1. At first when reading the title to this article, I thought, “Great, another silly conspiracy theory.”

    At the end of reading I thought, “She’s got a point.” 🙂

    On stories… I think we like stories because they’re people-focused.

    It is interesting to me that we’re so used to crowd-sourced information as being trustworthy that we simply believe in whatever the consensus is–even when the consensus is wrong. Take vaccinating, for instance. This happens on both sides of the spectrum, anti-vaccers and super-pro-vaccers. “The medical community agrees…” “The public agrees that there’s been all these cases of vaccine-related injury…” Rather than forming our own opinions, we’re so inundated with complex information that we have to trust the information sorters. Control the sorting of information (the internet, like you said), and you control what the public believes. If we end up living in a totalitarian government, I agree that it’ll be one we put in place and that the public views as good for the larger community.

    • Because of how militant pro vaxxers squash down all discussion I’ve gotten paranoid myself. If it’s all nonsense and truth is on their side why are they so afraid of dissent?

      I hear the anti vaxxer movement is flourishing mostly due to the heavy-handed paternalistic censorship.

      • notleia says:

        I’m of the opinion that the anti vaxxer movement flourishes more because they’re in denial that things like mumps and measles can be serious for clean, middle class people like them.

        • Some of the vaccines are just stupid to get, especially for children. And what’s up with the flu vaccine? 15% effective? What a joke. No one ever tells you the percentage of effectiveness. They just tell you it’s effective. But it’s really quite dubious. Yet it’s promoted relentlessly. Come on, there’s plenty reason why people are dubious. Also, vaccine injury IS a real thing.

          • notleia says:

            So by your standards, which ones are okay and which ones are dumb? Flu shots aren’t required to enroll your kids in school.

            My sibs had chicken pox, but for some reason I didn’t get it from them. I don’t object to that vaccine (even though it BURNS LIKE A MITCH) because chicken pox and shingles get worse later in life. Like, nerve damage worse.

            • One small example: Hep B at birth is ridiculous for nearly all kids in rural areas. I’m not against vaccines, but this is not a one-size-fits-all, and the timetables and desire to federally mandate crap make it one-size fits all. My daughter and my nephew both had what’s considered a “severe reaction” to vaccinations in infancy. Uncontrollable crying for roughly 12 hours, and my daughter regressed in her abilities for weeks. Talked to the docs about it, and both docs said, “I think it’s perfectly reasonable, given the response, to wait on additional vaccinations until they’re older, unless you’re traveling out of the country.” That’s why these decisions need to be in the hands of capable physicians and parents who make decisions after the physicians give suggestions. Hard-headed pro-vaccers are just as fooled as hardcore anti-vaccers.

  2. Well, I wouldn’t put ‘literacy’ as merely being the ability to read and write. People should know how to read and write, but due to audiobooks, a lot more people are ‘reading’ more than they used to. Quite simply because they can now listen to books on the way to work or while doing chores. So they’re obtaining more information, just not by looking at something. Also, if written words encourage imagination because a person has to visualize an image in their head, audiobooks will do just fine when it comes to imagination, because the visualization process is similar.

    For my part, though, I actually don’t want everything to go all speech. I type all my texts out, because I can do so quickly enough, and excess noise bothers me at times. And, since the voice tech isn’t far enough along yet, by the time I read through the text and fix all the typos, I might as well have typed it myself.

    A lot of times I’d rather just read something than hear it(though I do still like and use podcasts and audiobooks) and if I’m texting someone, typing is much better because I’m not making excess noise that can annoy someone else, and it keeps people from eavesdropping. There’s probably other people with similar outlooks.

    But for now at least, text, reading, and writing probably won’t go away completely. Some people are deaf, and some can’t speak, so at the very least written words will be a gateway of communication for them. But, as time goes on and technology is used to fix even neurological problems, it won’t be as necessary because people can just fix any physical challenge they have. Though I think at least a few people would opt out of such surgeries for various reasons.

    I’m more worried about/alarmed by exactly how much control science and technology will allow in the future. Tech is improving by leaps and bounds in terms of reading neurological signals, for example. People aren’t going to back off that research because they care more about its potential for curing paralysis and certain mental disorders. Yet, there will be a lot of bad side effects, like the tech implanted in someone’s brain being hacked, or future governments forcing people to get neurological alterations to fix their ‘wrong thinking’. Even if that doesn’t happen, there’s issues that can come from AI and genetic engineering. I’m excited about science and technology, but I know better than to blindly trust what people will do with it.

