Perennial Complaints About Decline

Bret Stephens opens his Nov. 17 column, “Plato Foresaw the Folly of Facebook,” with the parable about the pharaoh Thamus rebuffing the god Theuth’s invention of written words because they “‘give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth.’” It is a story from Plato’s “Phaedrus,” attributed to Socrates.

“Welcome to Facebook,” Mr. Stephens writes, suggesting that Thamus’s stance is the correct one.

But I’ve always taken a different interpretation of the tale.
This ancient dialogue merely illustrates that people have been carping on since time-out-of-time that this new technology or that one is going to ruin everything, and the youth are going to be corrupted by it and become deficient, lazy and stupid — especially compared with the peerless and singular virtues of the generation doing the carping — and the whole world is going to go to hell in a handbasket.
- John Z. Walthall, Scottsville, N.Y., Letter to the Editor, Tapping the Ancients for Tech Wisdom, NYT, Nov. 23, 2018

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