The most writing in human history

Apr 4, 2022

I’ve been reading Smarter Than You Think. Chapter 2 is about online writing and blogging, and Clive Thompson mentions how there’s more writing going on now than ever before in human history:

As the historian David Henkin notes in The Postal Age, the per capita volume of letters in the United States in 1860 was only 5.15 per year. “That was a huge change at the time—it was important,” Henkin tells me. “But today it’s the exceptional person who doesn’t write five messages a day. I think a hundred years from now scholars will be swimming in a bewildering excess of life writing.”

What’s wild to me is that I got an English degree between the years of 2000 and 2004, and… no one saw this coming. A few weeks before graduating someone suggested I should sign up on some “Facebook thing, it just opened up outside of Harvard, you can see other people from other schools”, and no one I knew had ever blogged anything. So it wasn’t a miss of what was happening, but it was a miss on what would be happening.

Also, any English program could have ditched Hemingway for some basic communication writing and maybe we could have replaced the E in STEM.

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