Gutenberg’s technology was like an undersea earthquake. No-one felt much at first, but it created a tsunami of change that swept the planet.
The Renaissance would not have happened without it. The power of an autocratic church was broken, and science and technology accelerated, largely because it became possible to question dogma.
It also spawned the Age of Enlightenment, in which thinkers questioned the wealth of nations and how they were governed.
On St. Valentine’s Day, 1776, one of those thinkers, Thomas Paine, said:
“We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now.The birthday of a new world is at hand.”
The group of thinkers and politicians to which Paine belonged then asked the obvious question: “If we have the chance to build a new world, what kind of world do we want to create?”
A few months later, they signed the Declaration of Independence, a document with lofty goals which are still not fully realized more than 200 years later, but served as a beacon for the development of democracy.
The world is being re-created again today by the Internet. We’re really just at the beginning of what historians writing 500 years from now will call The Digital Renaissance, and the words of Thomas Paine are as valid today as they were in 1776.
So, what kind of world do we want to create?
I updated the Declaration of Independence for the Age of the Web. I think this is the kind of world we want. It won’t be achieved tomorrow; it may take 50, 100 or even 200 years. It raises lots of questions, like how do people in less-developed countries get access?
But I think it’s a goal towards which we should all strive.
The Digital Declaration of Independence:
We hold this truth to be self-evident: That every human has an equal and unalienable right to the means to create, distribute and consume information to realize their full potential for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – regardless of the country they live in, their gender, beliefs, racial origin, language or any impairments they may have.