Innovations can be scary. It is very difficult to predict what they might mean.

I read somewhere about the response to the printed word. The printing press in 1439 and people began to have limited access to the printed word. As it began to grow, more people learned to read. People held words in their hands and explored ideas of others alone in their room. Before that time, information was transmitted primarily through spoken language and through the institutions of society who controlled that information (primarily rulers and the religious organizations).

Now there were some who were in power who objected to this increased availability of information.  They rightly posited that people would be harder to control if they could interpret what they received for themselves. Some would say that the Protestant Reformation of the church and the Enlightenment’s ability to nurture the rights of individuals was directly related to the printing press. Obviously, those who controlled information objected to the easier availability of ideas.

But, one of the most intriguing objections to the rise of the popularity of books was that individuals would lose track of the real and the present. When we read, we are transported somewhere else. There were those who believed that being fully present where we are and to those around us was a virtue and that anything that caused us to escape the present was unhealthy.

Now, as a book lover, I am grateful that those who resisted the expansion of the print media did not win the battle. I am glad that I can be transported outside my own little world with the reading of other’s ideas and stories. When I am stretched and discover realities beyond my knowing, I am richer for it.

And therefore, I am grateful for the digital age. It may be dangerous if it becomes a drug that keeps us from being present to those in the room with us. But by making possible access to more knowledge and more experience of the vast and exciting world we live in, I think we will all be enriched. It may be messy, but what a ride we can have.