The half-life of culture

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

The other day, a peer said, “well, if you’re giving me a Jack Benny choice…”

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

YouTube and the net have extended the half-life, dramatically. Instead of TV shows or memes disappearing forever, they simply move to the back row of search. But they’re still there.

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

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

I’m not sure the perfect preservation of culture is possible or even beneficial. It marches on, regardless.