In his recent post Wrong About the iPad, Tim Bray attempts to rebut a quote from Marc Benioff.
But then Benioff goes on to say “It’s not about text, or even animation, it’s about video.” That is so, so, wrong. Intelligence is a text-based application. Benioff isn’t stupid but that remark is.
I read Tim Bray because he is a well educated and interesting writer. Tim Bray isn’t stupid, but that rebuttal is. I have a university degree in recorded intelligence (Technical Communication)1, one of the things my professors made abundantly clear was that intelligence is not bound to text. One professor in fact pointed out that at one point in time no less than Plato himself decried the growing reliance upon text as a substitute for Wisdom.
Socrates: I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves. -- [Phaedrus]
This same professor went on to speak about how we were now moving toward a post-literate intelligence. That is that we have people who are functionally illiterate, but their intelligence and world view is shaped by media that is fundamentally textual. 90% of the video we watch is based upon text, that’s why it’s still called Screenwriting.
Tim Bray goes on to show that he’s not anti-video.
Oh, and by the way, I consume a moderate amount of video, and I really like doing it on the 1080p LCD TV just the right distance in front of my comfy leather chair with the great footstool.
Congratulations, you have just proved you are a fogey2. This is the cultural equivalent of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen.
FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: In them days we was glad to have the price of a cup o' tea. SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: A cup o' cold tea. FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: Without milk or sugar. THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: Or tea. FIRST YORKSHIREMAN: In a cracked cup, an' all. FOURTH YORKSHIREMAN: Oh, we never had a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper. SECOND YORKSHIREMAN: The best we could manage was to suck on a piece of damp cloth. THIRD YORKSHIREMAN: But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.
Simply put Mr. Bray, You’re not getting it.
My younger brother, although well past the age you could call him the “next generation”, tends to prefer Hulu to his Television. Hulu has that special feature that it’s not grounded in a specific time and location, unlike say Cable Television. Also we’ve been hearing for years how YouTube has spawned a bi-directional communication culture. People making and responding to dorky videos. Tim Bray has even commented on this several times over the years3.
This is what I think of when people tell me that the future is video. People who are now in their teens and pre-teens shooting video of themselves and uploading it to YouTube, because it’s faster than blogging.
For disclosure I have pre-ordered a 3G iPad. I hope it will fill a sweet spot I found lacking in a hacker’s device. I sound like a typical Apple Fanatic; I have a Macbook Pro as my primary computer and an iPhone as my “mobile device”. Previous to both of these devices I used “Open” platforms (Gentoo and an Android powered G1 respectively), and found them both to be wonderful when I wanted to play with them, and painful when I wanted to play with anything else4.
While I have professional interest in writing applications for the iPad itself5, I have no time or energy to do so for recreational purposes. My recreational time is taken up working on things that do not live on my device, but rather by things that live on CPAN and the Web. While I would be happy if Apple were to decide to open their platform in the way that say Alex Payne recently outlined, I fundamentally don’t care. My phone, computer, and eventually iPad, are the tools I use to get to the real place I do my work. The Web.
The arguments against the iPad are that because it’s not Open means that somehow my use case is not possible, or that somehow my use case is somehow inferior to that of someone wanting to write applications that run on the iPad. This is I think where the true irony sets in. The arguments that Plato has Socrates make in the Phaedrus echo these same arguments. They are in fact the same arguments made against any technology that claims it will change the world. The fact that Mr. Bray has come full circle from Plato and argues that intelligence is fundementally textual highlights how silly things have gotten.
So Mr. Bray, I have to disagree with you that intelligence is fundamentally text based. I do this ironically because my rebuttal is textual, but titled with a reference to a visual common history.
This will come as deep irony to anybody who has to proof read my writing. ↩
Note I am a fogey too by these standards. When I watch video I tend to watch it on my TV, at the broadcast times that are offered to me by the cable company. ↩
Not entirely true, ConnectBot and the hardware keyboard on the G1 are by far more useful than the hateful touch screen keyboard on the iPhone and iSSH. I suspect this is a matter of screen real-estate. ↩