How Zuckerberg’s Facebook is like Gutenberg’s printing press

Historian Niall Ferguson notes that Silicon Valley is not that interested in history, which is one reason why technological gurus keep making the same mistakes. Technology that decentralizes power brings its own problems. According to Ferguson: “The idea that witches live amongst us and should be burned went as viral as anything that Martin Luther said … Indeed, it turned out that witch burning was more likely to happen in places where there were more printing presses.”

Like the Web, the use of these presses was difficult to centrally control. “At the beginning of the Reformation 501 years ago, Martin Luther thought naively that if everybody could read the Bible in the vernacular, they’d have a direct relationship with God, it would create ‘the priesthood of all believers’ and everything would be awesome,” Ferguson said. | “We’ve said the same things about the Internet,” he added. “We think that’s obviously a good idea. Except it’s not obviously a good idea, any more than it was in the 16th century. Because what the Europeans had was not ‘the priesthood of all believers.’ They had 130 years of escalating religious conflict, culminating in the Thirty Years War — one of the most destructive conflicts ever.”

Washington Post

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