Information Technology and Its Discontents

From Nicholas Ostler’s Empires of the Word:

Reliance on language in its written form was seen as crippling, and not giving true control over linguistic content. Hence this proverb:

[…some Sanskrit here…]

Knowledge in a book — money in another’s hand.

In this ancient India was like many cultures as widely divided as the Druids of Gaul in the first century BC and modern Guatemala (where Mayans remark that outsiders note things down not in order to remember them, but rather so as not to have to remember them). Even Socrates recalled a story that when the god Thoth first offered the craft of writing to the king of Egypt, the king was not impressed: “it will set forgetfulness in the minds of learners for lack of practice in memory”. The doyens of Indian learning took this undeniable side effect of book learning very much to heart.

Even though the language had undergone a full phonological analysis by the fifth century BC, which was even incorporated into the official order of letters in the alphabet, reliance on written texts for important (especially spiritually important) documents was decried. Hence another saying:

[…more Sanskrit here…]

The sellers of the Vedas, the misreaders of the Vedas,

the writers of the Vedas, all go on the path to hell.

Nothing really to add. Just throwing this into the mix of “do computers make us dumb?” arguments.