Will Digitization Of Books Become A Covert Form Of Censorship?

In most situations it is not technology itself that is the problem, but rather how that technology is used.  Motivations and objectives of the users matter far more than the medium.  Consider the so-called “digitization” of books:  we can say that it has the potential both for good and evil.  On the one hand, its proponents can praise the fact that the digitization of old or rare books has made them available to more people than ever before.  There is merit to this view.

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8 thoughts on “Will Digitization Of Books Become A Covert Form Of Censorship?

  1. This is going to be kind of a one-off question topically, but I value what input you might have. I am a Latin teacher with military experience, and have recently encountered a student who is committed to the ideology of Fascism. This is a new one on me, having until now encountered mainly various modes of leftist ideology, whether in university or at secondary schools. I suppose my direct question is how does a constitutionalist, such as I am, who holds the same inalienable rights such as the Founders expressed in the Declaration to be true and unequivocal, get a teenaged Fascist ideologue to see the error of tyranny as a viable form of governance? As I understand it, this teenager believes his fascist outlook can be a remedy to the preponderance of left-wing social constructionist views that are saturating our media and working their way into our legal system. I’m assuming he does not put any trust in the Framers’ system of checks and balances, and therefore would rather rely on a dictatorial tyrant to silence opposition violently in order to maintain strong national culture. What first leapt to mind in speaking with him was my experience with the Taliban in Afghanistan. While interrogating a belligerent Afghani, we asked him why he would support the Taliban in his town. He replied that they are one form of government and that we Americans were simply a different form, so why wouldn’t he? They are already there, they are culturally the same as he is, and they give him $2000 an acre for poppies, when we want him to grow wheat on the same land for $20 an acre. It was like trying to get someone to see an entire forest when all he sees or cares to see is one tree. How do you get someone to recognise the value of liberty as it has been realised in the West, whether that person is Middle Eastern with no concept of such a boon or whether he is a teenager who has lived only in freedom so that he does not recognize it in the very air he breathes?
    I think that my experience with this type of argument is somewhat unique because I deal in the classics, not in the merely current. But it is an argument I’ve not encountered before… because tyranny is obvious and repellant on its face. Perhaps he simply needs relevant experience to learn such a lesson. But even if he does, it’s no guarantee that he will learn it before, as you suggest, the classics are altered to fit an ideology. Thanks for your time.

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  2. We always concluded digitization would be the final destination of literature, but no one has really considered its downsides. I’m glad you brought it up.

    This post reminded me so much of 1984. History could be rewritten at will. “Badthink” can be filtered out from availability to the masses – or even those keen and driven enough to acquire it.

    That point about emails from 20 years ago we cant read was news to me. Do you really think that could happen 40 years from now with the progress and status – specifically rate of progress – of technology right now?

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    • It’s chilling–all this–when you really think about how perishable knowledge is. I don’t think anyway near enough thought has been given to this issue. Information and knowledge is being manipulated before our eyes all the time–and we barely notice it. Vellum and parchment books have literally lasted over a thousand years. But I have no faith that electronic bits and bytes stored in computers will even exist 20 years from now. And even assuming existence, what about access? Knowledge is of little value if no one can find it or use it. We are not just on the verge of a Dark Age, we are in one right now. And the barbarians are not bearded guys with battle axes and animal skins: they are skinny-fat dorks sitting at computer terminals who know nothing about culture, literature, or art, and see themselves as the self-appointed gods of information.

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  3. This articulates why I’ll never get rid of my Britannica (1981 edition). Not only because it was written before the ascendancy of political-correct dogma into every aspect of life, but also it represented an attempt to present all the knowledge worth preserving. There is a hierarchy of knowledge in those books , and there’s one complete volume that is an outline of all the branches of knowledge. There are no articles about pop stars, etc. The vast bulk of the information in there holds up very well despite its advancing age. There’s also a nobility of ambition and spirit those books reflect, that a hodge-podge of digital on-line links and uncited, ideologically slanted websites will never be able to duplicate. Plus, they are just more physically durable.

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    • Totally agree with you, man. Hell, I still refer to (and cherish) my Latin edition of Pliny the Elder’s “Historia Naturalis”, one of the first encyclopedias, period. And it’s over 2000 years old…!

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      • Yeah, those old books are really an irreplaceable treasure. I’ve thought about this whole mass digitization process for years.
        This issue about the permanence of information is more immediate than a lot of people think. Check out the Carrington Event of 1859. This was the solar storm that fried the entire telegraph system, and caused auroras to appear over the Caribbean. A storm like that today would wreak utter havoc across the whole network that serves the internet, the satellites, servers, even the “Cloud” and all this other bullshit, who knows how serious that could get? Not just all the written knowledge of the past, but also all the current financial records, etc.

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