Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Are We Getting Dumber?

Came across this article in the NY Times the other day, and it reminded me of a topic that I often think about.

Are we getting dumber (as a society)? And, if we are getting dumber, is it because of technology?

It sounds ridiculous at first, because we collectively know so much more about the world, about science, about medicine, about outer space because of all the tech advances in the past half century. But, are people (and most importantly children) smarter now then 50 years ago? For example, Google allows us to have so much information at our fingertips, but doesn't that ability obviate the need to learn things and retain the knowledge? In the past, people had to read books and encyclopedias to keep up on topics. People who read more and remembered more were called "smart". However, now, we are always two clicks away from finding info on the number one export of Kazakhstan, so, why bother learning about culture, geography, history, etc? (BTW, from what I remember from Borat's movie, Kazakhstan was the number one exporter of potassium, my favorite cation).

As another example, the current medical residents rely heavily upon their palm pilots or the web program "Uptodate" at the multitude of computers around the hospital. The incentive to learn and committ things to memory and understand them has largely vanished because of the complete ease of information that can be obtained via the internet. Finally, you must admit that the proliferation of the super high-definition video games provides a huge distraction for children for learning and doing homework.

Other questions to ponder:
1. Are children in the near future going to have terrible handwriting because they type so much and barely write?
2. In 10 years, we will ever need to rent a movie from Blockbuster or Netflix (won't they all be online)?
3. How much are kids cheating in school via smart phones or even text-messaging each other during exams?
4. How much are kids plagiarizing papers off of the internet?

All of this brings me to my FAVORITE Youtube video of the past year...Miss Teen South Carolina. I'm sure all of you have seen it, but please watch it again for a good laugh. And then cry, because this may be representative of the knowledge level of the next generation (and because she ended up coming in third in the contest despite her pathetic answer).

(This interpretation of her comment from Jimmy Kimmel is so funny).

1 comment:

julie said...

My anecdotal evidence on handwriting - without ever having typed anything or used a keyboard at age 7, I still got an F in handwriting (Catholic school). And my handwriting is still bad.