What if writing didn't exist? – History of Writing Systems #1



Writing, reading, typing, texting. Written language is just one of those things that’s always been around. It’s a natural way for
you to use words. It’s a given. But there’s something you’ve forgotten. It’s understandable.
After all, it’s been a very long time. A long time since no one on the planet knew how to write. Our story starts with a legend: the tale of
Thoth and Thamus. No, that’s not a lisp you’re hearing. Thoth and Thamus. Thoth
and Thamus. After the Egyptian god Thoth invents writing, he runs to King Thamus to share this
discovery. But, to his chagrin, the king isn’t impressed. At all. Looking down his nose,
he starts pontificating on the destructive power of this newfangled technology. “Oh, clever Thoth! This invention will produce
forgetfulness in the minds of learners, with the neglect of their memory, because their
trust in writing comes from strange external marks and not their own internal recall. The
drug you’ve discovered isn’t a memory-enhancer, but a mentioning-enhancer, and you’re offering
students pretend wisdom, not truth.” This sounds strange. It’s easy for you – and
your world full of writing – to dismiss Thamus. But hear him out. He brings you back to the
early days of writing, when it was the hot new thing. And, like many other inventions,
not everyone was on board. Ok, so, let’s say, for the sake of argument, you don’t
want writing. What are the alternative technologies? You could bust out your abacuses. They’ll
help with counting and doing complex calculations. Or maybe you prefer icons, ritualized images
that help you relate to culturally significant figures, events and attitudes.
The quipu is an amazing Incan information storage system using cords, colors and knots. Oh, and don’t overlook rote memorization
– a basic option, sure, but it’s really useful in preliterate societies, where sentences
can be memorized and recited by the thousands. Your brain’s bigger than you think. Perhaps you prefer petroglyphs, rock carvings
with major cultural ties that may refer to nearby places or animals. Ooh, watch out,
writing – we’re getting uncomfortably close. All of these inventions helped humans keep
track of their thoughts. So what makes writing different? What is Thamus afraid of? Let’s talk some ‘ness. Embeddedness. These
things are all embedded in minds, tasks, rituals, events, cultures. Rip them from those contexts
and you rip out their expressive heart. Thoth’s drug doesn’t come with so many
strings attached. It will de-embed you, letting you record any specific thought and letting
future generations read it in any context. So, human. Was Thamus right? Is writing an
unnatural intrusion? Or do you want to swallow Thoth’s pill and see for yourself what we
actually unleashed when we invented writing?

32 thoughts on “What if writing didn't exist? – History of Writing Systems #1

  1. Thoth was the Egyptian God of knowledge and in Ancient Greek and modern Greece it was spelled as Θώθ. So it wouldnt have been inappropriate to ask "Θώθ, what's this?:

  2. Dear sister
    Writing is started from Siva

    You can find thirukkural first kural (chapter)

    Akara muthal ezhuthellam
    Adi pakavan muthatre ulaku

    Meaning first writing system #Akaram ezhuthu = pictographs writing

    Started from Siva's time
    We Tamil started to speck and write

    Please learn more from Tamil Sangam literature

  3. Thamus is kinda right because people are used to pictures and all that stuff. But Thoth is also right because people in the future can read it.

  4. This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.

    the name of this series is just so clever (Red Pill) the root information, the Lahm, The Lam Chakra, origin of philosophy (just like Morpheus in matrix)

    Thoth is just amazing,
    he's Enoch in Christianity
    Thoth in Ancient Egypt
    Hermes in Ancient Greek Religion
    The Prophet Edris in Islam (the green one) – Edris in arabic means to teach, to spell, to learn and read. to be more exact Edrs = to study.

    mind you that Thoth and Thot is interpreted as Thought (and idea that came to matter), this is why he is interpreted with the speed of light in Greek Mythology because the idea is triggered like thunder with the speed of light, and thought becomes action / matter. Hence, that Sot (in Arabic is the sound of words). even the past of teaching is… Taught.

  5. People have bitched, are bitching, and will ALWAYS bitch about new technology, forever and ever until the heat death of the universe.

  6. So when writing first came around, people had the same complaints as they have about the internet today?
    That is good news, it means the intertubes might end up advancing us as much as writing did hehe

  7. سلسلة ماسونية قبالية إلحادية استكمال للخطة الماسونية لدفع العالم نحو جمهورية عالمية إلحادية

  8. Welp the aztec writing system was literally just drawings and rebus and that's it, still somehow it worked for the 300 years their civilization existed

  9. Dude, that myth is probably just Plato's invention, he's just putting his own views on a god's mouth… I just read Phaedro and even him is skeptical about this story… "Sócrates, crias com facilidade histórias do Egito ou de qualquer outro país que queiras." (275b)

  10. Laughing at the irony of Thamus holding a picket sign against writing. What could he possibly put on his sign that wouldn't undermine his cause?

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