Vital Signs

Digitize Me: For Your Disinformation

Digitomania is the compulsion to digitize all human activity.  Its compulsive nature is betrayed by the casual, thoughtless manner in which we are casting ourselves down the slippery cyberslope, “acknowledging” the “perils” yet completely unwilling and unable to pull ourselves back.

Digitomania gaily mirrors 17th-century Europe’s “tulipomania.”  That classic bubble is described with wicked humor in Charles Mackay’s compendium Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds; few books have traced the manias of man so delightfully as this one, written more than 150 years ago.  Of the tulip craze, Mackay wrote:

People of all grades converted their property into cash, and invested it in [tulips]. . . . One would suppose that there must have been some great virtue in this flower to have made it so valuable in the eyes of so prudent a people as the Dutch; but it had neither the beauty nor the perfume of the rose—hardly the beauty of the “sweet, sweet-pea”: neither was it as enduring as either.

 

At last, however, the more prudent began to see that this folly could not last forever.  Rich people no longer bought the flowers to keep them in their gardens, but to sell them again at cent per cent profit.  It was seen that somebody must lose fearfully in the end.  As this conviction...

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