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Constant and Constant Changes

September 26, 2022
Written by Isaac Shi

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We live in a world of constant changes

This piece was originally written by Isaac Shi on January 15, 2013

More than 3000 years ago near the Yellow River basin, early Chinese language was invented.  It was called Jia Gu Wen (means “shell bone writing”) because it was often carved on turtle shells or animal bones; that’s why Chinese characters are full of straight lines and no circles – it was simply created for easier carving. That was the publishing technology of the era.

During the Middle Ages in Europe, books were hand scripted by monks in monasteries with pen and parchment. A book would take years to copy, so it cost a fortune to own a book, and knowledge was too expensive to be accessed by all.

The cost of creating and transmitting information was high until one day a startup led by Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type press. This invention dramatically improved the efficiency of book production and knowledge sharing and unintentionally ushered in the Renaissance and Reformation in its wake. Gutenberg was not from the publishing industry of that time, he was an outsider — a goldsmith. It is often through an outsider, a disruptive innovation is introduced.

Now, we are at the historic juncture of a new change, a Digital Renaissance enabled by ebook self-publishing and the ubiquity of tablet devices. Nowadays, authors can use cloud-based ebook publishing tools — which of course are outsiders of the modern day publishing industry. With a few clicks and some drag-n-drops, an ebook can be created and distributed to the tablets of millions of readers, all in real time. Gutenberg’s printing press broadened information consumption; self-publishing tools democratized information publication.

As wonderful as it is, technology is mere enabler; the true constituency of any age is still human spirit, and the great literary work upon which that is being created.

It’s not how and where we write, but what we write that counts. From turtle shells to ebooks, the tools we’ve used have changed, but our journey toward a better version of ourselves, and our desire to express our minds through words and being understood remain the same. It is the constant in our human spirit and the constant changes in our technology that both drive our history forward.

Now, enlightened minds of this generation, are you ready to write this era’s “Hamlet”? Or you are still carving straight lines?

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