Thursday, November 26, 2015

Is Technology making us dumber?

The latest question being asked in intellectual circles is this. They don't mean, technology like washing machines and baking ovens - though it could get there as well. They mean technology like whatsapp and Facebook and all that.

Did TV make us dumber? You bet. The 80s were the idiot box generation. Hours lost because people sat in front of boxes that emitted electrons and newspersons that spouted nonsense. This, apart from tele serials and the like.

Did newspapers make us dumber? Yes, the leftist liberal claptrap that has been drilled into our heads is primarily because of the news we were fed when we grew up.

Yet, one can argue that both TV and newspapers also made us smarter. Because, for one, it made us aware. And two, there were good articles and programs that did make sense.

Ditto for books - much before TV - there were books. One can safely argue that not all the books printed are worth reading (and I don't mean textbooks).

But books did make us smarter? Without doubt. And there are books which continue to make people dumb - and those books are not even banned.

Truth be told, this has nothing to with technology and making people dumb. Hitherto, people sat in front of idiot boxes, watched programs, believed most of it, talked to their neighbors, shared it in post morning walk conversations or spoke about it over lunch tables in offices...

Today with whatsapp and Facebook, they post it on the internet (yes, the internet is making us dumb) or on whatsapp groups (which are really extended conversations with family, friends, random people etc).

Trouble with posting this on the internet is that the sanctity of narratives are being questioned. Earlier, in those good old days we believed anything that was printed. Not any longer. We also believed anything they said on TV. Not any longer. Why? Because for every article they write, there are countless rebuttals. For every clipped video that they air - there are citizen sourced videos that people put up - so that people can see the truth for themselves.

Today when a superstar claims intolerance, people express themselves (earlier also they did - but in closed circles). Today they express their feelings on the internet. That, by the way, is social media. Get used to it. They also, see what the superstar said last year and what he is saying now - and they ask him - rightfully - hey what changed. They also see soldiers dying on the front for our security and liberals outraging about ink attacks - and they question it - rightly so. They see news anchors (journo tycoons) take positions - that contradict their own tweets from a few months ago. They see media building up fear mongering - and question it. They also see media holding up Rahul Gandhi as an icon of intelligence  and they question  it.

This is what bothers our intellectuals.

Earlier, they spoke and we believed them. Often, because they spoke, we were ashamed of what we thought. They set the narrative and we believed them. Today, social media questions that and these faux intellectuals are upset.

Instead of saying "Is technology making intellectuals upset" it is now framed as "Is technology making us dumber".

Fire burns - can also be used for cooking. Internet has junk  - but you can also learn from it. TV is useless on all counts. Newspapers carry enough junk that I don't want my kids to see - and a few good articles. One can argue that any technology is dangerous and making us dumber.

No it is not. Depends on how you use it. 

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