I’ve been thinking a bit today about how digital technology affects our knowledge and memory. Countless Tory rag hacks have filled countless column inches about the “dumbing down” of people that has been caused by TV, video games and the internet – saying that we spend too much time using them and have no time to learn or experience things.
These criticisms sometimes have some validity, and sometimes don’t – worries about some people’s lack of interaction outside of screen based worlds are very genuine and cause for some concern, for example. However, it is this thing about knowledge and learning that intrigues me.
The internet has caused a mass externalisation of knowledge, any strand of which can be accessed at any point within seconds. This means, in short, that we don’t really need to know as much stuff.
Here’s where aforementioned Tory rag hack says “Back in my day, one was taught real things. I could recite all of our fine nation’s monarchs back to William I.”
I couldn’t do this. Not a chance. But give me wikipedia and 10 seconds I can use the knowledge if I need to. It becomes much more about the application of knowledge, not the accumulation of it. Which surely is a good thing?
Much more productive, for sure.
I have a plan for a little bit of research to do tomorrow. More on this later.