Facebook As The Next Printing Press

Ben Thompson writing at Stratechery:

The printing press changed all of this. Suddenly Martin Luther, whose critique of the Catholic Church was strikingly similar to Jan Hus 100 years earlier, was not limited to spreading his beliefs to his local area (Prague in the case of Hus), but could rather see those beliefs spread throughout Europe; the nobility seized the opportunity to interpret the Bible in a way that suited their local interests, gradually shaking off the control of the Catholic Church.

How much will Facebook upset the current power brokers and shift that power elsewhere? It already has. The 2016 election and foreign interference is only one wave of the rising tide of national and world-wide upheaval.

Just as climate change is a slow-moving transformation, one which we can notice and try to understand but won’t have direct straight-line evidence for until we point back 200 years and say “look, it’s really different now!”, so too will the change Facebook makes in our lives not be felt until we compare now versus then. Then being decades or centuries ago.

Thompson makes this point:

At the same time, that change will take time — the printing press was invented in Germany in 1440 and yet German unification did not happen until 1871…

400 years from now, we might have flying electric cars and half the world on universal basic income – but the power structure supporting those futuristic ideas may be the bigger change.

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