WSJ; Notable & Quotable, Computer Scientist David Gelernter Answers "What Should We Be Worried About?"

If we have a million photos, we tend to value each one less than if we only had ten. The Internet forces a general devaluation of the written word: a global deflation in the average word's value on many axes. As each word tends to get less reading time and attention and to be worth less money at the consumer end, it naturally tends to absorb less writing-time and editorial attention on the production side.

Gradually, as the time invested by the average writer and the average reader in the average sentence falls, society's ability to communicate in writing decays. And this threat to our capacity to read and write is a slow-motion body-blow to science, scholarship, the arts -- to nearly everything, in fact, that is distinctively human, that muskrats and dolphins can't do just as well or better.

The Internet's insatiable demand for words creates global deflation in the value of words. The Internet's capacity to distribute words near-instantly means that, with no lag-time between writing and publication, publication and worldwide availability, pressure builds on the writer to produce more. Global deflation in the value of words creates pressure, in turn, to downplay or eliminate editing and self-editing. When I tell my students not to turn in first-drafts, I sometimes have to explain, nowadays, what a first draft is.