Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Web Secret #160: The Internet Is Making Us Forget

In 1957, author Isaac Asimov wrote a prescient short story "The Feeling of Power."

"The Feeling of Power" tells of a distant future, where humans live in a computer-aided society and have forgotten the fundamentals of mathematics, including even the rudimentary skill of counting.

We are almost there.

In a recent New York Times article "The Twitter Trap," Bill Keller

"Until the 15th century, people were taught to remember vast quantities of information...the ability to recite entire books — [was] not unheard of. Then along came ... Gutenberg. As we became accustomed to relying on the printed page, the work of remembering gradually fell into disuse."

Bill proceeds to give more contemporary examples. The calculator has caused us to forget math skills. Excel has caused us to lose the ability to pick up on patterns in data. GPS has impaired our sense of direction. Typing has caused us to forget penmanship.

He worries, "...what little memory we had not already surrendered to Gutenberg we have relinquished to Google. Why remember what you can look up in seconds?"

He concludes, "Basically, we are outsourcing our brains to the inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community..."

And no, your 700 friends on Facebook are not a real community. Try calling them at 2 a.m. with an emergency and see how many respond.

Gen Y is being described as “The generation that had information, but no context. Butter, but no bread. Craving, but no longing.”

Should I be concerned?

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