Return to the Middle Ages : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

One huge factor that will make the society of year 2000 radically different, for better or worse, from the meltdown year projections of 1250 AD or even 1850 AD is the simple fact that today an overwhelming proportion of the population has fundamental literacy (reading ability). This could make things worse or better, but for one generation at least, it is a radical difference. Historians take note.

On the other hand, you can't eat books... Hey you, yeah - you! Gitcher head outa Anna Karenina and hep me seal this 5 gallon bucket.


-- Runway Cat (, December 16, 1998


I'm not quite sure what you mean by this, RC. I think a "return to the middle ages" would most likely depend on whether or not there are epidemics of infectious diseases. And, I think in a general breakdown of services, that could easily happen. In this society, we are not often exposed to the kinds of diseases that could spread easily, but we also have no idea what to do with our poop other than to flush. Hmmm, those five gallon buckets might come in handy...

-- pshannon (, December 16, 1998.

Working Women in the Middle Ages

By: Mary Czarnecki


The purpose of this site is to take an extensive look at medieval "women" and their role as "workers." What were the roles of these women and what kind of occupations did they have? This site will examine these questions along with many more. This site is broken down into three main sections: Peasant Working Women, Urban Working Women, and Women Involved in Healing and Nursing. These three groups of women have both similar and different characteristics. The following quote illustrates the status of women during this time period. It is crucial to understand their status because it plays a role in every aspect of their lives', especially their occupations...

-- Diane J. Squire (, December 16, 1998.

Well, I only meant that people who speak of a return to an earlier age might be correctly technologically, but they forget that before 1900, the majority of adults were illiterate, and that will not be true in 2000. This simple, easily overlooked attribute will have a big influence on the outcome, and reconstruction.


-- Runway Cat (, December 16, 1998.

Excellent link, Diane- kids drank ale all day and babies were weaned onto wine? Gives an entirely different perspective of daily life back then. Neato. Thank you.

-- Lisa (, December 16, 1998.

Runway Cat - in the US, at least prior to 1900 the general population was quite literate and quite political. If nothing else think about how the idea of independence from England was spread, by the written word. Newspaper articles and essays were very common and were subject of regular widespread discussion. Wasn't until drawings were introduced into print in the late 1800s, that our pure literate society was corrupted. We are now, with our infotainment society, in the later stages of decadant literacy - wherein the definition of literacy is attenuated, and in too many cases have no literacy at all, nor any ability to conduct mature political discussions.

-- Mitchell Barnes (, December 16, 1998.

Mitchell, you are correct. I was afraid somebody would bring up the generally accurate point of our current society's video-driven return to pre-literate orality stage of civilization. And you did.

Oh well, it was an idea.


-- Runway Cat (, December 16, 1998.


so very well said!!!

and thus, the "dumbing-down" for all those years has led to a generation or two who not only 'don't get it', - they 'can't get it', (and thus, won't 'get it') - and by extension, the rationale for the Infomagic and other 10+ scenarios...

as Henry Ford is reputed to have said,

"thinking is a very difficult activity; that's why so few engage in it".

your insight is accurate and appreciated.

Thanks, , Perry Arnett

-- Perry Arnett (, December 16, 1998.

"kids drank ale all day and babies were weaned onto wine? "

Babies were also swaddled and hung on walls. Seriously. Literaly to be seen but not heard.

Michell, the peasants were not literate. The upper classes were. Today, even the lower middle class has access to higher education.

-- Chris (, December 16, 1998.

Mitchell, good point about the effect of drawings on literacy, the picture replaces a thousand words. Then came radio, motion pictures, and tv-watching. Not as much time left for literacy, and the passive let-it-wash-over-me multimedia immersion experience replaces the active reading and thinking process. But the internet could reverse this trend, since computers allow interactive information exchange.

The big and obvious difference between the present and historical situation is the presence of the internet and immediate communication. Virtual presence can reduce dependency on transportation. This has other far-reaching effects, such as live video feed of US missiles coming in and blowing up buildings from a video camera looking out a window in Baghdad. Later, a tour of the injured in the rows of hospital beds.

