More information

The whole morning, up here in the High Doganate, when I was intending to draft another of my long, rambling, tedious posts, was taken out instead by the quaint business of “catching up with email.” This is a punishment for trying to ignore it several days. It can’t be ignored. Try that, and some of your best friends will call “Missing Persons.”

We forget, though sometimes we remember, that the world has been totally transformed by “information” in half a generation; that in the time since this century began (according to some idiot statistical survey I saw on, maybe, BBC) something like one thousand times more “information” has been generated than in all the previous history of the world. And by now that is a fading cliché (the story appeared years ago): another meaningless piece of “information,” arguably searchable in the steaming electronic pile.

But those who admire “progress” are titillated by that sort of thing. Their measures are invariably quantitative — including their calculations of “the quality of life,” for the purpose of determining which humans need to be eliminated. The whole of Shakespeare is not enough information to fill a tiny corner of a Zipdisk, or whatever has replaced it now. (Keychain flash drive?) The NSA could suck it up in kilotuplicate, without even noticing. I am aware gentle reader may know this already. But telling us what we already know, a trillion times over, adds to the world’s stock of “information,” and thus formally counts as more “progress,” providing as it does further statistical proof that what we have today is almost infinitely better than what Shakespeare had, or we had in Shakespeare.

The discerning will know I am a sceptic of “progress” (the scare quotes communicating, Progress to what?). They may also realize I am not entirely opposed to the thing; to saving lives by electronically-dispatched ambulances and so forth. But the limitations to the digital revolution are observed, then ignored. They need to be effectively presented in some way. Yet they cannot be effectively presented, no matter how many times they are repeated, from within the machine.

I know a pretty girl, assured that she was loved five hundred times in voice and text messaging. And, not one “I love you” directly to her eyes. (And if the boy should ever read this, he will know why he was dumped.)

Should one tweet from funerals? “But of course,” was the argument from an Internet etiquette specialist, consulted as part of a recent “debate.” Funerals, especially those for special someones who were very close, provide just the perfect moments for poignant twitteration. So that soon, I should think, we may clock each Mass, by the amount of Twitter traffic it is generating.

But of course, this is the end of the world. Which I add quite glibly, from a primal search for drama. The Greek dramatists would produce three tragedies, and then a farce for light relief at the end.