“A critical fact in the world of 1801 was that nothing moved faster than the speed of a horse. No human being, no manufactured item, no bushel of wheat . . . no letter, no information, no idea, order, or instruction of any kind moved faster. Nothing ever had moved any faster.”

—Stephen E. Ambrose, Undaunted Courage (Simon & Schuster, 1996), p. 52. (HT: Tim Challies)

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4 thoughts on “The Speed of Information”

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    I’m old enough to remember a book called “Future Shock” by Alvin Toffler.

  2. Josh says:

    “Nothing ever had moved any faster.”

    While the point is well taken, the particular historical note seems a bit exaggerated. I don’t know when the first smoke signal was used, but it was surely before 1801.

    On a related note, you can read about an ingenious signaling method built in France in the 1790s at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semaphore_line

  3. I agree with this in certain contexts, but in others it doesn’t hold water. Ideas and information have always moved faster, but only through the spoken word, and to small groups.

    It’s a scalability issue. Technology has almost entirely eliminated the issue of scalability in terms of how individual bits of data can be disseminated to the entire world. But when you’re talking about data disseminated to one or a few, the essential mechanism is that same as it’s been since Eden.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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