Think about it.  Do you recall Kirk or Spock reading a hardcopy book?  Hard-core Trekkies might be able to point out an episode where a physical book was used, but it certainly doesn’t stand out in my memory.  What I recall is that every time they needed information, some device provided it.

I’ve seen a lot written in the past few months about this transition we’re experiencing in relation to how we receive printed content.  The rise of e-books is ringing the death toll for hard books.  The increased use of the Internet and smart phones is supposedly rewiring our brains such that we skim content and follow hyperlinks at the expense of reading fully on one subject.  I discussed some of this last week (see “Casting a Wide Net Versus Going Deep“).

Although a lot has been written mourning the death of the book and the perils of our inability to maintain focus on one subject, I don’t share those concerns.  Humanity has a history of adopting new technology that brings both benefits and unintended consequences.  New technology always has the opportunity to serve us or enslave us.  Choice always comes into play.  Our intentions are always important.

My wife and I recently purchased new iPhone 4’s.  We are having a blast adopting these tools into our lives.  This has led to us both purchasing e-books in the Kindle format and reading them on our phones.  In addition, I recently subscribed to a magazine only in digital format using a service called Zinio.  I have to admit that I had to overcome a little bit of hesitation in letting go of receiving a tangible, physical book and magazine for my money.  Yet I have to also admit that I really like reading content in the new formats.

I still have plenty of books stacked around me.  Those of you who can identify with the experience of receiving reading material in these dual methods join me as members of this unique transitional generation.  Experts say that the generations following us will be shifting more and more to purely digital content.  Our grandchildren will be living the life of Kirk and Spock.

Is this a “bad thing”?  It’s easy to think that if you’re like me — a lover of books.  But is it really?  There is a great article in the July 26, 2010, issue of Christian Science Monitor entitled “”Is Tech Rewiring Our Thinking?” that’s worth reading (link to article).  The article quotes Harvard researcher David Weinberger who points out that books “are not the shape of knowledge” but rather “they’re a limitation on knowledge”.  He points out that a book is a single author presenting their ideas and came about simply based on the limitations of paper publishing.  It’s just one way of providing information.  The Internet and hyperlinks represent another method — one that is in a sense more natural.

Think about this — your natural method of gathering information from your environment involves all of your senses working in a 3-D world picking up input, discerning what is worthwhile in this moment and what is not, then deciding which direction to next turn your senses.  Sometimes your senses and choices may follow a linear path “like a book”, but you are always open to moving in a new direction at a moment’s notice based on new information.

Life in the current moment is more like Internet browsing than it is like following a book from beginning to end.  Yet as we look back on the story of our life, that history seems more like a chronological book.  It’s no wonder that we naturally gravitate to the Internet and the ability it gives us to skip around based on in the moment discernment.  Yet our nostalgia for books seems natural as well.

So let’s enjoy our books and let’s enjoy these new electronic methods as well.  They are both gifts in this life.  Let’s don’t bemoan the death of books but rather rejoice in how the new methods expand our ability to effortlessly tap into the collective wisdom of humanity, connect us with people and cultures around the planet, and allow us to more greatly experience the “global brain” as well as the “global heart”.

Finally, let’s don’t forget the role our personal intention plays in the use of any technology.  Books can grow our wisdom and serve to connect us or they can serve to misinform us, divide us and keep us separate from one another.  New technology offers the same gifts as well as the same cautions.  Each of us as “conscious individuals” can serve the planet by using the new technologies to bring us closer to a sense of oneness and interconnectedness and reminding others to do the same.  In doing so we can all have a role in taking humanity boldly to where it’s never been before.

Mark Gilbert

—————————–

Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!