Taken from The Shallows by Nicolas Carr:

“Early in the 4th century BC, when the practice of writing was still novel and controversial in Greece, Plato wrote Phaedrus, his dialogue about love, beauty, and rhetoric.  In the tale, the title character, a citizen of Athens, takes a walk with the great orator Socrates into the countryside, where the two friends sit under a tree beside a stream and have a long and circuitous conversation.  They discuss the finer points of speech making, the nature of desire, the varieties of madness, and the journey of the immortal soul, before turning their attention to the written word.  “There remains the question,2 muses Socrates, “of propriety and impropriety in writing.” Phaedrus agrees, and Socrates launches into a story about a meeting between the multi-talented Egyptian god Theuth, whose many inventions included the alphabet, and one of the kings of Egypt, Thamus.

Theuth describes the art of writing to Thamus and argues that the Egyptians should be allowed to share in its blessings.  It will, he says, “make the people of Egypt wiser and improve their memories, ” for it “provides a recipe for memory and wisdom.”  Thamus disagrees.  He reminds the god that an inventor is not the most reliable judge of the value of his invention: “O man full of arts, to one is it given to create the things of art, and to another to judge what measure of harm and of profit they have for those that shall employ them.  And so it is that you, by reason of the tender regard for the writing that is your offspring, have declared the very opposite of its true effect.” Should the Egyptians learn to write, Thamus goes on, “it will implant forgetfulness in their souls: they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks.”  the written word is, “a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance.” Those who rely on reading for their knowledge will “seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing.”  They will be, “filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom.”  [emphasis added] pp54

Sounds like power and politics to me!

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