34 Law & Contemp. Probs. 244 (1969)
On the Impact of the New Communications Media Upon Social Values; Baran, Paul

handle is hein.journals/lcp34 and id is 250 raw text is: ON THE IMPACT OF THE NEW COMMUNICATIONS
MEDIA UPON SOCIAL VALUES
PAUL BARAN*
INTRODUCTION
The challenge of describing the manner in which new electrical communications
are modifying society and its values resembles the one facing an ant approaching an
overripe watermelon: it is appetizing but overwhelming. The task is more a career
than a paper. Not having comprehensiveness as a possible choice, we must settle for
consideration of only a few of the directions of change which are being and will
be wrought by electrical communications. To retain perspective on what follows
the reader should remember that the evolving electrical communications technology
is only one factor-though a major one-among many bringing on a markedly
changed society. The all-pervasive nature of the more powerful communications
media is unique, especially when we use the term electrical communications in
a broad sense to include efficient use of computers and the automation of mechanical
systems, both of which would be impossible if it were not for the new communica-
tions technology.
To see better where we may be going, let us assume that the technological develop-
ments in this field which seem theoretically possible today are in fact accomplished in
the future. If we use the future as a vantage point we can speak from a stance which
will permit us a better vision of ourselves as a society. To do otherwise is to be too
close to the phenomenon. We would be like the puzzled ant who, bobbing on a
leaf in a storm, wonders what is happening to his world.' We seek to learn where
our leaf is falling--or at least to learn the nature, magnitude, and direction of the
winds of change.
But before we can take this broader view, we should at least attempt to satisfy
our proclivity toward the more narrow-toward identifying specific developments
in communications technology which even today suggest coming changes.
I,
THE CHANGING COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY
Listing such developments is not difficult. Nor would it be difficult to combine
them to produce the outlines of a scenario for change. Six points in particular would
stand out in this scenario:
* Institute for the Future, Middletown, Conn.
'The recurrence of the ant simile may suggest both the author's perspective on his subject and his
apprehensions about our future society.

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