The Vanishing World-Machine
Stephen L. Talbott
This chapter is part of a work
in progress and is subject to continual revision. Date of last revision:
October 30, 2003. The chapter was originally published in NetFuture
#151. Copyright 2003 The Nature Institute. All rights
reserved. You may freely redistribute this chapter for
noncommercial purposes only.
During the Renaissance and scientific revolution so the conventional
story runs our ancestors began for the first time to see the world.
For inquirers such as Alberti, Columbus, Da Vinci, Gilbert, Galileo, and
Newton it was as if a veil had fallen away. Instead of seeking wisdom
in a spiritual realm or in appeals to authority or in the complex mazes
of medieval ratiocination, the great figures at the dawn of the modern
era chose to look at the world for themselves and record its testimony.
It was an exhilarating time, when the world stood fresh and open before
them, ripe for discovery. And they quickly discovered that certain questions
could be answered in a satisfyingly precise, demonstrable, and incontestable
way. They lost interest in asking how many angels can dance on the head