Of all the skills that futurists predicted would become valuable in the era of constant communication, I don’t think anybody saw “conversational multithreading” coming.

No, I don’t mean holding multiple conversations with different people at the same time. I mean holding two or more completely separate conversations with the same person, via the same medium, at the same time.

Like when you’re texting, and the person on the other end asks you a question, then mentally eight-tracks and asks a different, unrelated question before you’ve finished keying in your response to the first one. So you answer the first question, and a conversation based on that answer ensues; then you answer the second question, and a totally different conversation based on that answer ensues, and now you’re having two separate conversations with the same person at the same time, and have to keep track of which responses pertain to which conversation purely from context.

Sometimes I wonder what the generational cutoff for that seeming unusual is - I didn’t pick up the skill until I was like thirty, so there’s always that undercurrent of generational novelty there.

I suspect a lot of the romaniticisation of past cultures springs from a basic misunderstanding of how laws and mores actually work.

Like, people look at a society and say: “See, this practice had laws against it with extremely harsh punishments, and the oral tradition is full of examples of people engaging in it meeting bad ends. That must mean that folks strongly disapproved of it and it rarely ever happened!”

Trouble is, that’s very often reading the evidence precisely backwards. When laws and stories remonstrating against nonexistent practices spring up, it’s usually out of prejudice toward some identifiable oppressed group that allegedly engages in those practices. Failing that, it’s typically the case that:

a. If there are laws against it, that means it was happening; and

b. If examples of people getting their asses kicked for doing it keep turning up in fiction and folklore, that probably means it was happening a lot.

There are a couple of big reasons why this is the case.

Firstly, performative outrage at practices that are in fact quietly tolerated is by no means a modern invention.

Secondly, with respect to the oral tradition in particular, you’ve gotta look at exactly who is telling these stories. As an obvious example, the greater part of the corpus of European fairy tales that we know today is derived from a body of oral tradition passed on primarily by and among working-class women (which makes all the classist, misogynistic bullshit the Grimm brothers inserted in their anthologies doubly grotesque); the fact that it’s full of examples of wealthy men getting their asses kicked for failing to respect women does not suggest that the originating cultures were egalitarian utopias. Indeed, in context it suggests rather the opposite!