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Dumbing It Down

Chris Farmer RSS / 04.04.2012. u 11:30

I wonder if I know less today that the things which I have forgotten.

I used to remember phone numbers. I also remembered birthdays, street addresses, spelling, and peoples' names (although I was NEVER very good at that). Now I no longer need to remember. My phone holds ALL the phone numbers to which I have ever been exposed. It remembers for me. Street addresses are not nearly as relevant as email addresses - and email addresses are on their way to being completely supplanted by IM, Facebook, or chat identities.

Predictive spelling is pernicious and ubiquitous. I have to dig up the most arcane of vocabularies to be able to stump it. It completes my thoughts - not just my words - on the phone. Google is constantly asking me, "Did you mean..." and letting me know that Google understands my needs and desires better than I do.

And my thoughts! It occurs to me that my thoughts used to occur in full sentences and paragraphs, complete with punctuation, and that they used to formulate developed ideas or arguments. Today, my thoughts have been boiled down, condensed, and shriveled into bite-sized Status Updates. If I string enough of them together and throw in a few linking words (notwithstanding, however, although, and this-having-been-said), I may arrive at a paragraph of seemingly coherent non-random sentences.

This is not the ranting of a Grumpy Old Man against technology. No, rather it is an observation that I used to remember things that have by now been wiped clean from my cerebral cortex. Is it a BAD thing that I do not have to remember phone numbers? Not necessarily. In fact, although I used to remember a lot of numbers, there is no way that I could ever have hoped to know the thousands of names and numbers which populate my Outlook contacts.

This is Progress (capital P employed against the wishes of Windows spellchecking). We could say that Progress has allowed my memory to be expanded through technology. But we could just as easily say that Progress has actually replaced that same memory and left nothing in particular in its place. Progress and Technology (capital T, ditto) have not told me how I should use the extra space in my memory - it just provides the room.

More and more I notice that, in trying to remember a particular word, phrase, or name, I will willfully forego the use of the Internet, determined as I am to remember it all by myself, unaided by the omniscient collective mega-brains at Wikipedia, Google, and Dictionary dot com. The results are inconsistent, but when I do manage to extract the lost information from my head, it feels like a triumph of humanity over its creations.

I also notice that, since my memory seems to have a lot of leisure time at its disposal, that I remember myriad stupid things. I remember lyrics of songs that are now getting to be three decades old. I remember my phone number from 1972. I remember some of the birthdays which I used to know in the pre-technological era. I remember jingles from 1950s radio advertising which I heard as a child on compilations which I used to take from the library. I know what "LSMFT" means, for example.

Do we even use libraries anymore?

Do I think that humans are getting dumber? Do I think that the race is deprogramming its brains in order to evolve into giant biological-organic processors? There is quite a bit of evidence to support the affirmative, but this is not the point. As with every innovative break-through, it usually takes several generations for humans to catch up with their own ingenious tools. My children will know less than I did, but they will be infinitely smarter. And their children even more so.

My generation - the generation which spanned the chasm into the Information Age - works with a different operating system. We want to keep everything on our internal hard discs while new generations are happy to deposit everything in the cloud. We continue to believe that what we learn and retain by dint of prodigious effort is MUCH more valuable than information which can be plucked like low-hanging fruit from a search engine. And if you ask me, we are right in so thinking.

But I should really check that on Google...


Komentari (10)

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milos_secujski milos_secujski 12:02 04.04.2012


Human, like any other animal, is picking an easyer way to solve the problems. Doesn't mether if that's just a crossing a road or looking for information by Google. Therefore, tehnology can make our life easyer but not necessarily (I google this word for spelling just to be sure) made us leazy. In the end, you need to put some effort in finding a right proverbs, dates, names... Tech. just made it faster. And one more thing- nobody is forcing you to remember all the stuff you might need during the day. There are just a few things that you MUST know, and much more of those that you just might need.

P.S.- sorry for my misspelled words, regards
rade.radumilo rade.radumilo 12:25 04.04.2012

More time...

I have more time, mainly to spend it with my little daughter, and when she sleeps, I get to read or watch something interesting.
If i want to travel, i do not need to spend half hour or so trying to reach always busy station information phone number. I check the departing schedule on the net. When I'm driving to Banovci for the first time, i do not need to start earlier and ask for directions, I have a bunch of satellites at my disposal to navigate me.
My apartment is relatively small for a family, yet I have a hand picked book collection that I'll never will be able to read in this life time. Didn't waste a minute in a library for fifteen years now.
I don't care if my friends move, or change their numbers... I'm in constant touch with every one all the time, and thanks to Facebook, got back in touch with some people that I've lost contact for years.
I've scanned all important documents (contracts, deeds etc.) and keep those copies in the Cloud. Originals, mostly, do not have to leave a safe deposit box, I just print out a copy or two.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to read few screens before Milica wakes up.
nsarski nsarski 13:32 04.04.2012

Times have changed, of course,

and we can relegate many tedious tasks to our gadgets, but then, it was certain COUNT PHILIPPE AUGUSTE MATHIAS DE VILLIERS DE L'ISLE-ADAM (try saying that in one breath if you want to impress your friends), who wrote the play Axël in 1890, in which the main character puts it this way:
As for living, our servants will do that for us!
I hope we have not reached that bottom yet.
maksa83 maksa83 15:15 04.04.2012

extra space

Progress and Technology (capital T, ditto) have not told me how I should use the extra space in my memory - it just provides the room.

According to latest neurological research, you'll actually use it to think.

If you don't reuse that space to think, you will just become dumber. (Science says so.)

Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory

looping looping 07:50 05.04.2012

Time for some troll

Yes! We are getting dumber every day. It is a must. We are only a link in a chain and should not be given time to think. There are too much people in this world and if everyone would think the chaos would emerge.
In times where democracy is the main parameter for normal living the most natural thing that should happen is deception. So many other systems have passed through thousands of years where the ruling was much easier using the oppression (as it still is in some countries but not for long) towards the rebels.
Today the best weapon in fighting against rebellion is deception.
One type for example is to give false information in media which would lead you to think that your enemy is someone you have never met in your life.
Another type of deception is to simply "occupy" the mind of the person by bombing him with irrelevant informations through the medias.
Like Julius Caesar once said: "Bread and games". The only problem is that today for most of the people there is no bread, but games are there for everyone. And they are also free.
I also believe that soon day will come when all people will have PCs and free internet but still most of the people will not have enough bread. Medias are the cheapest and easiest way to be deceived. And they are much cheaper than the bread.
Conspiracy theory never existed, but practical conspiracy came spontaneous.
Vlasta92 Vlasta92 14:36 05.04.2012


I remember jingles from 1950s radio advertising

How old are you? 200?

We continue to believe that what we learn and retain by dint of prodigious effort is MUCH more valuable than information which can be plucked like low-hanging fruit from a search engine.

I fear that the speed and superficiality lead us into the bad future. what to expect?

The future according to Germans from the year 1900
myredneckself myredneckself 17:51 05.04.2012

Hi Chris, long time no see

Chris Farmer
I remember lyrics of songs that are now getting to be three decades old.

You, you may say
I'm a dreamer ...?

Chris Farmer Chris Farmer 07:17 06.04.2012

Re: ?

Thank you. I am 287 years old in fact.
fantomatsicna fantomatsicna 21:11 05.04.2012

Its not

Over till it's over
Met Google glasses
Chris Farmer Chris Farmer 07:18 06.04.2012

Re: Its not

Cool. Scary, but cool.



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