Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind: serialised in quotes X: how scripts changed humans

The most important impact of script on human history is precisely this: it has gradually changed the way humans think and view the world. Free association and holistic thought have given way to compartmentalisation and bureaucracy.

A critical step was made sometimes before the 9th century AD, when a new partial script was invented, one that could store and process mathematical data with unprecedented efficiency. The partial script was composed of 10 signs, representing the numbers from 0 to 9.

Experts do their best to translate even ideas such as poverty, happiness, and honesty into numbers (the poverty line, subjective wellbeing levels, credit rating). Entire fields of knowledge, such as physics and engineering, have already lost almost all touch with spoken human language, and are maintained solely by mathematical script.

More recently mathematical script has given rise to an even more revolutionary writing system, computerised binary script consisting of only two signs: 0 and 1. The words I am now typing on my keyboard are written within my computer with different combinations of 0 and 1.

Writing was born as the maidservant of human consciousness, but is increasingly becoming its master.


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