Linearity Versus Hyperlinking

Before Gutenberg abolished illiteracy with cheap linear codes for thoughts, people could recite oral histories in different verse orders or study stained glass windows and statues in any order. After Gutenberg we learned the first page before the second, courses proceeded from front cover to back, and you didn't spoil the mystery by peeking at the last page.

Henry Ford developed the mindless linear assembly line. The chassis was built first, then the axles were applied before the wheels went on. Workers from different countries, speaking different languages, could be minimally trained to perform a single mindless function, such as adding the left rear wheel. No communication was needed, and all the cars were identical, black, with interchangeable parts—not the perfectly fitted, hand-crafted parts of a skilled artisan, but inexpensively standardized modules linearly assembled.

Linearity was embellished during World War II by multiple assembly lines making an airplane or submarine with product streams, each from its own assembly line, arriving in proper order. Today we have refined this to just-in-time resourcing, but the linear thinking hasn't changed—in fact, it has spawned the mathematical/management discipline of linear programming.

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