Joshua Foer’s... best seller “Moonwalking With Einstein” recalls... what we trade for progress. Until the 15th century, people were taught to remember vast quantities of information. Feats of memory that would today qualify you as a freak — the ability to recite entire books — were not unheard of.On Calculating Skills:
Then along came... Johannes Gutenberg. As we became accustomed to relying on the printed page, the work of remembering gradually fell into disuse.
My father, who was trained in engineering at M.I.T. in the slide-rule era, often lamented the way the pocket calculator, for all its convenience, diminished my generation’s math skills.On Navigations and Penmanship:
Many of us have discovered that navigating by G.P.S. has undermined our mastery of city streets and perhaps even impaired our innate sense of direction. Typing pretty much killed penmanship.On Pattern Recognition:
Robert Bjork, who studies memory and learning at U.C.L.A., has noticed that even very smart students, conversant in the Excel spreadsheet, don’t pick up patterns in data that would be evident if they had not let the program do so much of the work.On Facebook:
“Unless there is some actual problem solving and decision making, very little learning happens,” Bjork e-mailed me. “We are not recording devices.”
Last week my wife and I told our 13-year-old daughter she could join Facebook. Within a few hours she had accumulated 171 friends, and I felt a little as if I had passed my child a pipe of crystal meth.On Becoming Cyborgs While Outsourcing Our Brians:
And Keller's Big Worry:
But before we succumb to digital idolatry, we should consider that innovation often comes at a price. And sometimes I wonder if the price is a piece of ourselves.... My 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 connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity.Unfortunately I think he makes some good points. On one hand these technologies make our life much easier and make things possible that would have never been possible without that same technology. On the other, I fear relying too much on technology erodes at our basic intellectual faculties.
The other day a friend of mine said something like: "I could care less about studying philosophy. Who wants to sit around and do nothing except think about useless questions when we have TVs, Facebook and the internet in general which is actually fun."
Now, I am not trying to go onto some anti-technology rant. I love technology. But I think it is healthy to be aware of prices we may be paying to enjoy it. Losing math skills to calculators. Trading philosophy for watching 30 second sound bits on an internet site designed to telling you what you want to hear. Having no need for a sharp memory when the information you need is just a few clicks away. Etc...