Only a day before legendary film critic Roger Ebert passed away, he tweeted a final farewell at the Chicago-Sun Times, promising to pioneer new digital projects, in addition to a hefty schedule of movie reviews. At the ripe age of 70 and the cheery survivor of salivary cancer that left him him without a jaw or voice, Ebert proved that neither age nor disease could stand in the way of a pioneering mind.
After cancer stole Ebert’s powers of speech, he turned to Twitter, becoming an instant sensation. “But there’s something seductive about it: The stream, the flow, the chatter, the sudden bursts of news, the snark, the gossip, time itself tweet-tweet-tweeting away,” he wrote for the Times.
As of less than a month ago, his movie whit was still sharp as ever.
He even braved the stage at TED, giving a speech entirely read by Apple’s monotone voice app, and the help of his close confidants. “People who need a voice should know that most computers already come with built-in speaking systems,” he said. ” I’ve got to say, in first grade, they said I talked too much, and now I still can.”
His optimism for technology is worth quoting at length:
All of this has happened in the blink of an eye. It is unimaginable what will happen next. It makes me incredibly fortunate to live at this moment in history. Indeed, I am lucky to live in history at all, because without intelligence and memory there is no history. For billions of years, the universe evolved completely without notice. Now we live in the age of the Internet, which seems to be creating a form of global consciousness. And because of it, I can communicate as well as I ever could. We are born into a box of time and space. We use words and communication to break out of it and to reach out to others.
For me, the Internet began as a useful tool and now has become something I rely on for my actual daily existence. I cannot speak; I can only type so fast. Computer voices are sometimes not very sophisticated, but with my computer, I can communicate more widelythan ever before. I feel as if my blog, my email, Twitter and Facebook have given me a substitute for everyday conversation. They aren’t an improvement, but they’re the best I can do. They give me a way to speak. Not everybody has the patience of my wife, Chaz.
But online, everybody speaks at the same speed.
Ebert received an immediate outpouring of support from every imaginable outlet and personality, with links to past gems
Ebert was brilliant and inspiring to his last days. A lesson for us all. His last words, written for the Times: “So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies”