A commentor wrote in response to an old article of ours, “you are comparing the printing press as the communication tool of its time, with easy access to pornography, access to children without supervision, and other really really traps made by (evil). you can't compare todays internet as a communication tool, and the printing press 400 years ago. there was no danger to slaughter your soul by printing a religious sefer.”
We always think our challenges are new, but disruption is as old as…ideas.
- Socrates, that’s the ancient Greek philosopher as in 400 BCE, warned against writing because it would "create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories." He also advised that children can't distinguish fantasy from reality, so parents should only allow them to hear wholesome allegories and not "improper" tales, lest their development go astray.
WRITING, disruptive to people’s souls and memories!
- Conrad Gessner, Swiss scientist, raised the alarm about the effects of information overload due to the increasing availability of… BOOKS. That’s in 1560 CE. He wrote about the dangers of psychological strain after compiling an index of every available book IN THE WORLD. So you could index every available printed book in a single book, but the list was long enough that it the availability of such a quantity of information could cause mental breakdown.
BOOKS, excessive availability causes mental breakdown!
- Lamoignon Malesherbesr (pictured above), a French statesman from 1790, railed against 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.
NEWSPAPERS, socially isolate and reduce spirituality!
- Medical Journal The Sanitarian, from 1883, reviewed childhood education, meaning school, and determined that it’s unnatural and a risk to mental health, exhaust the children's brains and nervous systems with complex and multiple studies, and ruin their bodies by protracted imprisonment." Meanwhile, excessive study was considered a leading cause of madness.
SCHOOL AND EDUCATION, causes exhaustion, nervous breakdown, ruined bodies, and madness!
- Gramophone magazine, in 1936, reported that radio was distracting children from reading and diminishing performance in school. Children had "developed the habit of dividing attention between the humdrum preparation of their school assignments and the compelling excitement of the loudspeaker" and described how the radio programs were disturbing the balance of their excitable minds.
RADIO, distracting, diminishes performance, and disturbs mental balance!
It continues with concerns about the… TELEPHONE, television and the Internet. Some of the concerns were real! Others were real in their context (indeed the memorization systems of ancient study have basically been lost – we moved to looking things up and now to googling them) but replaced by more efficient methods.
The printing press allowed ideas and information to SPREAD. Newsletters, newspapers, essays, treatises, all could be relatively inexpensively produced in quantity – and therefore could be distributed across towns, cities and even countries. Prior to the printing press… not really. Movements and ideas spread… slowly. And yes, that included the spread of subservice, morally questionable, and entertaining content that previously could not be reasonable distributed.
The Internet is certainly much much more, but conceptually the acceleration is a continuation of what the printing press started.