FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, May 16, 2005

Are Reading and Writing Archaic Skills?

Are reading and writing destined to join the host of human skills rendered obsolete by technology? One California futurist thinks so.

William Crossman believes that by 2050, the written word will vanish, to be replaced by talking computers.

Far from being alarmist about this, Crossman is actually an advocate of the trend... so much so that he heads the Institute for the Study of Talking Computers and Oral Cultures. Crossman believes that, the more we leverage computers in communication, the more that cultures will be able to interact and achieve world peace.

As interesting as the idea is, it's hard to believe that reading and writing will vanish completely. It may change and evolve (such as when hieroglyphs were replaced by alphabets), but the fundamentals are so hard-wired into humanity that we're unlikely to abandon them anytime soon, and certainly not within 45 years. Crossman's assumption, after all, is that artificial intelligence will be adopted on a global level in a relatively brief period of time.

The written word has survived technological assaults from all fronts -- the telephone, phonograph, television, radio, movies -- and is still with us. In fact, with e-mail, blogging and text messaging, writing is actually making a comeback. Some of us even buy those ridiculous anachronisms called books... and enjoy them! Books require no power, no interface, and don't break when you drop them.

Plus, do you really want to have some computer blabbing at you all day long?

Sources: Inside Bay Area, Smart Mobs