Douglas Crockford

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The Future of Text

A popular, if ineffective, technique for predicting the future is to recall where we were, observe where we are, and then extrapolate. If this technique were effective, then we would not be surprised by the March of Progress, but we inevitably are. It is always safe to say that no one fully expected that we would ever be where we all are right now.

There are some who say that they can and did. They may have evidence that they once said that things were going to get better, or that we are all actually doomed. But looking back on vague projections falls far short of meaningful prediction. But looking past the futility, what is the point of talking about the future if we do not offer predictions?

A very safe prediction is that text will be carried less on paper and more on networked screens. There is little predictive power in predicting something that is already occurring. Trendspotting is not prophesy.

A growing fraction of the world's text is being generated and consumed in the form of JSON between machines in the internet of everything. Interhuman communication, while in decline, is not going away.

There is a long standing tradition for each generation to criticize the destruction of standards of language usage by the succeeding generations. IMHO, such whining is pointless. Language is constantly being refactored to increase efficiency as we discuss new things, and to decrease efficiency to compromise outsiders. As we change the world, necessarily the way we talk, the way we write, and the way that writing is transmitted change, sometimes in ways that the obsolete generations can not fully understand.

It was predicted that the internet would bring about collective consciousness, that the hive it enabled would collect and amplify all of humanity's intelligence, quickly converging on a consensus of great truth. Instead, the global village has splintered into a vast array of little angry echo chambers. This is a great time for trolls.

OTOH, writing used to a profession that could be paid by the word. With the destruction of books and periodicals, writers now need to monetize themselves. It is not enough now to say something good. It is also necessary to say something that will resonate in the echo chambers (hashtag #hashtag). Good writing is not sufficient. Alignment with popular memes is a thing (hashtag #meThree).

IRL truth becomes more fluid. It is well accepted now that computerized autocorrect tools ironically create errors. (I am looking at you, autocorrect tool developers.) Sometimes those errors can make you LYFAO. Less often, people die. FWIW, text is losing ground to other modes cuz TL;DR (hashtag #facepalm). WTF?

USE OF CAPITAL LETTERS IS ALWAYS DEEPLY OFFENSIVE! DON'T DO THAT! EVER! EPIC FAIL!

AFAIC, I hate it when people laugh at their own jokes. LOL!

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