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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memory

It turns out that Plato was almost right when (was it in the Timeaus?) he had Socrates condemn writing for the inevitable ruin of memory it boded. But the problem is not that it made remembering unnecessary. The problem was that it made forgetting impossible. We’ve been collectively accumulating memories, and at an ever increasing rate, since that first stylus scored that first clay tablet. Now, every day, more memories are uploaded to Youtube than an individual could view in a lifetime. We're overburdened by memory. By Shakespeare's time it had become the goal of writers and the nobility to become immortalized in print. We turned away from the world when we turned to the tablet. Many great things have come from writing. But in the end, we will die because of writing. Global Warming is likely to do it. So far we've escaped nuclear holocaust, but that threat is still out there. These things could never have happened without writing. True, writing could save us from a world-ending asteroid. That would be good. But it's more likely to be the first step in a chain many thousands of years long that will terminate us. How much better it would have been if we had not figured out writing until we were ready for it. But then again, how without writing could we ever have become ready for it? And now we are in the territory of tragedy.

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