Gongol.com Archives: November 2023

Brian Gongol

November 9, 2023

News Such nonsense

As a printer by trade, Benjamin Franklin had a vested interest in convincing other people to publish their thoughts. But he also had an acute awareness of how history would view him -- perhaps even more than any other member of America's founding generation. Thus his dictum: "If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing." We quote him still today, 285 years after he put those words in print. ■ The universality of publishing tools via the Internet means that literally nothing material stands in the way of anyone sharing their writing with the world, whether it consists of great profundities or merely toilet thoughts. And, as is so often the case with technologies, the younger the person, the more likely they are to use those publishing tools with great fluency. ■ The paradox, though, is in how that fluency conflicts with the self-discipline and wisdom required to really consider which will truly be "things worth reading", and which will be regrettable. An entire educational field has even taken root around the concept of media literacy to try to address this void. ■ As easy as it might be to dismiss it as a problem isolated to "kids these days", the problem is much more widespread than that. A 38-year-old Presidential candidate spouts incredible nonsense about building a border wall with Canada. A 52-year-old billionaire imagines feverishly that due to artificial intelligence, "There will come a point where no job is needed". A 47-year-old member of Congress unapologetically amplifies the language of genocide. ■ These words, while most often captured in digital form, are going to be around -- searchable, re-discoverable, and attributable -- for decades to come, while their speakers (presumably) remain fully alive. Why say them, knowing they will be like the ghosts of intemperances past? Why not think of the future? Why not commit just a little more restraint in the present to make sure that those ideas will be worth reading later on? ■ Reputations matter while people are alive, but the expectation of being remembered well after death should loom over us, too. A mild grasp of either consequence should perhaps serve as more of a warning than it evidently does.

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