Movable type: the www of the 16th Century

The effect of the invention of movable type on the Christian Church in the 16th Century (which put Bibles in the hands of everyone who could read) was an eerie precursor to the effect of the world wide web on the creative professions (or is it ALL professions) in the 21st Century. In both instances a technological change created a new and direct link between “the people” and “the creator.”

The Church tried to put the genie back into the bottle, even resorting to torture and murder, only to fail and add fuel to the fires of reformation and nationalism. If we as creatives focus on protecting our “orthodoxy” and our “sacred texts” we will lose sight of the ultimate goal… creativity. In this regard, I wonder if attempting to maintain the legal wall around intellectual property is going to be a futile and ultimately unsuccessful effort? Just like those who will misappropriate intellectual property today, there were charlatans and frauds then who took advantage of the “new knowledge” 500 years ago and defrauded many to enrich themselves. Yet one result was the Renaissance, and a flowering of creativity and eventually a new spirituality.

There are also troubling parallels between the attempts of professional associations and even licensing boards to protect the purity of their professions in the name of safeguarding the health, safety and welfare of the public and the behavior of the ultimate professional association, the medieval church.

If we cower in the corner and wait for our associations, our regulatory boards and, god forbid our clients to take care of us, much less save us, we are doomed. The break-out leaders that emerge in the world of architecture over the next 10-20 years are going to be creating in ways that haven’t even been imagined; doing good and important work that truly improves the lives of far more people than are currently touched by architects.  These pathfinders aren’t waiting for their clients in any way shape or form. They are leading them.