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More from William Gibson, on technology and cultural memory

 

A couple of days back, I quoted from the William Gibson non-fiction anthology Distrust that Particular Flavour, with regard to his famous essay “Rocket Radio” and a chime it struck with me on certain difficulties of multiplatform production brought up at last summer’s Group Think event.

 

Well here’s more from the collection, specifically three quotes which are lovely accompaniments to some of the subject areas we covered in our second Group Think, on Memory and Data. The first two are taken from the 1998 essay ‘Dead Man Sings’; the last is from a talk given to Hollywood directors in 2003. I won’t add anything here, as they speak for themselves, except to say that when it comes to thinking about the role of technology – from cave painting to VR – in shaping shared cultural memory, Gibson is nonpareil; and so too is his understanding that when this memory struggles to forget, we are in a very weird space indeed.

 

We are that strange species that constructs artefacts intended to counter the natural flow of forgetting.

 

We live in a strange time. I know this because when I was a child, the flow of forgetting was relatively unimpeded. I know this because the dead were less of a constant presence, then. Because the soldiers dying in the Somme were black and white, and did not run as the living run. Because the world’s attic was still untidy. Because there were old men in the mountain valleys of my Virginia childhood who remembered a time before recorded music.

 

Our ancestors, when they found their way to that first stone screen, were commencing a project so vast that it only now begins to become apparent: the unthinking construction of a species-wide, time defying, effectively immortal prosthetic memory.

 

[Re-posted, with thanks, from the Unthinkable Consulting blog.]

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