Don't Tocuh That Dial," an interesting history of media technology scares at the online magazine Slate. I especially liked this 18th century warning from about the dangers of newspapers:

The French statesman Malesherbes railed against the fashion for getting news from the printed page, arguing that it socially isolated readers and detracted from the spiritually uplifting group practice of getting news from the pulpit.

What's fascinating about the piece is that, no matter how much technology changes, the arguments against whatever is the newest sound eerily similar.


Tim Zank
Wed, 02/17/2010 - 8:52pm

That's a good read, thanks Leo!