History is punctuated by certain leaps in civilization–the discovery of fire, the leap from the bronze to the iron ages, or more recently, the industrial revolution. These advances are often surrounded by a huge upheaval of society.  Everyone had a certain way of doing things, and now this new technology or methodology is messing all that up.  The old way is out the window, and the future has suddenly become filled with uncertainty. These periods of transition are scary times.

The printing press – image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The same leaps can be found when we’re talking about how we share information. You could look at the transition from oral tradition to written history, or the construction of the world’s first libraries where information would be stored long-term outside of religious institutions.

The invention of the printing press is a great example–Johannes Gutenberg built a machine that gave the average person access to books. Before that point, 80% of adults in England couldn’t even spell their own names, but the literacy rate would start to increase exponentially: in under 400 years, the literacy rate would double.

Imagine the impact that would have on a society.  If the government says one thing, you can research it yourself.  It’s something we take for granted today, but imagine if you did not have that power.  If your only sources of information were the government and by word of mouth.  The average person would have absolutely no idea what was really going on, even in their own state.