Originally posted on commonworks
The invention of internet has been compared with Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, turning the world upside down. But this comparison doesn’t take account of the context. The social economic context is an issue of main importance and influence. Internet’s unholy marriage to Capitalism in the nineties was a decisive turning point and it still shapes the internet today. Companies like Google, Facebook and Apple are bigger then some small states. The rate and degree of monopolization in this area is exceptional. Those who expected that internet would become a forum for democracy underestimated the resilience of the capitalist system. Today social bots mislead millions of people, political propaganda uses micro targeting to win elections. When leaving communication to machines we might completely loose all empathy, though empathy is one of the most important capacities that made humanity.
Un-inventing the printing press
Printing co-evolved on different places at different times. Woodblock printing originated in China 220 yrs before Christ. The world’s first movable type printing press technology was also developed in China by the Han Chinese printer Bi Sheng between the years 1041 and 1048. Though it didn’t become common as block printing did.
One wonders why the Chinese movable type printing press was not spread in China while it did in Europe. An explanation often offered is the large number of Chinese characters. But this is only half of the story. In the middle ages and before, the art of writing was practised by a class of clerks not being eager to render their knowledge and privileges. In fact also in Europe written language was mainly done in abbeys by monks  copying texts. But, the inventor of the printing press Johannes Gutenberg was not a monk, he was a craftsman. Having worked as a professional goldsmith, Gutenberg made skilful use of his knowledge of metals.