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Today's xkcd:

Mouseover title: "2060: The gregarious superintelligent AI, happily talking its way out of a box, is fast becoming a relic of the past. Today's quantum hyper-beings are too busy with their internal multiverse sims to even notice that they're in boxes at all!".

To be read along with this?


  1. Kerim Friedman said,

    November 9, 2015 @ 7:09 am

    If you start counting with Plato/Socrates diatribe against writing in the Phaedrus, then it is closer to 24 centuries…

    [(myl) Indeed:

    Soc. I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves.

    Phaedr. That again is most true.

    Soc. Is there not another kind of word or speech far better than this, and having far greater power-a son of the same family, but lawfully begotten?

    Phaedr. Whom do you mean, and what is his origin?

    Soc. I mean an intelligent word graven in the soul of the learner, which can defend itself, and knows when to speak and when to be silent.

    Phaedr. You mean the living word of knowledge which has a soul, and of which written word is properly no more than an image?

    Soc. Yes, of course that is what I mean.


  2. David Scrimshaw said,

    November 9, 2015 @ 8:22 am

    The Sherry Turkle article without a firewall appears to be online at http://wp.chs.harvard.edu/sunoikisis/2015/10/02/how-to-teach-in-an-age-of-distraction-che/

  3. Ben Zimmer said,

    November 9, 2015 @ 9:01 am

    Reminiscent of an earlier xkcd, "The Pace of Modern Life."

  4. Rube said,

    November 9, 2015 @ 9:17 am

    @Ben Zimmer: Thanks, I knew I had an odd sense of deja vu reading this.

  5. hector said,

    November 9, 2015 @ 4:21 pm

    I would hardly call the Socratic dialogue a "diatribe." It's a cogent discussion of the problems that arise when ideas are written down.

    For example, "the law is an ass." Why? Because it doesn't know "when to speak and when to be silent."

    A second example: leftists use to complain that communism hadn't failed, it had never been tried. Marx's writings, like those of many others, were "tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them … and they cannot protect or defend themselves."

    A third example: Woody Allen pulling Marshall McLuhan out of the ether to rebut the pompous mansplainer in the movie lineup. "If only life were like that."

  6. D-AW said,

    November 9, 2015 @ 4:37 pm

    OED "diatribe" 1. A discourse, disquisition, critical dissertation. arch.

    etym: "ad. L. diatriba a learned discussion, a school, a. Gr. διατριβή a wearing away (of time), employment, study, and (in Plato) discourse"

  7. EricF said,

    November 9, 2015 @ 4:39 pm

    The only thing better than the good old days are the better older days, except of course for the bestest oldest days…

  8. D-AW said,

    November 9, 2015 @ 4:41 pm

    …and Plato refers us back even further to Thamus and Teuth, in some mythic Egyptian pre-time.

    O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. [trans. Jowett]

  9. bks said,

    November 9, 2015 @ 7:14 pm

    Sticking to the xkcd timelines, and ignoring ancient Greek precursors, life was changing for the faster by 1840. When Conan Doyle had Dr. Watson in London communicate by telegram with Sherlock Holmes on the continent, or for the duo to embark on any one of a number of trains that left day and night from local stations, he felt no need to comment on the modernity of the technology despite the fact that such ease of long distance travel and communication was unimaginable 100 years before. Reuters served as an electronic nexus for world-wide news beginning around 1850 and innovations in the printing press allowed for 100-fold increases in the print runs of newspapers.

  10. Chris C. said,

    November 9, 2015 @ 9:05 pm

    @EricF — Well, no one ever admits to living in a Golden Age, do they? That age has always been in the past, no matter when.

  11. Milan said,

    November 10, 2015 @ 10:07 am

    @Chris C. — Well, the present time is often called The Golden Age of Television

  12. Toma said,

    November 10, 2015 @ 11:34 am

    When was the Golden Age of the Internet?

  13. Rube said,

    November 10, 2015 @ 12:26 pm

    @Toma: well, judging from what I read when I got on the Net in 1996, the Golden Age of the Internet had been the time beginning when the original Arpanet was created and ending the minute the first "point and click newbie" posted from an AOL account.

  14. January First-of-May said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 3:56 am

    @BKS: On the other hand, something an awful lot like what you said didn't happen is one of the major points of Around the World in 80 Days (one of the few Jules Verne novels that actually took place in a reasonable "present" with no made-up technology; Fogg's journey – or at least his original vision of it – was intended to be entirely repeatable, given sufficient precision, and IIRC even his 79-day time was beaten within a few years of the book's publication).

    @Chris C.: One of the more obscure short stories in the Girl from Earth setting (I sadly forgot that story's name) involves the titular girl's 24th-century descendant arriving on a visit in the late 21st century, which she (the descendant) considered to be the most romantic period; the titular girl (who lived in that time) replied that she disagreed, and that the most romantic period was about three generations earlier (i.e. sometime in the late 20th/early 21st century – presumably intended as the readers' time).

  15. Terry Hunt said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

    By way of amusing contrast, consider Hugo Gernsback's 1911 novel Ralph 124C 41+

  16. Matt McIrvin said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 2:48 pm

    For many years the Golden Age of the Internet was the period prior to the most recent September, when a batch of newbie college kids would get computer accounts and get onto Usenet for the first time.

    General consensus was that 1993, when AOL users got Usenet access (in September), was The Year September Never Ended. AOL stopped offering Usenet access in 2005, but by then hardly anyone cared.

  17. Andrew Shields said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 2:56 pm

    My favorite moment in that part of the Phaedrus is when Phaedrus says, "You're very good at making up stories from Egypt, Socrates." (That's how it's formulated in the Nehamas-Woodruff translation.)

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