“I was really getting into my novel when I saw I had a message from Socrates on facebook.” Before I clicked on the little icon on the bottom of my screen I got to thinking, why did I buy an e-reader that is also a web platform? It’s pretty distracting. Multitasking is supposed to be bad for us, at least according to a lot of new studies on human cognition. Why did I buy an e-reader at all? There is something to be said for losing oneself in bound, foliated wood pulp. Some people argue e-books will ultimately relegate traditional books to being niche items, sort of like vinyl records are today.
Future predictions are usually notoriously off kilter. When television came along, movies and radio were supposed to go by the wayside, and both media are fine and well today. When computers were adopted we heard predictions of a paperless society, when in fact the use of paper quadrupled. In the same vein, robots were slated to take over all of the menial tasks that debased the human condition. And then there were all of the predictions of a 21st century world run by fusion energy and airborne cars dotting the skies around cities like lines of flying ants.
On the other hand, occasionally futurists get it right, and it just may be that paper books will be relegated to being novelty items.
What’s ironic is that over two thousand years ago, Socrates, one of the West’s greatest and most revered intellectuals, was disturbed by books. He thought books were static things, not able to interact as human beings do, and that made them so inferior as to be a detriment to thinking and learning. Considering the intellectual history of the last millennia I think he may have been wrong. Although I wonder, if Socrates was around right now he might happily be reading a treatise on an ipad, from time to time checking things on google, and perhaps texting me about a good place to get falafel sandwich.