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New technologies have a profound impact on our behavior. Is our next generation gap, or is it a humanity reset?
In the early part of the last century, Harold Innis, a professor at the University of Toronto, studied how exposing basically illiterate people to literature changed their behavior. Greatly influenced by this, Marshall MacLuhan asked how technology affected our behavior in the TV age. It's been 50 years since we opened our minds to the medium as the message.
The medium has not only changed, but is deeper and wider. Passive hours of TV watching are still with us, but also layers of multi-screen behavior and the ability to access content and interact.
Programming is the new medium of creation. Rather than succumb to our rational sense of literate expression, it's redefined human expression through its limitations...or lack thereof.
We once lived in a world where movies and TV would take us to other places and amaze us with their ability to tell even deep stories through a medium that wasn't very moldable. Remember those crappy special effects on "Space 1999" or "Star Trek"? Their oddness made them interesting and novel.
Scratchy vinyl albums were replaced by CDs. Crisp and vibrant digital recording replaced vacuum tube mixing consoles, whose foggy, bold midrange gave early jazz a polish we can't recreate. The medium was part and parcel of the creation process.
Now, programming has taken all the wrinkles out of how we hear and see the world. Pop artists don't have to sing in tune on a hit record. Even the local carpet guy has 3D graphics in his local TV spot.
All thanks to the facility of code. It's our new language, it's always changing the way we create, and more importantly how we interact. As a form of composed interaction that we leave as a semi-permanent record of our existence. For many new world creators it's the new craft of unintelligible language.
The mystery of how technology will affect humans may be still hard to measure, but what's even more mysterious is how future code will evolve and outmode what now know as digital reality.
Will code itself be responsible for the next generation gap? Will non-program literate parents scold their children for hacking into communication systems of the future? Will code be an endless distraction to the follies of youth?
We need a way to record progress and evolution in this medium. Without it, we could be doomed to lose our past in one big, demagnetizing storm. Perhaps humanity needs a digital Rosetta Stone for some French soldier to discover in the sand amongst our ruined monuments.
Dorian Sweet will deliver a keynote at Econsultancy's Peer Summit.