I’m writing this post to Sexton, especially, because it reminds me of a book, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester.
A key conceit in that book is that, in the future, most transportation is instantaneous (by teleportation), and this technology is very commonplace and affordable by everyone — in fact, it’s free.
Therefore, to distinguish themselves from the common man, the rich and aristocratic begin making ostentatious shows of employing expensive slow transportation methods from the past, just to show they can. One man shows up in a 1950s Cadillac; he is topped by another aristocrat showing up in a Model T; and they are both topped by a man showing up in a clunky, slow-moving ancient coal-fired steam-driven horseless carriage.
And then the hero wows the crowd by showing up in an old steam-engine train, where a team of laborers works (not particularly quickly) to lay the track down before him as his train inches along to the grand ball.
Okay, here’s my point: At one point paper was looked down upon as old. The New Hotness became paperless technology and computers. Digitizing everything makes it easy to copy and propagate information.
On the other hand, digitizing everything makes it easy to copy and propagate information. And so paper suddenly has a new value. Whereas before it was looked down on as being hard to copy, now it’s a virtue that it’s hard to copy. If it’s hard to copy, it makes it harder for spies to lift it. And thus the KGB is going back to paper.
Now we’re losing ever-more of our privacy not because we have more busybodies and snoops, but because it’s so damnedly easy now to snoop. Almost all of our information is now online– just a few mouseclicks away from any would-be spy.
The world has been engineered for convenience of data-transfer– but that also means it’s engineered for spying and intrusions into people’s lives.
Now, here’s why I brought up The Stars My Destination — what if the next Luxury phase of information technology is simple paper again, as the wealthy pay to have their records not digitized but stored on paper only? This makes it harder to snoop and more difficult to copy personal information; one can imagine a Paper Records Room with extra security for higher-paying clients.
So, my question is: As instantaneous copying and transmission of data becomes more and more the rule of life even for the poorest souls on the planet, do the wealthy now move, Bester-like, towards older, slower technologies?