April 15, 2015

Digital Diminution


I recently read about how watershed moments in human development actually physically rewire the brain. For instance before writing was all the rage, Man memorized everything important. Tribal history, genealogy, religious teaching, technique of war and survival, all were taught through verbal communication. 'Songs' were no more than recitals. All of the knowledge of one generation to the next was passed down verbally. As a result the human brain's capacity for the memory of dialogue was radically different than present day. It wasn't unusual for many within a tribe or family to remember 100's of words for many different recitals; thousands of words perhaps, verbatim. Ever tried getting a kid to remember the Preamble to the Constitution lately? Our brains are no longer functionally disposed to remembering long passages. It is mostly unnecessary due to writing.  We humans are quickly entering an age where reading and writing, especially writing are becoming less and less necessary. The effects on the human brain will not be known for some time to come but I suspect the change will be much quicker than that of writing.

We run around with our noses in our devices watching videos and listening to YouTube, reading Twittenglish without really thinking deeply about what we hear or see. We determine if we 'Like' something within milliseconds. The interaction of the logical brain with the exterior stimuli is brief and only getting shorter. The transference of thought to disbursement is almost instantaneous. Decisions of word appropriateness is taken out of our hands and delegated to the woefully ill-equipped auto-complete and phrase generator. We basically allow some bespectacled geek to tell us what we intend to say. Remember when people tried to finish a sentence for you and it irritated the Sam Hill outta you? Now we willingly concede their prescience in knowing our minds. What will be the ultimate effect on the actual hard-wiring of the brain from this new form of information distribution?

A couple of things come quickly to mind. One that we are already noticing. The learning, and the intimate and concise use, of cursive writing is going the way of the Neanderthal quicker than a mal-educated progressive joins a street  protest. It's not just that we don't learn it, it is in fact harder for us to learn I believe. In fact, my opinion is that this is the end of a road that Marconi sent us down long ago. It is also my belief that this has a noticeable and deleterious effect on our ability to reason and problem solve. Why? you say. Cursive writing used to be so pervasive that we all learned it so early and so completely that it became second nature and almost instinctual. Therefore, the process of putting thoughts down was imperceptibly distracting to the actual formulation of the thought itself. Conversely, typing for the common Man is much more cumbersome and fraught with constant and repetitive correction. Therefore, the energy expended on the process of intimating ones thoughts are often equal to the thought itself. Any armchair scholar can tell you that distracted thought is incomplete and sometimes erroneous. Certainly, the capacity of the human brain to assimilate and overcome adversity is unfathomable; but it will take a very long time to match the ease, comfort and pace of writing longhand.

Secondly, it is quite likely that this transition will, if not already so, lead to a lasidasical intellectualism. Some studies are already documenting this effect. As visual and verbal stimuli make up more and more of our information input, our reaction time decreases. The sheer pace of modern life only adds to this need for intellectual speed. Will this become an exponential effect as interactive devices become faster and more powerful? Only time will tell.

It is very possible that the speed of our transition may be our digital saviour. As we continue our technological expansion; we will in fact be reverting back to the spoken word. All of our devices will soon be voice activated exclusively. Computer, make it so. This will not, sadly, countervail the loss of our previous sagaciousness of pace, if you will. There is a determinate speed of writing that lends oneself to deeper thought in my never to be humble opinion. Certainly, the transition promises to be rocky. With a little luck and God's grace, however, perhaps we will soon find ourselves firmly ensconced if not hard wired, into the software/hardware to such an extent that we can sit back, relax and develop thought without the cumbersome necessity of manual recitation of such. Perhaps we may then spend our 'Finest Hour' developing reason and intellectual purity to truly reach a potential yet imagined. I see myself drawing on a fine tobaccy product, sipping a fine Rum, ethereally relaxed and pleased; staring across to my compatriot...and simply nodding with a knowing smile creeping across my lips, 'I know' ... 'Brilliant'.

This of course, can only happen if we soon learn to incorporate history into our understanding of the role security plays in the potential of humankind. A society living in fear of evil within and without, has not the time nor the luxury for frivolous philosophy and invention.

May God Bless You With Insight and Contemplation.

by: Keith D. Rodebush

No comments:

Post a Comment