Perhaps the question is even as simple as "Will people progress to become less linear in nature?", or perhaps it's as complex as "Will people progress to become independent of temporal restriction?", or perhaps as different as "Will people manipulate multi-dimensional thought to become linear thought?"

I'm just trying to pronounce an idea for forum-al examination. Go ahead. TRY me. ;)

See Also: The Glass Bead Game By Herman Hesse

I didn't want this to become a node about noding. But it seems to me that what you're looking at as you read this is evidence that the distant future hasn't got anything to do with the initial departure from linear thought.

It's already happening. The future is now.

Sure, the printed word is a highly linear medium. And sure, if you were to print this out and read the hard copy, that's exactly the medium that's creating the message. However, you probably haven't printed this out. Your mouse finger is probably getting itchy just looking at all these luscious hard links. Or soft links, if that's your thing.

So what?

Well, when everything2 is read as a text, it quickly becomes clear that (as a whole) it's highly nonlinear. The progression of thought may or may not be logical (in a traditional linear sense) as one proceeds through the database. You don't have to read an entire writeup to find yourself on some strange and distant node. Subtitute the appropriate terminology, and you'll see the same is true of the internet.

Marshall Mcluhan and R. Buckminster Fuller had a lot say about this. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar enough with Fuller to put in my two cents. As for Mcluhan, he began observing the shift from linear to what he termed mosaic thought as early as the mid-fifties. Mcluhan attributed this movement to the emergence of electronic media. As soon as there was more than one radio station, the medium gained a nonlinear aspect; one could change the station mid-sentence (or mid-song) and, if one so desired, connect the sentence (or song) from the preceding station to the sentence one would find on the new station and derive an entirely new and unintended meaning.

Perhaps we should be looking to the past for the dislocation from linear thought. Not that said dislocation is a bad thing, mind you.

Should this happen, it will actually be a return to something that has been nearly lost in our literate society. Text forces linearity that may not be present as strongly in thought. For this reason some ancient philosophers (Socrates, I think) actually disliked writing down their thoughts, because they believed something got lost in the process.

The people in today's societies never lost the nonlinear nature of their thought. Never in history has a society existed of linear thinkers. Nor have our linear media ever robbed us of nonlinear thought. The nonlinearities of our thoughts have been folded and tucked into linear-looking sentences, which barely conceal the true nature of the thoughts that led them to be.

I propose that thoughts exist as networks in the space of ideas. More specifically, even the simplest coherent thought is a tree in the space of ideas. The print or text-based media conceal this fact but do not make it any less true. To illustrate using a text example:

The very quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

Some grammar teachers dissect sentences into their individual elements and modifiers using tree-like diagrams. In this example, "very" branches off of "quick", which along with "brown" branches off of "fox". "Lazy" branches off of "dog", and, subtly, "over the lazy dog" branches off of "jumped". The tree structure of the thought that brought the sentence into being has been folded away into a linear-looking sentence. Even if I had simply said, "Fox jumped" (the simplest possible incarnation of that sentence), that sentence triggers in our minds the mental maps we have of foxes and jumping, which form their own branches off of the main trunk of that sentence. The fox is all of very quick, brown, and jumping. It is all of these simultaneously, and we understand that despite the apparently linear method of presentation. Now that the concept of ideas as trees has been introduced, I am forced by this linear medium to backtrack to the original subject if I want to add to the original thread of conversation (that sentence is ordinarily expressed in text media as "I digress", and the necessity of that expression existing supports my contention of the basically nonlinear nature of thought.)

Our thoughts have never been made linear by our media. We can feel in ourselves the struggle to express our nonlinear thoughts with the media tools that we have. Marshall McLuhan's enthusiasm for the capacity of nonlinear media to bring us back to our ancestral nonlinear thought was misplaced. Nonlinear media excite us simply because they are better capable of expressing the nonlinear thoughts we have been having all along (especially pipe linking!). Our modes of thinking will not change in the distant future. Our means of expression will continue to change (beyond hypertext?) to better fit our already nonlinear thoughts.

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