The half-life of culture | Seth’s blog

Jack Benny died when I was 14. He was an early radio and television star, a comedian who is remembered primarily for one line.

The other day a peer said, “Well, if you give me a choice Jack Benny …”

It occurred to me that few people younger than us were ever going to use this reference. It ends with this generation.

YouTube and the Internet have dramatically lengthened the half-life. Instead of TV shows or memes disappearing forever, they just move to the last line of research. But they are still there.

Will Pi Day or Rickrolls be a thing in 44 years?

There has been an explosion of pop culture. I created a book a long time ago: The Encyclopedia of Fictional Characters. Today there would be far too many to fit in a book. It doesn’t make sense to create books about trivia, music, or cultural ephemera because there is just too much stuff inside. But our brains can’t keep track of it all, so we go superficially and forget about the old stuff. Was Paul McCartney in a band before his solo career?

I am not sure that the perfect preservation of culture is possible or even beneficial. It doesn’t matter.

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