    • I agree with a lot of what you said, Autumn, but I did have to chuckle concerning your take on “literacy.” The dictionary actually defines it as “the ability to read and write.” You’re absolutely right that knowledge has boomed and that we have the opportunity to know more today than ever before, but a lot of that is coming to us through non-literary means. That’s why magazines and newspapers are fading from society, why digital e-zines more and more include video and/or audio.

      You bring up a number of issues that I had not thought of. So, in 25 years, what will the world look like?


      • There’s more than one definition to literate:


        For a real life example, if someone is ‘computer literate’ that means they are knowledgeable about computers or at least know the basics. So, in the future, people could be literate in terms of general education or knowledgeable about certain topics, but not literate in the sense of being good at reading or writing. So it just depends on which way the word is being used.

        Maybe in the far off future it’ll be like Wall-E, where people get so used to audio that they can kind of read but not very well. 😛

        But it really all depends. How cognizant will people be of the various risks in developing technology? Will issues crop up often enough during development that people tackle those issues and keep them from being huge problems further down the line? Or will the issues only crop up much later when it’s already too late?

        From standpoints like that, I don’t really see one solid future ahead, more like tons of potentialities. But then I get slightly worried and annoyed now and then because of how often people take the wrong steps.

        • I tend to think the issues will crop up later. I’m thinking of past technologies. Once uranium was considered better than gold to find and mine–because people were unaware of the dangers of radiation. Or what about oil? It was referred to as “black gold” and people saw it as revolutionizing the world. Today many think it is evil and want to save the planet from its use. Same with plastic. I imagine there are other such instances. What seems like a great idea, a helpful invention, doesn’t always present as potentially dangerous or evil without investigation and discernment.


          • Yep. Well, actually, I think it depends on the issue. For some issues it might be a mixture of both. People are starting to become at least a little worried about privacy issues, for example, so hopefully people will find good solutions for that instead of being careless.

  3. Lauren Beauchamp says:

    I’m not too worried. 🙂

    In my customer service job, many more people are choosing to live chat (text based) rather than call on the phone. I’m in my late 20s and I don’t know anyone who uses speech to text for texting. It’s faster to text and easier to do without being disruptive to others.

    Audiobooks are growing popularity, but I don’t think they’re causing fewer people to read books. Lots of people use audio for commuting or doing chores around the house, or when their eyesight is getting bad.

    Picture signs are helpful for areas where multiple languages are spoken ( and probably cheaper than bigger signs to display information in 2-3+ languages.

    All that said, I would like to see a dystopian novel based on illiteracy. I think it would be very interesting! I think it was Socrates that though written language was bad for society, and people would no longer need to remember everything (oral history) and written language that could be destroyed.

    • notleia says:

      Forreal with the multilingual business. I can get lost in an American airport with English-language signs very easily. I can read Japanese katakana, but it would take me a full minute to puzzle out the sign for the bathroom, let alone anything resembling a destination.

    • That’s how they saved the culture in Fahrenheit 451.
      Every member of the secret society memorized a book.

    • All true, but I suspect you’ve been raised with text first. The change in society will be most pronounced when an audio first generation grows up.

      I’m with you about a dystopian based on illiteracy. Not my genre to write, but I’d enjoy reading it, for sure.


      • Lauren Beauchamp says:

        I’m not sure how you can really be raised “text first” though. (I will admit to be old enough to remember our first home computer, however.) But my parents read aloud to me before I could read myself, and we frequently listened to books on tape (yes, cassette tape) or read aloud as a family even after I could read.

        And I was in college before we got a texting plan for our cell phones, so I had to call my friends. I put my foot down as far texting at that point. In 2010, people you had just met and were assigned to a group project with would not call, and it was asking a lot to get them to use the campus email.

  4. Travis Perry says:

    I believe the society in Fahrenheit 451 was essentially illiterate, with a few exceptions. 1984 featured party insiders knowing how to read, but I think the majority of the population got all information from the “telescreen” and as such the society was largely illiterate.

    I think when you read letters written by Civil War veterans (as I’ve done a bit of), whereas you have to bear in mind the overall literacy rate was only about 80% in the mid-1860s, those who could write, regardless of rank, often wrote in long sentences that employed complex vocabulary. The act of reading and writing as was done in the past seemed to change the way people used language in comparison to a society that only passes information verbally–as if novelists of the past were exploring language itself and using as much variety of vocabulary and sentence structure as they possibly could. And then that expansive use of language affected how the majority of literate people practiced reading and writing.