Anyway technology is not going away just because of y2k, knowledge gets archived and saved to backup. Instead, y2k is like a momentary lapse of reason, and this too shall pass.

Article on the dumbing down of software development:

The Disappearance of Knowledge Into Code
by Ellen Ullman

Ellen compares Linux to NT and writes about the 'dumbing down' effect of wizards and IDE's, etc.

----begin quote----

The Year 2000 problem is an example on a vast scale of knowledge disappearing into code. And the soon-to-fail national air-traffic control system is but one stark instance of how computerized expertise can be lost. In March, the New York Times reported that IBM had told the Federal Aviation Administration that, come the millennium, the existing system would stop functioning reliably. IBM's advice was to completely replace the system because, they said, there was 'no one left who understands the inner workings of the host computer.' No one left who understands. Air-traffic control systems, bookkeeping, drafting, circuit design, spelling, differential equations, assembly lines, ordering systems, network object communications, rocket launchers, atom-bomb silos, electric generators, operating systems, fuel injectors, CAT scans, air conditioners -- an exploding list of subjects, objects and processes rushing into code, which eventually will be left running without anyone left who understands them.
----end quote----

-- Jon (, December 17, 1998.

Chris, you are right about the "access" to "education" but... the stuff that passes for education now should not qualify.

a) See essay on this topic in Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein, or Expanded Universes of RAH.

b) Find a copy of the Federalist Papers or the Anti-Federalist Papers, select ANY ONE of them AT RANDOM. Copy it, and in the first 4 paragraphs, underline or note all of the referenced to Roman and Greek mythology, to the Art World, and to the world of Science of the times.

Consider that almost ANY of the readers of the day would have understood not only the reference (the whole story of the reference, etc.) but the application of the reference to the argument being presented.

HOW MANY of our CURRENT BACALAUREATE (-2 sp)RECIPIENTS (you get to pick the level) can understand those paragraphs and the actual message??

I recently spent a very entertaining two hours generating a serious headache with one of the Federalist Papers, my Bulfinch's, and a VERY re-opened mind.


We may be functionally literate to the point of understanding "Fire Exit" signs and the directions on teh microwave popcorn package but "literate", NOT!! Not by the classic definition.

Why do you think I wish we had a spell chehker?!?! Fingers fly faster than eyes, and proofing is a pain


-- Chuck a night driver (, December 17, 1998.


People are literate in a kind of technical way now, but utterly clueless when it comes to knowing how to live a 1900 lifestyle. In other words, they don't know Boy Scouts kind of basics anymore.

-- Kevin (, December 17, 1998.

Yes people have their specialist skills, how to operate their little "black boxes", eg how to program in COBOL, how to design cable, how to make high vacuum pumps etc. No-one outside of your black box has got a clue what you do (and many inside!). There are black boxes within black boxes. All BBs are specialised and are becoming more and more so.

This is one of the problems with getting a overview of y2k, you probably have a fair idea what may happen in your own black box but not much else.

Specialisation will prevent us from being able to return to a simpler economy.

-- Richard Dale (, December 17, 1998.


I was on the NYC subway on my way to work this morning. Not one person (and it was the tail end of rush-hour crowded) at the station or on the train (other than me) was reading the newspaper. Remember, the President is about to be impeached and we just bombed Iraq. Nobody was interested. I consider this illiteracy. Someone was reading Danielle Steele, another Sports Illustrated. People Magazine and the Star. We are in a war. A terrorist would likely choose NYC as the first or second choice to pull something off. Nobody was interested. I got to work and nobody was interested. These people may be functionally literate, but are in fact socially and historically illiterate.

You know what I'm sayin'...

-- pshannon (, December 17, 1998.

Richard - Many of us are generalists, I know because I am one. It is a generally unappreciated skill set - though once in a while you run into someone who does need a person with a wide range of skills. You make more money as a specialist than you do as a polymath. But I have more fun! And you find generalists in the most unusual positions - Helen Beck (who went to high school with Robert Heinlein) was a polymath - though most people only knew her as the famous fan dancer Sally Rand.

-- Paul Davis (, December 17, 1998.

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