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A postliterate society is a hypothetical society wherein multimedia technology has advanced to the point where literacy, the ability to read written words, is no longer necessary. This term appeared as early as 1962 in Marshall McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy. Many advanced science-fiction societies are postliterate, for example in Dan Simmons' 2003 novel Ilium, and François Truffaut's film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451.
Postliterate is markedly different from preliterate. A preliterate society has not yet discovered how to read and write; a postliterate society has replaced the written word with an electronic oral culture, or some other means of communication. All information is either transmitted via sound or some other, more complex means. Postliteracy is sometimes considered a sign that a society is approaching the technological singularity.
In a postliterate society people can read words, but choose not to. They generally receive information in a visual form instead of a verbal form.
- The Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshall McLuhan, University of Toronto Press, 1962
- summary of Gutenberg Galaxy by Marshall Mcluhan