Last updateFri, 26 Feb 2021 12pm

End of the written word?

“In five years’ time Facebook will be definitely mobile, it will be probably be all video,’” said Nicola Mendelsohn, an executive at Facebook, at a conference in London this past September. Mendelsohn went further, suggesting that statistics have shown the written word becoming all but obsolete, replaced by still and moving images and speech. 

In short, written language will take a hit, much the way cursive writing has. Naturally, that means no one will need to read anymore, just look and listen.  Newspapers like this one will still be around. Unless and until we go to a website version with talking heads on videos. But then what are the English going to wrap their fish and chips in?  There is some good news, however. Performance arts will finally become as respectable, practical and in-demand as good dentistry. Actors and actresses will actually be working actors and actresses and not wait-staff. The recording business of audio books, including the classics – all of which will be verbal and visual – will increase significantly. Consider package ingredients labels as barcodes that your wrist-speaker will emit verbally, read aloud by Robert De Niro: “Trigo de harina, gum arabic, natural colors, I’m talking to YOU.”

We will finally have erased illiteracy, and in an irrevocable fashion. Ask Siri. It seems quite plausible, given that many even today can’t read cursive writing. 

There will be an end to the wasteful and annoying direct mail letters selling things at exclusive discounts because nobody wants them. Paper mail in fact will slowly die off, as it already takes far too long relative to voice messaging. I believe Mexico has just tried to deliver an old welcome letter sent by Montezuma to Hernán Cortés. TV commercials are already at “show and tell” status, the great communication system we mocked in second grade. Dyslexics can start a Pride Parade. They can count on following international road signs, which are almost language free already. Women’s and Men’s washrooms have already shown us the way with anglefish and devilfish or ballet dancers and bullfighters or just XX and XY. Instead of a wedding and other invitations, a video will be sent to your house with dancing girls singing, “Get me to the church on time.” or “Fight For Your Right to Party.” You will RSVP by WhatsApp with: ?.  In fact, emojis now are a big business (you have to buy an app to use them), so that these little ping pong ball heads are a new alphabet, replacing lettering. It’s a throwback to cave painting, which, granted, never got into much intellectual depth, but said all that was needed to be said, “Saw big bison herd today.” “I can draw fish.” “Here’s my handprint.” These were the first emojis and memes. Alphabet will be used exclusively by the five letters in Bingo, and to make acronyms for cute, short Twitter responses: LOL, BTW, NSFW, OMG and on and on. Yes, we’ve come down to a new threshold, a short-cut filled with codes and memes and icons that make reading a fun game – this after all the money I spent on speed-reading courses.