1600 – 1900: The age of revolution
Knowledge is Power – we realized that in the 1600s, a few hundred years after we invented the printing press. The more we know, the more we have to think about, and when we expand our minds, we do everything differently. Written language means we can expand eachother’s minds, and the printing press meant one individual could reach a lot of people. Over the centuries that followed, literacy rates gradually rose – and sure enough, revolutions started happening. When we gain the knowledge that things can be different, we want them to be different . When we realize there are other people – a lot of other people – who share our dissatisfaction, we realize we can stand up to money and power, if we stand together. When we see that change is possible, we start to INSIST things change.
The 20th century: the age of suffrage
In the twentieth century, literacy increased exponentially: women, visible minorities, and the working class started reading. Their knowledge made them realize they wanted – and deserved – the same rights and freedoms as the wealthy white males, and when enough of them reached that realization, the patriarchy couldn’t stop them from getting the vote.
But even as late as 1990, printing still required money. A self-published book wouldn’t reach very many people; you had to convince a large company with greater resources to publish your thoughts, if you wanted to reach the masses. And those publishers have to make money. Same story with Newspapers and TV stations: they have to make a lot of money to run all those presses, distribution systems, video and sound systems, broadcast towers, etc. So they need advertising sponsors, and stories that will draw lots and lots of readers and viewers. The result is that, though the traditional media churns out a lot of information, they end up giving considerable preference to the information that pleases corporations. With the traditional media only, information was still a slave to money. The only way for an individual to share ideas with a large audience was to a) have a lot of money, or b) have ideas that people with money saw favourably.
The 21st century: the digital age
But the Internet – ah, the internet changes things. A computer with an internet connection is vastly more accessible than a printing press or a broadcast station, and can reach just as many people… no, in fact, a whole lot MORE. In 1990, perhaps 5% of the population of the world had the resources to share an idea or a perspective with more than a few thousand people. In twenty years, the power to reach tens of thousands (even hundreds of thousands) has fallen into the hands of the majority of the world. In the industrialized world, it’s not just a 50% majority, it’s everybody. Anyone can walk into a library, sit down at a computer, and publish to the world. And that, my friends, is HUGE.
We suddenly have the ability to tell eachother what’s happening, what we’re thinking, everywhere in the world. What’s really happening, what we’re REALLY thinking; not through the lens of the wealthy and powerful, but through the un-edited perspective of the masses. And it’s changing everything. I believe the next few decades will see by FAR the most significant changes EVER in how the human race thinks and behaves. And some of those changes are very, very good. We’re already starting to see them, and in future posts I’ll explore those changes in more detail.