This Canadian intellectual was one of the founders of contemporary media studies. In 1962, he predicted the emergence of a “global village”, in which data could be rapidly exchanged and modified. Quite simply, a description of the modern functioning of the internet, twenty years before it came into being.
A professor of English literature and a theorist in communication, Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) predicted a future in which flying cars, a life expectancy of around 150 and cities based on the moon would be the norm. We’re not there yet, but this visionary had also predicted a new type of media that we now recognise as the modern day internet.
In 1962, Marshall McLuhan published a work called The Gutenberg Galaxy, in which he explained that humanity had gone through four “ages” -oral, written, printing and electronic. In describing the electronic age, he predicted the concept of a “global village” in which information would be readily available to everyone and anyone at any given time.
It should be remembered that in the 1960s, information technology was only at its early beginnings, but McLuhan could already visualise a domestic computer at the heart of this global village. He predicted that it would be necessary to improve ways to recover, modify, centralise and access data before this stage could be reached.
McLuhan, among others, explained that the television could be used at the heart of such a global village and could lead to the development of a new type of media, which could serve as nan “extension of individual consciousness, branching into the private sphere”. He was also the first person to have used the now widely used term “to surf”, referring to such a network.
In a second work called Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1968), Marshall McLuhan supposed that new technologies would have an immense effect on civilisation and could lead to what is nowadays one of the major problems of the internet: the neutrality of the web. The intellectual predicted that corporatism of the global village could eradicate the free press, and could affect certain individual liberties.
Perhaps ironically, Marshall McLuhan died in 1980, just three years before the emergence of the internet as we know it today, with the use of the TCP/IP protocol.