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Grant Potter

@doctorow parable - the echoes of norms

2 min read

The state of Roman metallurgical science determined the maximum length of a chariot’s axle and hence its wheel-base

The Roman-chariot’s wheel-base determined the width of the Roman roads

The width of the Roman roads determined the width of modern carts

The width of modern carts determined the width of modern roads

The width of modern roads determined the width of wheel-bases for cars and lorries

The width of lorries determined the width of containers and the parameters of rail-cars and container-ships

And since the Space Shuttle’s reusable fuel-tanks had to be transported on these roads and railroads, they, too, were ultimately determined by the state of Roman metalurgy, thousands of years ago

This is, of course, a gross oversimplification, but it is intended as parable and not as history

The reason to recount this parable here, now, at this early, liminal moment in the future history of the information age is that:

  • We are presently building the electronic nervous system of the modern world, and

  • We dwellers on the electronic frontier have it on our power to establish the norms, laws, and practices that will echo through the ages to come