Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A vision of the future from the recent past

Now here's an interesting extract from Don Delillo's Americana:

"He said that all the new universities would consist of only one small room. It would work this way. At the beginning of each semester the entire student body - which would have to number at least five hundred thousand in order to give the computers enough to do - would assemble in a large open space in front of a TV camera. They would be televised and put on videotape. In a separate operation the instructors would also be videotaped, individually. Then two TV sets would be placed in the single room which represented the university. The room would be in a small blockhouse at the edge of a thirty-six lane freeway; this proximity would help facilitate transmission of electronic equipment. Oh, there might be some banners on the wall and maybe a plaque or two, but aside from these the only things in the room would be the TV sets. At nine o'clock in the morning of the first day of classes, a computer would turn on the two television sets, which would be facing each other. The videotape of the students would then watch the videotape of the instructors. Eventually the system could be refined so that there would be only one university in the whole country".

Two observations: this is essentially coming true (with some technological alterations), and the novel is meant to be savage satire. Obviously the honeyed walls of Oxford and Cambridge will contain the privileged rich with the leisure and money to pursue PPE, Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic and so on: the rest of you will be downloading Business for Proletarians.

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