    Our society is changing to using language more simply. This isn’t just because of audio readers and use of voice and symbols–it’s also a product of decades of TV and movie exposure and advertisements that get straight to the point as quickly as possible. The very long novels of the 19th Century like War and Peace and Les Miserables require too much time and patience for the vast majority of even literate people of our era.

    Our sentences are already shorter and our word choices simpler than in the past. So while we still read, we read in a simpler way.

    So, yes, I would say our society is not exactly headed for illiteracy per se, but we are increasingly less of a society whose capacity to use language has been shaped by reading written works that explored all the various things language can do. Now our usage of language is more shaped by video. We are different from that past. Simpler. More to the point. But with less nuance.

    Another way in which we’re different from the past is we are losing the ability to search out information in books without the use of a search engine. I think that’s an acquired skill which is fading over time.

    These things aren’t necessarily grounds for a dystopia, but it does mean if the Internet ever gets destroyed in some kind of global catastrophe, people with printed books and old-fashioned study skills will have a lot of advantages over those who don’t have such things.

    I also think it’s noteworthy how people use gifs and other images to express themselves instead of using words. This is entirely new for human beings, because the vast majority of people never had such easy access to pictures in the past. This is without a doubt changing the brains of people who grow up using these images to communicate versus people who were limited to using words–which was the vast majority of human beings throughout all of human history.

    But what results will that change make in people? I don’t know, but I get creeped out when communicating with people who use gifs more than words…

    • With what you’re saying about simplification of language…it’s probably getting simpler in terms of the amount of words used and such, but maybe to an extent it’s getting more complex in terms of needing to know the context/connotations of a statement to actually understand it. With memes and gifs, for instance, not everyone is going to ‘get’ them without experiencing certain contexts first, or having seen the show they’re from.

      The simplification is making people less patient to a certain extent, though. Like, I know when I start talking about Jungian Depth Psychology stuff, people are more likely to immediately throw it out since there’s a lot to it and it isn’t going to make sense right off. So I try to drill down to shorter explanations that make more sense. That actually is better for communication in general, it’d just be nice if the tendency to be clear and concise didn’t lead society to be less patient/unwilling to read into things more.

      But like…I dunno. Is it really length that’s the problem, or instead the presentation? A lot of people now are more willing to invest time in long, complex tv and book series. But that’s because those are made interesting and have substance to them(in a lot of cases) and a modern readers might not feel like War and Peace does that.

      • I think a lot of internet reading is based on length. I know mine can be. If I start an article and think it’s worthwhile, I’ll keep reading, but if it’s just OK, and long, I’ll probably leave it . It’s always good to find a “sound bite” to reinforce a point, too, rather than a link to a lengthy article. (I wonder how many readers here checked out the links in this article).

        But yes, all these changes go beyond print vs. audio/video. It’s a difference in communication from the past 50 years.


        • Yep. And even if an article is long, there’s certain expectations for how it’s arranged to make it more readable. Like, having ten major points/sections, and either listing them all off at the beginning or having them numbered and bolded in the text. Sometimes people will just skip to the point they think is relevant. Other times, people will read the whole thing but kind of remember the list of points as a reference for the info that sticks out to them the most.

    • 1984 allowed reading. Big Brother’s Ministry of Truth was the only publishing house. And they frequently destroyed records to alter history and gaslight citizens. “We have always been at war with East Asia.”

    • notleia says:

      I’d guess that at least some of the complexity of Civil War era writing was classist perceptions of the time. They would have been taught to write formally, with grammar patterned after Latin.

    • Sasch says:

      Travis, the statement that we use language in simpler ways than say 150 years ago is true – but also natural. I think it has less to do with literacy or how we consume stories, but rather with language itself. As most things languages are subject to the law of entropy and will over time only ever decrease in complexity. The more languages interact with other languages, the faster the loss in complexity. Especially in countries where the national language is not the mother tongue for many residents, you tend to adjust to the listener and speak in a way that will result in successful communication, therefore continually contributing to the loss of complexity of the language.
      Incidentally, the fact that languages only ever decrease in complexity can build an interesting argument against evolution. Evolution does not even come close to explain satisfactorily how languages originated. Also from an evolutionary standpoint you would expect “primitive societies” to have primitive languages, when the opposite is the case. Through their isolation and little exposure to other languages “primitive societies” have been able to keep the entropy of their languages to a minimum, and therefore still have highly complex languages comparatively. If your German is good enough, you might want to check out the book “Herkunft und Entwicklung der Sprachen: Linguistik contra Evolution” by Roger Liebi.

      • Great points, Sasch, thank you!

