No cultural shift has been more consequential than when some societies decided that the ideal way to prepare an individual for social life is to keep her in school for 15 years of her life or more.
Modern society prizes cognitive development more than any other type of human development. We are not deemed ready to live with others until we’ve spent a big chunk of our lives rearing our brains. And for most of us in the West, it means spending many years of our lives surrounded by books and people who point us to more books.
The book experiment is extremely recent at the scale of human evolution. Yet the acceleration of visual learning in our culture is remarkable. Five hundred years ago, having access to a book was expensive at best and exceptional at worst. Today, most of us could afford putting together a small private library (though bigger than anyone else’s in the ancient and medieval period), but many choose not to. One of the reasons being that books are everywhere. Information is everywhere, and if books are vessels of information, than the electronic revolution has taken away much of the allure and perceived need of owning books.
It’s been estimated that the average person in an urban milieu encounters between 6 and 10,000 ads every day. And most of these ads will contain text. The writing is on every wall. One reading of Western history is that culture evolved from little to always more text in the life of the average person. That every century brought with it more literacy, more books and more text. That the modern world signaled the banalisation of the written word. That seems to be true nowadays, and the questions we should be asking is, what is next?