The Fifth Language: Learning a Living in the Computer Age. Robert Logan. Stoddart Publishing.

The Fifth Language: Learning a Living in the Computer Age Book Cover The Fifth Language: Learning a Living in the Computer Age
Robert Logan
Stoddart Publishing
August 1996

In the course of history we have mastered four languages – speech, writing, mathematics, and science – but today we are in the awkward stages of learning a fifth: computing. Computer technology – which like any technology is an extension of the human psyche – is changing the way we think and communicate. The problem is, we’re not learning this new language properly, because our schools and jobs are based on a nineteenth-century industrial model.

The Fifth Language sets out to resolve this mismatch.

Robert Logan begins with the ideas of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan to show how computing as a new language evolved from the first four languages. He examines what happens to a society when its technology evolves faster than the institutions that use it.

Logan’s book is a history of language and ideas, showing how changes in oral and literary development have shaped previous civilizations. And in our own, he looks at how being digital changes our very notions of what we mean by communication, information processing, language, learning, education, and work.

The Fifth Language is a brilliant plan of action for learning a living in the twenty-first century.

Robert K. Logan, PhD, is also the author of The Alphabet Effect. He teaches physics and communications theory at the University of Toronto and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Logan earned his doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has also taught at the University of Illinois, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and York University. He lives in Toronto.