        To illustrate your point about primitive languages and complexity, we don’t have to look any farther than Navajo. The reason the WW2 forces used Navajo speakers to transmit secret info was because of the complexity of the language.


      • The misconception about evolution is that it’s not actually all about ‘progress’ in the way we see it. More complex isn’t always better. Evolution is actually about what survives and gets passed on, or even just what happens to ‘work’.

        Changes are made in response to other changes, or in order to pursue a certain end. If language becomes less complex, is it really ‘degenerating’, or just changing to meet a certain goal?

        There’s a lot of subtle nuances like that to evolution that people should really start to understand more, especially if they seek to debate it.

        • Sasch says:

          I agree with you that complex isn’t necessarily better. I also wouldn’t say that languages are degenerating, even though they are getting less complex. Languages morph and just find other ways to express the same things with the lesser complexity.
          One language might be very complex phonetically. Chinese for example is a tonal language and can have several different words made from the same syllable dependent on the tone used. That’s why most if not all words consist of just a single syllable. As you lose phonetic complexity you will require extra syllables / longer words to make up for the loss of phonetic complexity.
          Another language might be very complex grammatically. In Greenlandic for example you can have entire sentences made up of just a single word, because you just keep adding affixes to the main word of the sentences. As the grammatical complexity decreases, you will need more words in a sentence to bring across the same thought. The lesser complexity will make it easier for outsiders to learn it. If you were to switch a couple of the affixes within a word, your word would become unintelligible. However if you switch a couple of words around in a sentence, you can usually still be understood.
          The problem evolution faces with regards to languages is that it has to achieve something that has never been observed in all of history. Not only does it have to account for the creation of language in general, but it also has to achieve making languages increasingly complex (over long periods of time I assume) which has never been observed (going back to ancient Egyptian 5000 years ago). And unless you believe in Creation and the story of the Tower of Babel, evolution would have had to achieve that feat multiple times over. If you have a working language people don’t just come up with increasingly complex phonetics or grammar. Languages lose complexity over time and people learn to communicate with the lesser complexity.

          • notleia says:

            I’m glad you know your butt from your elbow, but I’ve never seen anything about decreasing complexity in anything scholarly about linguist drift.
            English has a huge vocabulary because it’s a mishmash of Germanic and Romantic origins and also steals loanwords at the drop of a hat. Having lots of redundant words doesn’t necessarily make it complex.
            But if it is a Thing, I think that it’s related to the increasing egalitarianism and decreasing formality most cultures.
            English dropped the thou/you distinction a long time ago, and who/whom is going that way because English derives meaning from syntax, dammit, not declensions.
            At some point you have to ask if it’s about education standards or just snobbery.

            • I actually really love that English has a huge vocab and is willing to change/snatch words. That can make it more poetic with meanings sometimes, or at the very least easier in terms of avoiding repetitiveness.

          • One question to ask is if something is false just because it hasn’t been observed yet. There’s lots of things with Creationism that face similar issues.

            In general, strict Evolutionists and Creationists believe things that supposedly haven’t been observed yet. I dunno, I guess you just reminded me that although it’s usually good for people to believe things they can observe, it’s not good for people to automatically throw something out just because they haven’t seen it yet.

    • Really good thoughts, Travis. I hadn’t considered what the change in medium might do to the way we think. Although I think Faulkner had a lot to do with changing sentence structure in stories, too. I also hadn’t thought of the use of gifs, but you are absolutely right! (And I seldom take time to look at them to figure out what the “author” is trying to communicate. It feels like a form of sign language, but not as precise. LOL)


  5. I think Brave New World was post literate. I need to read that.

    Fahrenheit 451 they can read, but nothing longer than a bumper sticker or list of instructions. Books themselves are burned to ensure happy citizens. Nowadays the Fahrenheit 451 dystopia could let people read the twitter feed.

    There’s a lot of stuff being written now, but little of any value.

  6. notleia says:

    Heck, you’re actually missing out on linguistic evolution if you’re not a meme lord or a tumblrina. And it’s purely text-based, too.
    You’ve prolly seen me do it here, like when I want to emphasize A Thing, which is a similar but different connotation to when you surround a thing with [[unnecessary **~~symbols~~**]]. Or alternating caps to make something look cRazY oR MocKiNg.
    And that’s not even touching on misspellings for purposes of kawaii or humor, like the “my naym is…” poems.
    my naym is catt
    and I must cleen
    ev’ry surface of da bean
    softe my fir
    and pink my nose
    and wyth my tongye
    I lik the towes

What do you think?