What the Departing Pope Taught me about Twitter/etc.

I am not a big fan of the Roman Catholic Church, or the Roman Catholic religion, but I think we may learn a few things from the departing Pope Benedict XVI. The first is that he decided to depart before his death, due to bad health, which I believe is an admission that Ethical egoism has some merit, and that if he will continue to serve despite his health problems, it will be bad, not only for him, but for the Catholic church as well, because his bad health will prevent him to function properly as a pope and a leader.

But the more important anecdote about the departing pope, is the fact that he opened a Twitter account which made many people laugh, because Twitter and similar forms of text-based communication mediums such as Facebook or Google Plus were then held in much contempt. But should they?

Throughout history, there has been a trend towards communication mediums that were quicker to write (had easier “on-ramps”) and yet produced results that were of lesser quality. Back when the Alphabet was created for the Phoenician language, and later on adopted in various variations by languages of close proximity, including Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew (which started as a dialect of the proper Canaanite language), it seemed like a poor man and low-culture glyph system, that was used and abused for writing about some really low-life topics: drinking, being happy and jolly, spreading vicious rumours, erotica, depictions of violence, silly jokes, and even blatant descriptions of incest.

( If you don't believe me, then read the Jewish Bible (= the Tanakh) with a critical eye, and you’ll find all those things there and more. )

Some people were probably hoping that it will be a fad, and that Cuneiform will be used for years to come.

The same thing repeated itself thousands of years later with the Print, which as we know helped bring the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the end of the Earth-centred theories of the universe, and many other subsequent changes, including the fact that you now read these words, which were originally published on a web site. The Roman Catholic church has survived this change, but it is now very different than it was when Gutenberg invented the print was invented.

So: Cuneiform → Alphabet → The Printing Press → Early typesetting systems → Word Processors → Early HTML/Web 1.0 → blogs/wikis → “Social networks” such as Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus (which were inspired by the unadorned text that people have been writing in text-based Usenet posts and E-mail messages). Will the Roman Catholic Church survive in the “Twitter age”? Hard to tell, but Pope Benedict XVI understood that it should embrace such social networks and recent trends, if it intended to make the best of the situation. And since then, social networks have only become more mainstream.

We can see similar progressions in other forms of media (e.g: Comics → Web comics → Captioned images (e.g: lolcats)). All that put aside, newer media does not completely eliminate the need for an older one, and while cuneiform is no longer usable, Jewish scribes (Sofrey SeTam) still write some religious manuscripts by hand, very slowly (and costly), because their quality cannot be high enough.

Nevertheless, it is important to embrace such technological changes, and this understanding is one thing I will always be grateful for the departing pope.