The Wayback Machine

We have outsourced the cognitive load of our collective memories to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. I am thankful that they exist. My memory is not what it used to be. Even then, my memory has been terrible.

Graphic design has been a way to preserve knowledge in a format that I can more easily retrieve later. If I had to rely only on my brain, my memory would have failed me long ago.

There is too much to know. It has become a necessity to be able to use Google to search the arcane commands and knowledge necessary to maintain the systems that we use. GitHub stores repositories of code that record each change we make to our work. Humans understand their own limitations, so we design tools to enhance our biological capabilities with exponentially enhanced and extended abilities.

As McLuhan argued, each technology both enhances and diminishes our abilities. For every ability that we outsource to a tool, our own abilities are diminished by becoming dependent upon those tools.

As long as the reduced cognitive load as able to increase our well-being and the common good, our reliance on these tools is worth the trade-off. If not, we may have to question the orthodoxy of our notions of technological progress. Otherwise, we risk becoming the “technological idiots” that McLuhan warned us about.

Because of today’s terrific speed-up of information moving, we have a chance to apprehend, predict and influence the environmental forces shaping us – and thus win back control of our own destinies. The new extensions of man and the environment they generate are the central manifestations of the evolutionary process, and yet we still cannot free ourselves of the delusion that it is how a medium is used that counts, rather than what it does to us and with us. This is the zombie stance of the technological idiot. It’s to escape this Narcissus trance that I’ve tried to trace and reveal the impact of media on man, from the beginning of recorded time to the present.

Exploring the Archives

It has been hilarious, illuminating, and humbling to explore my stumbling attempts at web design and publishing over the years.