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Movement away from handwritten letters not progress

July 19, 2011
By David Hawker

There are several vertebrates that can be instructed to recognize symbols on buttons and levers and whack them, usually for a food reward.

The gray parrot, crows, dolphins, chimps and even octopi, among the few animals with enough intelligence to recognize simple symbols, cannot, however, hold a simple pen or pencil in claw, beak, tentacle or flipper to create specific letters or numbers on paper, canvas or rock. This ability is wholly ours as human beings.

Now, for the first time since written language was invented in the Middle East thousands of years ago, we are relinquishing that skill that sets us apart from the above mentioned animals and ourselves becoming nothing more than symbol-recognizing button-whackers.

All, save one of my out-of-state friends, have more or less abandoned me because I do not have email. I write hand written letters. Most of my recent past letters to these email-only friends are like Voyager missions into deep space — never knowing for sure if any intelligent life ever receives these sad, lost ideas, hopes, shared dreams. A few generations on and, whack!

I don’t think that all this is progress, really.

David Hawker,



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