Thinking is overrated
Q: We've got Blackberries. And iPhones and Droids and notebook computers and Google. They help make us more successful! Don't they?? The new book "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains" says the Internet impairs our ability to think long and hard. Do you agree? And if so, does the added productivity justify a little Internet-inspired attention-deficit disorder?
Technology is always reducing our ability to do manually what we can now do with the latest contraption. (Note: People who use the word contraption statistically do not adapt well to new technologies.)
The minute we invented the printing press, the quality of handwritten documents for the average person was headed downhill. It's a natural part of what I like to call perceived evolution: We abandon one way of doing things for what we believe is a better way and then we end up more efficient but with less understanding of how things work at a basic level. Then we lose the people and/or machines along the way and no longer have the means to continue on the advanced path.
Someday, when they look back in history, they'll just decide that ancient astronauts must have helped us build the mechanical computers we found from the time of Jesus or the complex Mayan calendar. It's interesting that we have no problem believing in God and extraterrestrials but can't accept that our latest idea may not be our best one. We don't like the idea that a guy wearing ancient underwear and a scary serpent headdress might have figured out some stuff we still struggle with today.
Three inspirations drive new technology: Laziness, efficiency and fear. We got tired of walking so we decided to ride on the backs of animals; we got tired of stepping in horse crap so we invented the car. We were afraid of losing a battle so we invented weapons so we could kill them better than they could kill us. We were afraid of the financial drain of war so we found a way to make war more profitable.
However, it's possible that a thousand years from now, automobiles and war for profit may be the worst ideas that anyone has ever conceived ... although I'm sure that Ronco's Inside-the-Egg Scrambler will confuse future archeologists forever.
Do we become dumber as our technology becomes more advanced? Well, how is your spelling since they invented spel chek? It's possible that being able to Google first and think second may cause us to believe that thinking is overrated. Could learning by expanding our thinking be something that we feel we don't need anymore? These are big questions we've asked ourselves before, but through the years we've forgotten the answers we discovered. Unfortunately, history is written by those who had a motive to write it, not by people who wanted us to remember that we are only human and have made all the mistakes that prove it.
Personally, I think it's the natural cycle of civilization. We learn, we forget, we learn again, we forget again. It's like your pot-smoking friend from college who was always surprised by things that you knew he had previous knowledge of. "Dude ... how can they possibly get jalapeño flavor into a Doritos chip?"
It seems the only way to consider a civilization to be advanced is to lose the technology along the way so we can look back and be amazed at ourselves. After all, it may be our self-centeredness and vanity that keeps the human race looking good when our forgotten cultures are rediscovered. That's why you never hear of someone digging up a bunch of artifacts and saying, "Based on our findings, we have determined that these people were idiots!"
Posted by: gannon_dick | July 21, 2010 4:19 PM
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