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Why ‘4 delusions of the digital age’ is stupid, based on science

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As the digital age debate heats up here at Tell, so does my blood. Tell writer Scott Wikander shared some Gen X philosophy today and referenced my “7 myths” story about why the Internet rocks in an attempt to invalidate my own philosophies. You know, the ~*~fallible~*~ Millennial philosophies such as, “I can learn anything I want immediately and that’s probably a good thing.”

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His argument falls apart because…

Argument #1 took my access to information celebration and:

Just because you’re good at trivia doesn’t mean you are smart. True intelligence lies in the ability to process information and then apply it. Sure, the internet is the largest repository of data in the history of mankind, but how many of us are really putting that to use? The average person is on Wikipedia trying to find out if Channing Tatum was ever one of Beyonce’s back-up dancers, not looking up schematics to help them build a better rotary engine.

But in his opening statement he:

The discovery of fire lead to arson, the printing press begat propaganda and the internal combustion engine gave us NASCAR. It’s not technology I distrust, it’s people.

If you’re not picking up what I’m putting down, it’s that Wikander undermined his own argument before he even really got started. Technology isn’t a “problem”, people are. One of my favorite philosophies to live by is that people are the same everywhere and through all of time, so how is technology not a solution? TVs may be “idiot boxes” but if you don’t think folks of yore were numbing their painful reality with booze, hookers and gambling, you’re foolin’ yeself, son.

If you’re willing to accept that people will never change based upon observation, then you must also be willing to accept that people are a touch more educated than they were when the printing press was just being invented. In fact, the printing press is the reason the dark ages ended– Eureka! Must be access to information! I’m super glad I’m not a witless serf who has to take the word of en elite Word Magician that Earth is the center of the universe.

So we agree nothing has really changed…

As Wikander says, “True intelligence lies in the ability to process information and then apply it.” Education, on the other, more regulated hand, is stored information. If you want to separate education and intelligence, I’m down with that. Let’s freakin’ do it.

Science hasn’t quite answered where intelligence comes from, so we chalk it up to “a combination of nature and nurture” because that’s the safest copout next to, “It’s junk DNA. It’s just there and it doesn’t matter so we’re not going to worry about it LOL.”

379363_524147727619192_938131300_nIt would be downright get-off-my-law-you-hoodlums of you to say that intelligence is declining, especially since up until recently we weren’t even quantifying and recording intelligence, so let’s assume that people, being the same everywhere and across all time, are manufactured with comparable levels of intelligence as ever. Hand a book to an intelligent person, she’ll read it and learn from it; hand an iPhone to an intelligent person, she’ll read it and learn from it. Hand a book to an unintelligent person– or a person who is intelligent in a different way, ‘kay thanks, standardized testing– and she might draw in it, or throw it like a ninja star, or use it as a step ladder; hand an iPhone to an “unintelligent”/non-bookish person and she’ll use it to do something like spread a social media message asking for support for a cancer victim, or reach out to her dream company with a unique proof-of-talent message that supersedes a resumé and cover letter that will be thrown straight in the shredder, anyway. 

Whichever way you Internet, chances are that if you want to know who invented the printing press, you’re probably going to look it up if the information is a pants pocket away.

And so it goes…

The same argument can be used for all four of Wikander’s “delusions”. People haven’t changed, so of course the majority of us aren’t spending our free time learning the schematics of a combustion engine or creating a work of animation art. But you know what? Some people are– probably the same people who would have done so in the 70s, the 80s, the 1800s, and when Jesus was building sheds. But now, more people can. We all have our isht: some of us write, some of us paint, some of us bully other people to make ourselves feel better. The medium is just a vehicle for our shitty or awesome human behavior, but too many people didn’t have a vehicle before Internet access.

Technology is the solution. I didn’t know how to draw three weeks ago, but now I do because the internet taught me. Back when I was a wee li’l college freshman, I was too shy to share my short stories for critiquing in school, so anonymous Pen Elves critiqued my work without making me feel ashamed of myself online. Some of those people were, as you say, global community members, and I had access to their help.

Social butterflies might spend a ton of time texting instead of looking at her surroundings but frankly, who cares? That’s a legitimate social interaction. Because of the same technology, socially anxious people have a better opportunity to uphold relationships. I’m one of those people and my social media profiles are the reason I’ve managed to hold on to so many friends despite my inability to meet them for happy hour that often.

In Conclusion…

So in conclusion, shut up, Olds. Technology will always benefit those who have the mental capacity to see the potential in it and become just another medium for stupidity for those who don’t. But, I’m willing to bet that nearly everyone with access has found some kind of potential in the Internet, because everybody is smart in a different way. You don’t need to read medical journals online to say you’ve used the internet properly, and if you think access to information hasn’t helped every. single. person with access, then you need to sit on down and evaluate why you think other people are so much ~*~dumber than you~*~. The ‘net is fairytale kinds of magic, Mr. Wikander.

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