I am worried about the future of Newspaper. Are we not losing precious sector of our culture?
When you disembark plane or train, you are always asked to make sure you don’t leave anything important behind. However, every time you move forward in your life, you rarely think of what you leave behind could be important. Print media, for example, played a vital role in the advancement of civilization through renaissance, reformation, and democracy allowing ideas to flow freely and widely. Now print media are in existential crisis by the powerful tsunami of digital technology. What will we lose when we don’t have books, magazines, and newspapers?
Drawing attention to a similar challenge, Socrates told a story of the Egyptian King Thamus. He one day entertained the god of invention Theuth. He was known to have invented many things like algebra, number, calculation, astronomy, geometry, and writing, etc. The king thought about every invention carefully. He concluded that writing in particular was a bad idea. “When you acquire an ability to record spoken words in writing, you cease to exercise your ability to remember and become forgetful.” You don’t need the presence of persons anymore. Human becomes redundant. (“Techonopoly” by Neil Postman)
This is the story I love to tell often: An old man was sitting on the edge of an African mountain road, looking tired. You stop the car and offered him a ride. The old man declined and said, “I walked all day. I am sitting here for my spirit to catch up with me.”
What is it that we lose when we acquire the ability to record words in writing? When you can read words, there is no more need to sit around with family and friend to tell real and made-up stories, or catch up with your friends and spouses. The end of conversation means the end of community. End of cummunity means the end of humanity: “A person can only be a person with people.” (African oracle of Ubuntu)
We need to stop and sit from time to time to make sure we don’t leave anything precious behind as we are busily running trying to catch up with whoever and whatever is ahead of us. You have to make sure what’s new is better than what you leave behind. Is it more important to catch up with what’s on your phone than listen to your child? Your kid may be babbling nonsense but she is trying to tell you that she loves you.