Michel Pireu Columnist

We’re living through a transformation of our information environment. Although we don’t know where it is heading, we’ve had one stroke of luck: we’ve conducted this experiment before. It was started in 1455 by Johannes Gutenberg and his invention of printing by movable type. Why is Gutenberg useful? Because he should instil in us a sense of humility. The way I’ve come to explain it is with this experiment: I want you to imagine we’re back in Mainz, the town on the Rhine where Gutenberg’s press was established. The date is around 1476 or 1478, and you’re working for the medieval version of Gallup or Mori Pollsters. You’ve got a clip board in your hand and you’re stopping people and saying: "Excuse me, madam, would you mind if I asked you some questions?" And here’s question four on your list: "On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is definitely yes and 5 is definitely no, do you think the invention of printing by movable type will (a) undermine the authority of the Catholic Church; (b) trigg...

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