When the rulers of western Europe arrived at the court of the 10th century Byzantine emperors, they left in awe.
Magic or just beyond comprehension
Their route to the emperors led them past a brass tree filled with metal birds which sang. They edged their way gingerly beside mechanical lions whose tails moved from side to side. And when they arrived before the emperor himself, he sat on a throne that appeared to rise and descend as the audience progressed.
The westerners came from countries that had not seen hot, running water since the end of the Roman Empire. Five centuries of distruction and poverty meant that there was no living memory of the comforts or technology that an earlier civilisation had achieved.
The Eastern emperors, meanwhile, lived in a society that had survived largely intact since the end of Rome. They lived in ancient palaces, built by the Romans centuries earlier, where the technology still functioned.
To the westerners, the technology was little more than magic. But the reality was that the Byzantine emperors had no idea how the apparently magical trees, animals or thrones had been built. That had long been forgotten. They only knew how to operate what they had inherited.
So what is the link between social media and the Byzantine Empire?
I think of this story a lot at the moment.
As great waves of people begin to use social media, they will achieve awesome feats, not because they build, maintain or even understand it, but because they know how to operate it.
And we early adopters will need to work out what we will do then.
Photo credit: Larry & Flo