The Longest Now


Cloning Communications Channels
Friday May 16th 2003, 5:44 pm
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Efficiency in thought and expression seems an unnatural holy grail.  Most of us spend our lives repeating things we’ve seen or things we believe.  A large part of social interaction is based on repeating, reliving, and refining through regular ritual fairly long and complex ideas, the bulk of which remain untouched by such refinement.


One great step forward in this department, over recent centuries, has been the growing power of mass production, broadcast communication, and digital storage to turn a concept, with minimal repetition by its designer (and less and less overhead of other kinds) into an endless number of clones — physical copies, digital images and fingerprints, derivative works…


It is easy to focus on recent developments, so let us begin there.  Write once, publish everywhere — an older development — can now be seen as express once, disseminate through all channels — A carefully-tuned oration can be recorded, converted to text, translated into other languages and reconverted into sound, and published shortly thereafter, online and for physical sale, as sound or printed matter.  It can later be turned into part of a book or movie or encyclopaedia article, again with no new effort on the part of the speaker.


A presentation to students, made with much preparation and great attention to detail, can be recorded a few times, and the most perfect recording can be used endlessly to teach new students — with no appreciable loss, if the original was already presented as video.  Art and music — or fragments of each — can now be reused by artists and creators endlessly as they develop their forms and styles, with a modicum of repeated effort. 


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