Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Roiling Role of Publishers

 Here is Henri's take on James Glieck's New York Times Article How to Publish without PerishingEnjoy! 

I’m confident that James Glieck is sufficiently abused by now that he won’t mind serving as an object lesson. If you haven’t heard he consigned the world publishing industry to the Limbo of artisans in a marketplace where books in print are only bought because of their beauty. By doing so he entered the publisher free zone, called the blogosphere by some, without a helmet.

Of course his article was published in the NY Times so he at least had the services of an editor, thousands of coworkers and, oh yes, a publisher to get his article out to the public. The real discussion on the Internet related to this was whether to bury him in purple prose or a nice puce necktie made of paper.

A lot of amusing stuff got said at his expense but none of it will really matter. We are going to be so far beyond the printed word before long that a generation from now children will be asking, “What is a keyboard, daddy?” Being a good dad he will have to rummage around in his virtual garage to find one to show them.

The invention of writing was a real hallmark in the development of human society. It allowed ideas to stick around long enough to be dissed by the next generation as, “Old hat,” remember that phrase? Of course the next few generations are going to be developing total immersion virtual reality and that will probably put paid to the written word once and for all.

The extension of the human memory made possible by writing is now meeting the challenge of the extension of the human environment made possible by the computer. I’ve been reading a lot lately about how much impact computers will have on the human mind itself within a couple of decades.

It seems likely that within the next two generations computers will be directly connected to the human brain. In that world there will be no need for sitting at a keyboard, you will be able to write and edit text faster than the speed of thought. Computer time is significantly faster than the human finger or even the human mind.

As computers get more and more powerful eventually they will exceed the capacity of any single human mind. Some of the prophets out there are clearly of the faith that computers will pass up humans in thinking capacity by 2030 and never look back.

As for me,I will be so old that a virtual life may be the best option unless the optimistic among us are right and we will be able to rebuild our bodies by then. Of course I really doubt that I would ever voluntarily undergo the blessings of the kind of hormonal vitality that goes with excessive youth again for any reason.

I’ll probably wind up living my virtual life sitting in my perfectly comfortable virtual chair in front of my virtual fireplace petting my virtual cat and reading my copy of the one millionth virtual tome in my favorite series by the greatest virtual author of all time, myself. No publisher needed, thank you very much.

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