The mutant power of writing

Picture of Agencia comma

Writing is in crisis; Not because it is in disuse, but because it is mutating; Like so many of our everyday activities, it is affected by the exponential development of technology and the use we are making of it; Yes, technology again; Don’t go yet; take a breath and come to your senses;

This is not another article to question algorithms or to sing the praises of exponential and convergent techno-scientific progress; The purpose of the following lines is simply to recall that these advances in science and technology are the result of our capacity as intelligent beings, and that their objectives should be none other than well-being, justice and the improvement of relations between humans and between humans and other species on the planet;

It is hard to believe, but why else put so much effort into it?

Writing, a supreme act in our relationship with each other, is “representing words or ideas by letters or other signs traced on paper or other surfacese”, according to the Royal Spanish Academy. Well, each and every element of this definition is in crisis today: words, ideas, letters, signs, paper and surfaces;

Writing is entering a new era with the artefacts of the human imagination; In the age of artificial intelligencel -I don’t quite understand the widespread insistence on writing it with a capital letter while denying it to human intelligence- changes the value and meaning of the word, its dimension, its scope, its value; we have to revise our ideas, our vision of a world we used to dominate and in which a virus -an acellular microorganism- has bent the few certainties we thought we had in a society whose principles and values we are rewriting;

And the best known way to date to transferring our ideas, principles and valuess is still writing. If the voice brings us closer – not only to our fellow human beings or to the animals that share our lives, but also to the mechanical artefacts we have created, such as virtual assistants or the most sophisticated robots – writing settles us down, allows us to refine, specify, re-imagine, endure…

Our desires are torn between an old world that is fading but refuses to disappear, and a future that we imagine but cannot quite glimpse; The future is becoming more difficult and often dystopian, undesirable, because traditional writing has often fallen short of defining a multimedia, multi-channel utopia; a writing expanded from text to virtual reality, built on zeros and ones, on codes that require a new literacy to become accessible to the vast majority;

Letters and signs combine in a physical and digital reality in which frontiers disappear and the proposals of George Boole’s genius have become reality: mathematics can express not only quantities but also a logic, a language that also expresses postulates, reasoning and conclusions; in which frontiers disappear and the proposals of George Boole’s genius have become reality: mathematics can express not only quantities but also a logic, a language that also expresses postulates, reasoning and conclusions; With him came modern programming and without his proposals it would not be possible today to find, understand or transmit anything in the digital universe;

And we are only at the beginning; We haven’t even managed to find a way yet to call what we do today in a very different way than we have been doing it in the past; we still call writing our action on a screen, what we dictate to the machine so that it can convert it -transcribe it- into text; we know as book or mail that which we know no longer has a corporeal existence but which even from the cloud allows us to know, discover, share?

Since ancient Mesopotamia, what we have called a book has served to fix our thoughts and transmit them to others; Whether in stone, clay, wood or ivory; on supports of leaf, reed, silk or leather, the written word has helped us to organise and share our thoughts; To live together;

So relevant is the representation of the word, so rooted is it in our history, in our civilisation, that, although the uses are changing, we continue to call the page that through which we make known the facts, the desires, the dreams… although now they adopt multiple forms that are constructed with binary code on liquid screens. And let’s keep calling this creative process writing;

We know that the word itself is an understatement because we live in an environment where the possibilities for our experiences, our thoughts and our existence to be amplified in virtual, multimedia, multi-channel models are almost infinite. It is not a matter of technology; it is a matter of dreams that can be built in multiple ways, with new tools in the service of humanity;

* Post by Juan Manuel Zafra, General Manager of Club Abierto de Editores (CLABE), Director of the Editorial Board of Telos magazine (Fundación Telefónica). Technology, communication and leadership advisor; Lecturer and teacher;

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