George Eliot and the Internet

George Eliot (penname of Mary Anne Evans, 1819-1880): did she predict the rise of the Internet?

George Eliot (penname of Mary Anne Evans, 1819-1880): did she predict the rise of the Internet?

As I wandered around a small shopping mall today, I observed a large number of people interacting intently with their smartphones. Nothing ground breaking there, you might say, but it called to mind a passage I’d read in George Eliot’s Essays (which is a treasure trove of exquisite writing of which I was completely unaware until a few days ago):

In fact, the evident tendency of things to contract personal communication within the narrowest limits makes us tremble lest some further development of the electric telegraph should reduce us to a society of mutes, or to a sort of insects communicating by ingenious antenna of our own invention.

George Eliot, “Woman in France: Madame de Sable”, The Essays of George Eliot

The internet is a further development of the electric telegraph. Mobile phone technology can certainly be likened to “ingenious antenna of our own invention”. Perhaps we will grow more insect-like as we incorporate the technology more and more into our physical structure. I suspect that “Google Glass” is only the beginning of the process.

File:Google Glass Explorer Edition.jpeg

Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that is being developed by Google in the Project Glass research and development project. (Wikipedia).

But is this and similar technology in the process of reducing us to a society of mutes?

Yes and no. In my experience, digital communication can certainly help to spark conversation of the old-fashioned, face-to-face kind.

However, as my wife has frequently observed–acerbically, but with love, as only she can(!)–I am all too ready to crawl into my digital man-cave of an evening. I can’t help but be aware that I am also one of those people who often prefers to email or text rather than make an actual person-to-person phone call. And how does being a blog-writer fit into this pattern? Pass over those electronic antenna of our own invention, Alice.

I don’t think that I’m a particularly unsociable person, but it makes me think. Selective verbal mutism: is this the wave of the future?

T. S. Eliot predicted in The Hollow Men that

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

I don’t think he was quite as prescient as the other Eliot. Perhaps it should read:

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a Tweet.

And a Merry Christmas to one and all!

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1 Comment

Filed under Humour, Philosophy, Physics, Society

One response to “George Eliot and the Internet

  1. Pingback: QUOTATION: George Eliot about conceited people | euzicasa

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