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Philosopher-futurist-professor William Crossman believes that reading and writing will be lost skills by the middle of this century, and he’s going to be at the California Library Association 2008 Conference and Exhibition in San Jose next month talking about and signing copies of the book which he wrote to support that thesis.
“I think by 2050 we’re going to recreate the worldwide oral culture driven by talking computers,” the Founder/Director of the CompSpeak 2050 Institute for the Study of Talking Computers and Oral Cultures said during a conversation we had this week. “This might scare people, but actually we’re talking about something very positive: we’re democratizing the flow of information worldwide. We’re erasing the digital divide worldwide—even in the electronically underdeveloped countries—to access to the Internet…I think this is going to change every aspect of human society and interaction—education, business, international relations, politics, the arts, and even human consciousness itself—our brains.”
As a presenter in the Infopeople “Master Speaker” series, Crossman says he is looking forward to discussing his ideas with CLA conference attendees. He will also be talking about the critically important role he believes librarians will play during the transition from reading and writing to a world in which voice-in/voice-out computing—talking computers—will bring a new form of literacy to much larger numbers of people throughout the world.
The rapid change, he suggests in Vivo [Voice-In/Voice-Out]: The Coming Age of Talking Computers, is no different than any other shift from an outmoded technology—in this case, the use of the written word as a technology to preserve and provide access to information—to something which more effectively meets the needs of those who use(d) it.
Librarians, he predicts, will play a key role in helping people make the transition from reading-writing to the VIVO world while “remaining as the guardians of information….there needs to be a bridge that helps people walk into the oral culture. That means helping them develop the skills and accessing the information which, more and more, you’ll be able to access by all-sensory skills.”
Crossman’s CLA/Infopeople presentation, “The Coming Age of Talking Computers: Implications for Culture, Democracy, and Social Change, is scheduled for Sunday, November 16, 2008 from 3:15-4:30 p.m. in the San Jose Conference Center, Ballroom A. He will be available in the Infopeople section of the Exhibitors’ Area (Booths 410, 411, and 511) that afternoon from 2 – 3 pm to sign copies of his book.

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