The End Of The World

This morning I read a dire article in the NY Times. Publishers are concerned about the “Napsterizing” of the burgeoning electronic publishing media. For those of you unaware, Napster is a website where users can share files free with one another, a practice that brought about a precipitous decline in the sales of music. In this model, if you have an electronic copy of the latest Dan Brown book, through certain websites you may share the entire novel with anyone else using the site.

The article was not quite apocalyptic, but it had a vague End Times feel about it, which is understandable. But the problem with End Times predictions is that people have been foretelling the end of the world since the world began. And as well they should. The world ends every moment, with the beating of every butterfly wing the world is not what it was the moment before.

Would we want it any differently? In what moment in history should the world be frozen? What moment in your own life do you wish to never leave? The fear of change, of course, is that things will change for the worse, but if all must change, will not that which we call worse itself change again? And then again and again and again?

It does not matter what form our lives actually take. Nothing can happen, nothing can be made or lost to bring the world to a halt. And as long as the world turns on, people will want to make things and share them with each other. We cannot help it. I do not know how many electronic copies of Dan Brown or John Irving will be bought or pirated this year, but I do know that next year if people want to write books they will write them, and if people want to read books they will read them.

And somewhere someone is dreaming of some technology they believe will change the world forever, and somewhere someone believes that their life will never be the same again—and both them are right.

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