Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

The Red Queen

One of my favorite books of all-time is THE RED QUEEN, by Matt Ridly. In it, he compares evolved traits to the colorful character from Lewis Carrol’s THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. Competitive alleles, by co-evolving, “run in place” with one another. They exert a ton of energy with no objective benefit, just a relative stasis. Stephen Jay Gould once explored the same scenario in a speech I was fortunate enough to attend. He compared the process to baseball (one of his personal passions), and how runners and throws simultaneously get stronger and faster, which continues to deliver double-play balls to first a split-second before the foot hits the bag.

I’ve been thinking about this process recently as I work to publish my first book. Computers and the Internet they’re hooked to have a similar interplay. The analysis began as I considered what authoring a book must’ve been like hundreds of years ago. Writing everything long-hand, performing edits with a pen, keeping pages ordered, blotting ink, making fourth and fifth drafts… the task seems herculean. And yet… it was done. And with almost the same rapidity as today’s writing.

How is it that Word, hard drives and email can’t increase the speed of the process, or raise the quality? I think it’s the Internet that runs in place beside them, keeping pace like the Red Queen. For every benefit, there’s a distraction. For every tool, a time-suck. I have a writing friend that couldn’t break away from FaceBook long enough to pen his sequel. His agent staged an intervention to get him back on track. And there’s a whole host of distractions that are mandated: blogging, Tweeting, networking, YouTube etc..

The processing power of these tools keeps increasing, which means they can do more and more for us, which means we must do more and more for ourselves, which requires more processing power…

Which reminds me: I need to get back to editing my book. I’m going to leave the typos intact, hopefully future programs will fix them for me, freeing up more time for… something else.

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