Noisy planet earth: are we becoming the frat house of the Milky Way?

Steve Rubel, long a maven of PR and the new media, is now committing his life to digital memory.

To the right, Steve’s diagram of how various media will work to capture and communicate the fine details of his professional life.

In a couple of centuries, this may make him our Samuel Pepys, a man who speaks for us all when someone comes to see what it was like in and around 2009.  (Steve, put in a good word for my blog!)

The pre-digital Steve Rubel probably gave us several thousand words a year: presentations, releases and essays.  Most of these had no more than a fleeting appearance in the public sphere.  Now Steve is single handedly responsible for a great profusion of words, images and, what shall we call them, “sense impressions” each week.  And all of them stick.

In the old days, the pre-digital era, very little human communication made it into an enduring record.  All those thoughts, conversations, images, and interactions would blink on.  And then off.  Nothing much stuck.  And even when we managed to commit our ideas to persistent media and those media to a place of safe keeping, some one of us could be relied upon, in a moment of military rage or administrative incompetence, to burn the thing down.  Good bye to the library at Alexandria, and the riches of the classical world.

What does this digital profusion look like from afar?  What does earth look like to the observer on planet XB3892?  She’s been scrutinizing us for years with a watchful, very wary, weary eye.  The first digital signals to reach her were early (and scary) German experiments in televisionduring World War II, followed by the thin stream of content from the American television networks post-war.  (What did she make of The Lucy Show?  Does she do a Ricky imitation?)  Now the signal is inky dense with fantastically particular data.  (What was Steve Rubel reading at 10:00 this morning?  Check it out here.)  All that blog data.  All those many millions of tweets.  Many more TV signals than before.  (Or does cable deny these to the heavens?)  A veritable wind storm of data now issues from planet earth.

What does our planetary observer think now?

“Good lord, they’ve gone hyperactive.”

“Chatter boxes!  It takes them forever to get speech and now they can’t shut up!”

“Those people are on something!”

“There goes the neighborhood.”

Are we the new noisy neighbor in the galaxy?  Is planet earth a houseboat where they “party hearty, Marty” all night long?  Just when our planetary observer is putting her feet up after an exhausting day of signal search, this superbly sensitive creature begins to pick up little gusts of laughter, music, glass breaking, car doors slamming.  It grows louder and more obnoxious.  She tries to sleep.  Surely, this will have to end sometime.  But, no, no sooner does one lot of humans turn in than the world spins to release another great burst of data. There is no far side to this moon! They are tag-teaming her, she see’s that now. She can run, but she can’t hide from the party animals on planet earth. 

Brace yourself, darling, someday all of us will be Steve Rubel. 

2 thoughts on “Noisy planet earth: are we becoming the frat house of the Milky Way?”

  1. “Brace yourself, darling, someday all of us will be Steve Rubel”

    She should be so lucky (we all should). For the most part, Steve is making intelligent contributions to the signal to noise ratio. Unfortunately most people are merely clogging this up with sheer stupidity at best (Real Housewives of…), vitriol at worst (Ann Coulter).

    Another concern I have is in regards to how difficult it will be now to identify, and celebrate, the truly outstanding. What are the truly important oratories, speeches or texts of the last 10 years? Not popular, not smart (plenty of both of those), but important? When everyone is generating content all the time are we taking the time to absorb and consider?

    Yes, we can record every thought for posterity, but should we?

  2. All this digital matter will soon be lost to the ages as formats and technologies change. Much of the pre-Web Internet is gone. The Internet archives (Wayback pages) are far from complete. How much stuff on old floppy disks will ever be readable?

    The good news is that Sturgeon’s Law still holds–90% of everything is crap, so we just need a little bit of bias toward saving the good stuff and what we retain will have a high density of quality.

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