Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The End of the Brain as a Cultural Storage Organ

Time was, only you knew what you knew.
Maybe a little gesturing helped,
Maybe a manageable handful
Of symbols, chips in cliffs, stains in caves,

But mostly, it was still up to you.
Somewhere along the line, prosody,
Song, percussive accompaniment
Expanded your skulled capacity.

Some lazy, sneaky bastards found out,
(Slowly, of course, in generations,
Given laziness and efficiency
Motivate each other lazily),

You could make a kind of metacode
Of the symbols used to remember,
Some agreement, ominous events,
This or that failure, what someone said.

Chisel those, then. Paint them. Press them in
Patty-cake palmfuls of clay you bake
And store away to consult later:
More you can and need not remember.

By now, you've been organizing this
Material and compacting it
With narrative tricks for centuries
Of centuries. Write the stories, too.

Good. Less to remember remembered.
Accumulate enough, watching out
For armies, fires, new divinities,
All the usual rot of the truth.

Someday, maybe, you compact it all,
In scrolls on shelves and then codices.
How convenient, if you can reach it,
Read it, copy it, use it. Better,

Concoct a machine for printing it
And reprint it with diminishing
Expense or regard for the effort
That went into it (more laziness,

Efficiency, generations). Now,
Libraries duplicate libraries,
But some are still harder to get to
Than others. Some of us are better.

At this point you'll have to put your heads
Together. You don't have half the brains
Anymore to improve on your own.
Cheaper, better, more books on paper.

Steam presses. Broadcast technology.
Digital technology. The cloud.
My god, you've put gods back in a cloud!
Now rest. You know nothing. Who needs it.

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