A week ago I spent an enjoyable Sunday evening and Monday at the Printing and e-Publishing conference (PePcon) in San Francisco, where I made a one-hour presentation to 100 or so attentive listeners, met long-time readers (I love you!), made new friends and reconnected with old ones from the earliest days of desktop publishing. Wonderful people, all. Gracious hosts (thank you David and Anne-Marie), excellent accommodations, delicious food, fun time.
At day’s end I got visiting with Valerie Brewster, a veteran book designer and self-described dinosaur, about the decline of paper books, fine typography, and the loss of practitioners, who, with the rise of ebooks, glass pages, and our fantastically evolving technology, have jumped ship, often late in their careers, to other fields (which, paradoxically, has opened up more work for her). I commiserated with her on the displacement and difficulty of this: You spend a career mastering a craft, over decades becoming so deep, so knowing, so capable, that you are now the wise old man or woman to whom even teachers of teachers come for guidance. And then the craft vanishes, leaving what?
After hardly a moment’s reflection, Valerie said (I paraphrase), “That’s what’s going missing! We’re not making masters. The changes are coming so fast that everyone is always beginning.”
Which I hadn’t thought about in that way, but which is so perceptive.
No masters. Skills, entire professions, especially in tech, now run a 100-year life cycle in a decade or less. No one gains the wisdom of years. That’s the void I’ve felt but couldn’t articulate.