Friday, May 06, 2005

compulsive communicators

A quote from David Attenborough's seminal Life on Earth series. The final programme was about the development of homo sapiens. As a description is appealed to me at the time and now it rings even more true;

The largest and most complex man-made structures (forget The Great Wall of China and getting to the moon - although without them ect ect) are communications networks of one kind or another. I mean the GWoC may be visible from space but the telecommunications network not only covers the globe but is visible from, well Vega when Sagan wrote Contact, further now presumably. The transatlantic telegraph cable from Scotland to Newfoundland was the longest continuous piece of cable when it was laid. Now you could presumably crawl (if you were small enough) along telephone/data cables to just about anywhere in the world.

When the web first took off people were amazed that experts were volutarily providing answers to problems for free without any attempt at reimbursement. Hence 'compulsive' - we just have to communicate.

The inventions pushing forward the boundaries of communication: language, drawing, writing, printing, photography, telegraphy, radio, telephony, television and the internet have at each stage underpinned all the other major developments at the time. Civilisation could not have developed without complex language so no Great Wall; no man on the moon without radio either. In fact the pace of development has been accelerated by increasing speed and reach of communication technology.