The American revolutionaries believed in the power of the word. But they had only word of mouth and the printing press. We have the Internet.
It was once religion which threatened us with a last judgment at the end of days. It is now our tortured planet which predicts the arrival of such a day without any heavenly intervention.
The latest revelation – from no Mount Sinai, Sermon on the Mount or Bo tree – is the outcry of mute things themselves that we must heed by curbing our powers over creation, lest we perish together on a wasteland of what that creation once was.
Digital data are more fragile than printed material.
Thanks to modern technology, we now can deliver every text in every research library to every citizen in our country, and to everyone in the world. If we fail to do so, we are not living up to our civic duty.
I am too weary to listen, too angry to hear.
People sometimes announce that we have entered ‘the information age’ as if information did not exist in other times. I think that every age was an age of information, each in its own way and according to the available media.
The simple truth of our finiteness is that we could, by whatever means, go on interminably only at the price of either losing the past and, therewith, our identity, or living only in the past and therefore without a real present. We cannot seriously wish either and thus not a physical enduring at that price.
I want to continue to strengthen Harvard’s fabulous collections in old printed material, but at the same time, I want to help Harvard move into the world of digitized information.
While confronting the problems of the present, I often find myself thinking back to the world of books as it was experienced by the Founding Fathers and the philosophers of the Enlightenment.