The Perils of “Instant” Communication

NOTE: The Growth Economics Blog has moved sites. Click here to find this post at the new site.

The Atlantic has a short piece about people’s horrified response to the demonic speed of the….telegraph. Classic “Get off my lawn” response to technological innovation. From the New York Times, 1858

So far as the influence of the newspaper upon the mind and morals of the people is concerned, there can be no rational doubt that the telegraph has caused vast injury. Superficial, sudden, unsifted, too fast for the truth, must be all telegraphic intelligence. Does it not render the popular mind too fast for the truth? Ten days bring us the mails from Europe. What need is there for the scraps of news in ten minutes? How trivial and paltry is the telegraphic column? It snowed here, it rained there, one man killed, another hanged. Even the Washington letter has deteriorated since the innovation, and I can conscientiously recommend my own epistles prior to 1844, in preference to those of later years.

That last line is also a great example of spurious correlation. Of course it had to be the telegraph that caused the writers letters to deteriorate over time.

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