It’s a privilege to listen to someone with a really powerful and awesomely quick mind. Such was neuroscientist Professor Susan Greenfield, who was just on Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope. Read the transcript when it becomes available if you didn’t catch the program.
One of the many subjects she talked about was the way the world was changing from the “people of the book” to the “people of the screen”, the way that changed individual and collective perceptions, and the different skills that will be needed in tomorrow’s world (and to a considerable extent today’s) as a result.
Greenfield suggested that the wider advent of voice-activated interactive technologies may eventually make writing (including with a keyboard) redundant, however appalling that prospect may seem to many of us. I actually used to think that too not so long ago. I was an early adopter of speech recognition software almost 10 years ago, when my keyboard skills were very limited. But as those skills improved, I found it more comfortable to type than speak. Now I only use speech recognition software to transcribe bulk text (and even then it’s easier to scan it if it’s more than a page or two). But maybe that’s because I remain irreversibly one of the People of the Book.
It occurs to me that I’m actually a member of the crossover generation; partly of the book and partly of the screen. So are pretty well all bloggers over 30. And I may well be a quite extreme version of that crossover. My teaching and research require a lot of reading of both paper and electronic texts, and administration of CDU’s online law degree program involves staring at a screen most of the day. My blogging hobby/addiction amplifies that and extends it into the night.
And my habits and choices reflect that duality in ways that seem quite strange even to myself when I think about them. For instance, I watched Susan Greenfield expound about the people of the book and screen with the sound turned down on my TV, reading her words in subtext (since I finally invested in a digital set-top box) so I could listen to ABC Classic FM at the same time. It seems like the most natural thing in the world, and a much better way to digest ideas in an interview program.
Greenfield’s discussion about chemical and behavioural influences on brain function and the sources of creativity was also fascinating and challenging. But none of it was developed. Ideas were only hinted at but not explored. That’s partly a limitation of the genre, and partly a function of Denton’s engaging but rather superficial interviewing style. I wanted to know more about Greenfield’s work and thinking. Fortunately as one of the People of the Screen, Google lets me find out here and here and here.