Toward the end of his life, Marshall McLuhan provided a list of the ten things that have changed us the most.
Perhaps the biggest difference between childhood and adulthood is time. The adult frantically looks for more time. The child looks for ways to fill time.
I filled a lot of my childhood time with reading all sorts of stuff: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, baseball statistics, Mad Magazine.
And reference books. I loved reference books: atlases of the world,the statistical abstract of the United States, and encyclopedia entries.
After my mom died last year, I had to clean out my childhood home. In the process, I stumbled upon one of my favorite quirky reference books: The Book of Lists.
This 1970s sensation sold nearly ten million copies. It was, well, a book of lists. That’s it.
A lot of the lists were factual, but some of the lists were mere opinions by celebrities or experts in a particular field.
While reminiscing with it, I came across this opinion list by an expert in his field: Marshall McLuhan’s Ten Most Potent Extensions of Man.
The Catholic convert and weekday communicant Marshall McLuhan was a household name in the 1960s. He was interviewed by numerous outlets, including The Today Show and Playboy. He even made a cameo appearance as himself in a Woody Allen film.
His central theory is that human modes of thinking are altered by media. Media are “extensions” of ourselves, things that add themselves to what we already are. When we start to use a particular extension, it changes us in some way. It changes a person individually; it changes culture as a whole.
Some extensions have minor effects. Some have major effects.
And there are ten, according to that McLuhan list, that have … Read the rest