Saturday, July 25, 2020

TPC, The Phone Company

My apologies for using the United States as an example so many times, but…most of my experience has been in the US.
Asychnronous Availability of Information
One of the major advantages of electronic information is that you don't have to schedule yourself to match others in their schedules.
This is very important. Just this very week I have been waiting for a power supply for one of my computers, just because the schedule of the person who has it was not in sync with the schedule of the person picking it up. The waste has been enormous, and trips all the way across an entire town are wasted, while the computer lies unused.
The same things happens with libraries and stores of all kinds around the world. How many times have you tried a phone call, a meeting, a purchase, a repair, a return or a variety of other things, and ended up not making these connections?
No longer, with things that are available electronically over the Nets. You don't have to wait until the door of the library swings open to get that book you want for an urgent piece of research; you don't have to wait until a person is available to send them an instant message; you don't have to wait for the evening news on tv….
This is called Asyncronous Communication…meaning those schedules don't have to match exactly any more to have a meaningful and quick conversation. A minute here, there or wherever can be saved instead of wasted and the whole communication still travels at near instantaneous speed, without the cost of ten telegrams, ten phone calls, etc.
You can be watching television and jump up and put a few minutes into sending, or answering, your email and would not miss anything but the commercials.
"Commercials" bring to mind another form of asynchronous communication…taping a tv or radio show and watching a show in 40 minutes instead of an hour because you do not have to sit through 1 minute of "not-show" per 2 minutes of show. No only to you not have to be home on Thursday night to watch your favorite TV show any more, but those pesky commercials can be edited out, allowing you to see three shows in the time it used to take to watch two.
This kind of efficiency can have a huge effect on you or your children. . .unless you WANT them to see 40 ads per hour on television, or spend hours copying notes from an assortment of library books carried miles from, and back to, the libraries. Gone are the piles of 3x5 cards past students and scholars have heaped before time in efforts to organize mid-term papers for 9, 12, 16 or 20 years of institutionalized education. Whole rainforests of trees can be saved, not to mention the billions of hours of an entire population's educated scribbling that should have been spent between the ears instead of between paper and hand, cramping the thought and style of generations upon generations of those of us without photographic memories to take the place of the written word.
Now we all can have photographic memories, we can quote, with total accuracy, millions of 3x5 cards worth of huge encyclopedias of information, all without getting up for any reason other than eating, drinking and stretching.
Research in this area indicates that 90% of the time the previous generations spent for research papers was spent traipsing through the halls, stairways and bookstacks of libraries; searching through 10 to 100 books for each of the ones selected for further research; and searching on 10-100 pages for each quote worthy of making it into the sacred piles of 3x5 cards; then searching the card piles for those fit for the even more sacred sheets of paper a first draft was written on. Even counting the fanatical dedication of those who go through several drafts before a presentation draft is finally achieved the researchers agree that 90% of this kind of work is spent in "hunting and gathering" the information and only 10% of this time is spent "digesting" the information.
If you understand that civilization was based on the new invention called "the plow," which changed the habits of "hunting and gathering" peoples into civilized cities… then you might be able to understand the the changes the computer and computer networks are making to those using them instead of the primitive hunting and gathering jobs we used to spend 90% of our time on.
In mid-19th Century the United States was over 90% in an agrarian economy, spending nearly all of its efforts for raising food to feed an empty belly. Mid-20th Century's advances reversed that ratio, so that only 10% was being used for the belly, 90% for civilization.
The same thing will be said for feeding the mind, if our civilization ever gets around deciding that spending the majority of our research time in a physical, rather than mental, portion of the educational process.
Think of it this way, if it takes only 10% as long to do the work to write a research paper, we are likely to get either 10 times as many research papers, or papers which are 10 times as good, or some combination…just like we ended up with 10 times as much food for the body when we turned from hunting and gathering food to agriculture at the beginnings of civilization…then we would excpect a similar transition to a civilization of the future.
***
If mankind is defined as the animal who thinks; thinking more and better increases the degree to which we are the human species. Decreasing our ability to think is going to decrease our humanity…and yet I am living in what a large number of people define as the prime example of an advanced country…where half the adult population can't read at a functional level. [From the US Adult Literacy Report of 1994]



Source: Project Gutenberg's A Brief History of the Internet, by Michael Hart

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