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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

10 September 2007

Information Highway Roman Style

Who knew the Romans could lay claim to the development of the first Information Highway? In their effort to conquer the world, they built roads -- 53,00 miles, all by hand. As master builders of roads and ships, they made troop movement easier. Did they fully realize that roads go two ways?

Those same roads and ships drew the world closer together. For the first time in history men and women were able to leave their villages and travel on those same roads and ships, to see and speak with people who spoke different languages, ate different foods, worshiped different gods, but were, at heart, like them.

A lecture on the travels and letters of Paul is the source for this information. Because of those enduring roads and reliable ships, Paul was able to travel throughout the Roman Empire, converting anyone open to his preaching. Isn’t it fascinating that the same roads that led to the Emperor’s ability to control the world also enabled his conversion and eventually the fall of Rome?

There is a similar burst of change with the construction of railroads in Britain. Did trains make the Industrial Revolution possible or was it a product of it? Both, I would say. The towns and villages were not as far apart after rail lines were built. Those parallel tracks made the transport of people, goods and services more efficient. But the blast of the train’s whistle also spelled the beginning of the end of a world where ownership of land was the key to wealth. The decline of the aristocracy came next.

What was the next big change on the information highway? Automobiles, electricity, telephones? How did it impact the world?

There can be no doubt that we are in the midst of another major shift in the exchange of information, goods and people. (Surely not the last.) Should we pay more attention to the impact of Roman roads and British trains on the power class that enabled them? Could it already be too late?

3 Comments:

Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

We think of it more as an information grid or matrix, don't we, nowadays. Perhaps most popularly represented by the film "The Matrix," but to me always and forever defined by the 80s classic cyberpunk novel, William Gibson's Neuromance, that invented the word "cyberspace":

.Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, ... A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding ...

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