Tue, 14 August 2007
People in the Middle Ages spoke of a Prester John - a prince of a far off kingdom in the East. He was said to have magic powers and magical instruments. Most magical of all was his "speculum," through which Prester John could see all the provinces in his kingdom. A sort of television...
Scholars, inspired by this legend, began referring to their surveys and encyclopedias as "specula" - or speculum literature. There was a speculum of history, of astronomy, of alchemy, of morals. Someone even wrote a speculum on fools.
The speculum, in other words, had gone on in the popular and then scholarly imagination to encompass not only the physical world but the realm of ideas. Maybe a little more like the Internet than television...
But it doesn't really matter what we call our wondrous devices today. Whether television, or Internet, or iPhone, what counts is they are real.
For we have gone with our technology from the realm of myth to what we can keep on tables, or desks, in our very hands.
And that's progress - real, and maybe even more than what could have been imagined in the Middle Ages...
Category:Technology & Society -- posted at: 11:13pm EST