Saturday, January 19, 2013

Technology, at a Cost

There's something that's been on my mind for the past several months. It has been constantly gnawing at me. The resulting ache has left me with two choices: give-in to the hopelessness or try to do something about it. The latter comes with a myriad of questions. Not the least of which, how can anything be done about so huge a problem?

What is this all-consuming issue? Intelligence...or the lack thereof. It is becoming increasingly obvious that our society is becoming, for lack of a better term, stupid. Our modern technology, at its increasing advancement, is enabling this stupidity. Of course, it's not happening all at once, but in small turns (the proverbial frog slowly boiling in a pot of water).

Just consider this one set of examples. First of all, cursive handwriting has been slowly dying-out. It is not taught in many schools. Two of my sons (only one of whom is still in high school) have never been taught handwriting. They cannot read cursive handwriting. That's fun for me, of course. If I want to write something that I don't want them to be able to read, I just write it in cursive.

This, in itself, seems harmless enough. Indeed, most communication is done electronically and, therefore, typed onto a keyboard or similar device. It is harmless, until we consider the next progression. Technology's main goal has always been to make processes easier whenever possible.

There is a recent Windows 8 commercial which depicts users tracing photographs with their fingers. They are using a photo password. The user can chose to create a photo password instead of a keyed-in password. Sure it is a far cry from illiteracy, but it is another step on the path.

Modern Western culture values immediacy. The ability to look-up anything at any time on the Internet gives the illusion of intelligence. The knowledge is there, if you know where to look, but the mind must be trained in logic, deduction, history, etc. Knowledge without intelligence is flat and dead. What can you create with knowledge, if you do not possess the intelligence to explore it, test it and consider new options?

I'm not saying there is immediate danger, but I don't like where this is headed. How to fix it? What to do about it? I don't know. Is there a viable way to promote the pursuit of intelligence? Is there a way to make it more desirable than its effortless alternative? Can we ensure that our progeny will continue that pursuit? I don't have the answers, but I'm looking. Otherwise, I'll just forget about it and keep playing my video games.

Windows 8: Sign in with a Smile - commercial
Boiling Frog Myth
Mom, What was Handwriting? - article/interview of author Philip Hensher, Boston Globe,

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