A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

For your I-N-F-O-R-M-A-T-I-O-N

Marshall McLuhan (August 4, 1963, age 52). What is number 1?

I don’t know why people find it so hard to get.  In the electronic age in which we live the number 1 industry is the information industry.  In the machine age the number I industry was physical goods – pig iron, cotton yarn and cloth, and wheat.  Today the university is where it’s at.  GM is on the skids.  AT&T is the place to be.  The big boys are in the business of packaging, transporting, and consuming information.

“Corinne,” I said last night at dinner, “do you realize what business we are in?”

“Marshall,” she said, “if you don’t stop talking and start eating, your dinner will be ice cold.”

“Man, my dear, does not live on bread alone.  In fact we are living on it less and less with every passing year.”

“Marshall!”

Me (February 2010, age 57).  Would you believe ¼ of GDP is information?

That’s the number Professor Deirdre – then Donald – McCloskey came up with when she and Arjo Klamer measured the contribution of “persuasion” to the total production of goods and services in the U.S. economy.  (See their paper “One Quarter of GDP is Persuasion,” in the American Economic Review, May 1995.)

Too often, readers of Marshall McLuhan make the mistake of believing that he exaggerates.  That what he says is not meant to be understood literally.  That it is said for effect.  There is, I believe, more truth than meets the eye in McLuhan’s teaching.

What business are you in?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p.290.

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Michael Hinton Friday, February 26th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

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