Friday, March 27, 2015

Using a different method

When British thinkers and authors were asked what they thought was the most important idea of the last 1000 years, they voted the printing press.

What could be simpler?  You write on parchment scroll or a piece of paper.  No, how about we have carvers make blocks of our alphabet's letters?  We assemble the blocks in racks to spell out the pages of our book and we smear ink over the pages.  We press pages of paper on the blocks and make whole pages quickly.  Sure, it takes time to set up but after that, watch out!

The book "Divine Art, Infernal Machine" by Elizabeth Eisenstein is about the printing press and its impact.  Again, a simple change of method but it has changed lives and civilizations.  And, that big change was basically a change wrought on minds.  The changed method enabled communication of information and ideas to greater numbers of people more quickly and more cheaply. The printing press was first used in 1450.  About 200 years later, public schools were being opened in what was to become the United States.

Fast forward to the late 1900's, about 1980.  We have Commodore, Apple, Radio Shack and other computers of various makes, capacities and purposes.  It seems that another angle to the current situation is the internet, the worldwide web.  As with the computer, you can argue about who did what when.  I was just getting involved with computerized email in 1991 but my friend said to just wait until I saw what "networks" could do.

You may be familiar with "Napster", the process and software and idea that people could share the recorded songs they owned over the internet.  You may have heard of the expanding and disruptive results of creating more electronic ways to create, share, modify and use health records electronically.  You can see the book "The Patient Will See You Now" to get a feel for some of the changes that can come from greater electronic communication in medicine. Or, look at "Is This Something George Eastman Would Have Done?: The Decline and Fall of the Eastman Kodak Company" to get a feel for the difference a new method of photography has made to the film industry.

Stay tuned for big changes afoot for law and for all work in general with advancing artificial intelligence and robots.

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