Digitization of Us All (or “The End of Civilization”)

Last week, I droned on and on about how much I love using my iPad as an e-reader. I had good reasons, too.  Admit it.  And I’ll stand behind them for my own selfish reasons.

But there’s a part of me that wonders if digitizing our world is wise.

To get a feel for what I mean, have another look at Joe Konrath’s post. His music has made the transition from cassette to cd to mp3. He’s moving his movies from DVD to hard drive, and his reading material is not far behind. And he’s just one of probably millions joining this mass conversion. It’s easy to imagine the next step, where all such media is transported to a convenient Cloud. No physical presence (other than speakers and screens) to clutter our living rooms.

Salvador Dali with ocelot and cane.

Image via Wikipedia

But why stop there? You don’t have to be stuck decorating your house with the same stagnant paintings by local artists and fading prints of master works, day after day. Why not instead rotate the work of Salvador Dali (left) on your walls using HD displays?

In fact, why render physical artwork at all? Artists today produce fantastic paintings directly on the computer, canvas not required. The same could happen to sculpture when holographic imaging has been perfected.

Are you feeling uneasy, yet?

With all of these advances, our homes can become more peacefully minimalistic and beautiful (unless you have a dog or small children). But it all seems so—so ethereal.  So fragile. Transient.

Will we value that which we cannot hold in our hands?  Will we remember that which doesn’t take physical space to remind us of its existence?

The part of me that reads science fiction, the part that was deeply impacted when I saw Beneath the Planet of the Apes as a wee child, knows that the end of civilization can happen in a single cataclysmic moment. Or perhaps in a drawn out devolution as resources run dry. With power sources gone, the Cloud would evaporate into nothingness. And all of our modern art, literature, and music would evaporate along with it.

Imagine archeologists 10,000 years from now rummaging in the ruins of our society. Maybe they’d find a few miraculously preserved canvases. A bronzed sculpture or two, oxidized and pitted. A rare few works of literature (like, Incredible Hulk #181, vacuum-sealed and stored in a safety deposit box). Dating techniques would show that these relics were created throughout human history. They would also show that creativity suddenly stopped during the first half of the 21st century.

The archeologists might logically hypothesize that the abrupt disappearance of the arts signalled the end of our civilization.

They might even be right.

Even so, I’m not giving up my iPad.

About Marie Loughin

I love reading, writing, and editing speculative fiction of all sorts. My current focus is on writing contemporary fantasy, where I get to play god with characters from myth and legend. My Norse-based urban fantasy, Valknut: The Binding, is available at Kindle Books and other e-book retailers. You can find me at my blog (marieloughin.com) and on Twitter (@mmloughin).
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2 Responses to Digitization of Us All (or “The End of Civilization”)

  1. Tammy says:

    Good points, kind of scary when you put it like that! How ’bout a happy medium – I’ll keep the canvas and add an Ipad. Nice happy balance – a bit of the real and physical with a little twist of virtual.

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