The world in which you were born

Last week at a conference I was listening to an intense diatribe by an artist who was positing that the availability of instant on-demand interactive media — the web, Google, Twitter, Wikipedia, and all that — would be the death knell for good old fashioned book reading.

During the question and answer session that followed, a man in the audience started out a rather long question with the quote: “Language is an old-growth forest of the mind.” I was struck by the wit of this quote, so while he was formulating his question I typed that phrase into Google and found out that it was by the anthropologist Wade Davis (whom I had never heard of). That led me to the Wikipedia page about Wade Davis, from which I learned that Davis had written an influential and controversial book in 1985 called “The Serpent and the Rainbow”. I then went to and put the book in my shopping cart. By the time the guy had finished his question, I was already queued up to read this book.

I did all this reflexively, without pausing to think about the process, but afterward it occurred to me that my experience was a direct refutation of the central point of the talk. I don’t read less because of these internet-enabled connections. I read more. There is an intriguing interaction between my reading time — something I do in solitude when at leisure — and my real-time acquisition of knowledge about new topics to explore, something that would not have been possible before the age of the internet.

The title of this post is from another quote by Wade Davis, one I find particularly inspiring and oddly relevant: “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”

3 Responses to “The world in which you were born”

  1. Jim Parker says:

    … and ‘technology’ consists of things that were devised after you were born (or after you first became a tool user, IMO) … Alan Kay

    Your action may not be unheard of for one our age, but you undoubtedly think of it as technology. My son does not, in the same way that I don’t think of a refrigerator as technology. The way a native speaker does not think of grammar?

  2. admin says:

    Awesome observation Jim!

  3. Mari says:

    And my kids also expects daddy to read them bedtime story via Skype from NYC in Paris.

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