The Future of Common Knowledge

I’d like to have you think back in time: a time before the digital age, before this busy world of ours, let’s say around 700 A.D. Imagine what it was like sending and receiving information. Local heralds could only be heard once, horse travel was slow, and letters could easily be lost. But wait a minute, letters? Writing was far from a common skill. Few people at this time could write, let alone read, making convenient message sending very difficult. For the most part, reading was a thing of learned men: priests, scholars, and nobles who had time for it.

Why was this the case? Well, the everyday commoner was simply too busy. He had to upkeep his business (farmer, blacksmith, tavern owner, etc.) which took up a good deal of time. I’m not saying medieval people had no life outside of work because they did. But after a hard day’s work, it was much more likely that the average man would relax at the bar than practice reading. If he needed to receive a message, he would just hear it, not read it. It was easier that way, and who doesn’t like the easier path?

Obviously, this changed (seeing that you are reading this right now). The benefits and convenience of a literate society became so great that being able to read was no longer a luxury. We had to move on. Nowadays, children are taught to read at a very early age. Everyone assumes you can read as an adult. Because of this, our society’s structure is based on literacy. Everywhere you look, from advertisements to magazines to your phone, reading is required in order to understand what is going on. Although I can’t speak from experience, it must be insanely hard to get around in the 21st century not knowing how to read.

Like in the middle ages, there are still things that make us different from each other. People clearly have different skills, and nobody can do everything. But reading and writing is something that the majority of us can do. It unites us and makes life easier in so many ways we take for granted. There are many other skills such as survival instincts and basic logic. But reading and writing are different because we created them just for our convenience and pleasure.

Let’s fast forward a couple years, well more like 1200. Computers are now on the scene. Notice anything? Yep, being able to use a computer is seen as a skill that only professionals or hardcore hobbyists have. Just like reading in the middle ages, people prefer to take the easy path. Why bother learning how to use these newfangled computers if physical record storing is just fine? Who even needs these? They’ll probably just die off and never go anywhere (WRONG!).

Within 30 years, most of us now know how to use a computer. Whether a laptop, phone, or PC, it’s almost second nature to use one. You wonder how people could ever have lived without such technology. Just as I wrote before:  The benefits and convenience of a literate society became so great that being able to read was no longer a luxury. We had to move on.

It should be said, however, that just because you have a skill, doesn’t mean you are good at whatever it is. For example, just because someone could read, it didn’t mean that he or she was a very good writer. Abilities could range from absolutely terrible to absolutely wonderful. Today, good writing is especially important. Whether you are in school writing a paper or out looking for your first job, you need to know how to write.

Moving on, let’s see what our next big advance is. Yeah, no. It’s already here, and just like writing had a lot to do with reading, it has a lot to do with being able to “read a computer.”

Today, software developers are everywhere. One of the biggest and fastest growing fields is in computers. However, we’ve already passed the time when computer programming was just for hobbyists and professionals.  Now, computers are for everyone. Scratch lets kids gain exposure to computers from a young age. With a word processor and the right knowledge, you, too, can code. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, male or female. Coding can bring you into a whole new world. So many people have gone from nothing to world famous by learning to code.

Within a couple decades, coding will become a common skill throughout the world. It will be taught to school-age children, regardless of whether or not they will go on to work with computers for a career.

History repeats itself. I’d recommend recognizing the pattern and jumping on before it’s too late. I’d hate to see you fall behind.

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