Tag Archives: Paul Valéry

satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort

In 1928, the poet Paul Valéry had a vision of the future: “Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign.”

I copied this quote into my notebook five years ago, and it knocks me over each time I come across it. Today we can let the entire world—and everyone’s opinions about it—into our heads with a swipe or a click. Of course we’re going to feel a little crazy. Sometimes my mind lands on a jittery thought: screens have become our reality and the physical world simply exists to serve their needs. It’s more of a loopy sensation than a coherent idea, but I clearly need to step up my information hygiene.

Quoting a quote of a note of a quote… partly because that Valery riff is a killer bit of Wells/Verne-era infrastructural futurism that has turned out to have a sting in the tail, but also for the sake of testing Quotebacks, a Chrome extension (Firefox version in the pipeline, apparently) for making and managing aesthetically pretty web citations for blogging purposes, as recommended by Uncle Warren. I’d have paid good money for a tool like this back in the Noughties, and here it is for free! Recommended.