The entire internet is making us dumber.
That’s a meme is making its way around the internet. Its partially true, in that the meme itself will make you dumber. The internet, on the other hand, will not.
Via Bill Keller of the NYT, the latest version of parents hating their kids music is this rather simplistic take on technology. Keller’s column, The Twitter Trap, should have been titled “As Dumb Or Lazy As You Choose to Be” (except that scored too poorly with the SEO consultants). I wanted to avoid discussing The Twitter Trap until pal Doug Kass mentioned it in his column today.
No, we are not outsourcing our brains to the cloud. That’s the rosy glow of nostalgia, which is so powerful it can make even horrid little things like slide rules seem attractive in retrospect.
So let’s cut to the chase: Anyone can take any technology and abuse it to the point of foolishness. If you rely on anecdotes involving your own kid, you can find proof of anything.
Consider the following:
• Gutenberg’s Printing Press threatened existing political power structures and religious authorities; That was why it was scandalous. Not because we no longer had to rely on memorizing huge amounts of information. (Apparently, a massive increase in literacy and bringing books to the masses is to be ignored);
• What do I lose now by not having to waste vast amounts of time with empty, brainless, non-thinking, learn-by-rote memorization? I now have time to spend on critical thinking and analytical reasoning. Who believes that was a bad trade off?
• No more Slide Rules? You mean ANYONE can now use a calculator to do math (instead of only a select few?)
• And did the Pocket Calculator really “reduce a generation’s math skills?” I thought Calculators meant that fast, accurate, reliable mathematics were available to everyone.
• Wasn’t Recorded Music going to kill live music . . . ?
• “The Typewriter killed penmanship.” Sure it did — but it allowed for legible words to be put on paper quickly;
• Has Television “muffled creativity, discourse and interaction?” I thought TV brought entertainment to millions of people at affordable prices. It democratized entertainment versus theater and film.
• Does having a GPS really impair our sense of direction — or does it helps millions of people get to their destination, allow visitors to go where they might not otherwise attempt, and allow delivery people to find where they are going safely?
• Who really believes “Texting diminished our language skills and our vocabulary?” I find Texting teaches brevity and focus.
• Are our Memory Capacities actually being weakened by Google? I have enough memory to 1) ask for empirical evidence of that; 2) Remind you that Google has allowed us to access and learn far more than we might have forgotten;
• Does the “ephemeral nature of Social Media, like Facebook and Twitter, creates stunted relationships and has damaged our attention span?” I now that Facebook creates “ephemeral” relationships with people I would otherwise have had no relationship with. Is that preferable?
And so on.
It seems every new technology that has ever been developed has come with wildly over-hyped, madly inaccurate forecasts by the prior generation.
In a bizarre way, the internet is the ideal technology for Luddites to ironically spread their anti-technology messages. That is because it is a tool — a way to interact, access and share information, opinions, even foolish memes. Like any other tool, it can be misused or abused by some.
And each aging generation fails to “get” the technology of the generations that follow, finding excuses for why the new thing will destroy our brains. Only they never have.
Hey, you kids, get off my lawn . . . !