The Value of the Written Word

Posted: February 20, 2013 by K D Blakely in Karen's Words

Only a few hundred years ago, information had to be passed by word of mouth. Most people could not read, even if they had access to books. And most did not. Books were rare and valuable. They had to be copied out by hand; an extremely tedious and time consuming process.

So I believe the printing press was one of the defining inventions that literally changed the world.

I would go so far as to suggest that it changed the world even more than the industrial revolution, or the light bulb, or electricity. I believe it was the abiity to share complex ideas through the written word that allowed us to get where we are today. (I know some would argue that is not necessarily such a good thing, but that’s a different subject for discussion.)

It is our ability to share knowledge that keeps fueling new finds in science and technology. (Remember, we’re not going to get into whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing here.) As a writer, computers and the internet are two of my favorite things. And as a sci fi/fantasy writer, new science and technology provide ever expanding scenarios for stories…

I’d take this one step further. I believe it is the books of sci fi/fantasy writers (and in the past 80 years, films based on a written script) that have driven some of our current technology. Writers like Jules Verne dreamed of nuclear submarines and rockets to the moon. People at the time may have enjoyed reading his books, but most believed, “That could never happen!” However, after the next few generations grew up with the ideas in those books, that thought became, “How could that be done?”

When I watched 2001:A Space Odyssy in the theaters when it came out in 1968, people were amazed by some of the ‘2001’ technology shown in the film. Remember, this was the year before the first landing on the moon. Some of it hasn’t come true (we don’t routinely take trips to other planets and space stations – yet), but some of the smaller ideas (that people thought of as highly unlikely) actually exist. Talking computers and webcams are a normal part of our life. There are companies that are now into the space rocket business. And we do have a space station.

Need more examples?

Flip phones always make me think of Star Trek communicators.

To give comics their due, there’s talk of creating a wrist phone (lovers of old comics will immediately think of Dick Tracy) in the near future.

And as I saw on television the other day, they are working on a flying car (it may not fly high, and it may not drive faster than 35 MPH, but we’re still talking a FLYING CAR) that should be ready for sale in the next few years. Writers have used flying cars in sci fi/fantasy novels for years!

I’ve heard people claim that sci fi/fantasy writers are just dreamers who’s crazy ideas add no practical value to the world. Of course, science tells us entertainment can be relaxing and help lower blood pressure. And teachers tell us reading expands vocabulary and the ability to think abstractly. I think those have practical value. But even more practical than that, I think the dreamers of today help produce the innovators of tomorrow.

What other ideas have writers dreamt of that will come to pass in the future because someone read about it (or watched it in a movie, or saw it in a comic)? An idea that will spark a desire in someone to make it a reality. Someone who will stop saying “That could never happen!” and start asking,”How could that be done?”

That is the value of the written word.

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Comments
  1. Matthew Ridenour says:

    If technology continues advancing the way it is, we will all turn into Borg!

    • Karen Blakely says:

      I just got through reading a story that had people getting enhanced with tech and nano. Heck, there’s already people out there trying to get enhanced arms and legs that will get hooked up to their brain… I think going Borgish in the future may be inevitable…

  2. I like to point to the printing press as the most influential invention too. And I swear, everything from Star Trek is being invented…communicators, replicators, tricorders…now if they could just figure out warp drive!

  3. R. A. Gates says:

    I’m waiting for someone to invent the holodeck. Please, someone invent the holodeck!

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