This guest post comes to you from a longtime friend of mine, Nick Gideon. Nick is a lyricists, writer, and a no nonsense type of guy. I have never known Nick to mince words. The story in this post is quite unbelievable, but if Nick says it happened, it most certainly did. When I read it I didn’t know whether to laugh, or cry. It seems certain skills have gone by the way side…
The year 2015. The ineptly named Information Age of Earth. Satellites orbit the planet, transmitting invisible terabytes of information on any and all topics one could imagine, to any and all wishing to access it. We can instantly touch millions of people across the globe through social media, empowering the (in)significant individual with the ability to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and worst of all, their goddamned opinions, to every other human being on the planet in the blink of an eye. At the touch of a few buttons on a myriad selection of multi-colored hand held electronic devices, one can be plugged in to the Information Superhighway. Surely this achievement in broad based real time electronic communication is a victory, no… a triumph in the eons-old struggle to give as well as receive information, right? Surely this wealth of knowledge at our fingertips will usher in a new era of enlightenment, yes? As long as the servers are serving, and Apple keeps crapping out I-Phones, a veritable cornucopia of information awaits for any and all who seek it. Science and Technology have given us a glimpse into our technologically-enhanced futures…and doomed us all.
I often contemplate where the line between technological advancement for the benefit of human culture, and technological advancement just for the sake of consumerism has been drawn. Spoiler alert! It hasn’t. I remember an old Star-Trek The Next Generation episode where Picard and the crew beam down to a planet to observe what they deemed to be a primitive human culture. Upon further observation, it was learned that these particular humans had more or less turned their backs on the trappings of a technological society in favor of a simpler, more basic existence. When Picard asked one of the leaders of this “primitive” society why their culture had made this choice, the reply was simple, and has resonated in the back of my mind every day since. He said confidently to Picard, “When you create a machine to do a Man’s job, you take something away from the Man.”
Shit just got real.
To quantify this profound alien’s statement, you must indulge me, and allow me to regale you with an anecdote from my personal life. My very recent personal life, in fact…
While in an elevator recently, I happened to strike up a casual conversation with a group of teenagers. I did not ask their specific ages, but I’m going to ballpark them around 15 or 16 years old. These three guys and two girls were obviously conversing about some sort of school project or report as they entered the elevator. As they joined me in the elevator and selected their floor, one of the girls exasperated that her internet was down, and her project was due very soon. As all of her friends groaned, I chimed in with “Looks like an all-nighter with the Encyclopedia for you.”
They looked at me like I was smoking crack in a leopard print Hitler costume. (which, I assure you, I was not. It’s against Nevada state law to smoke in an elevator.)
The looks of abject confusion and shock told me I had clearly befuddled, and possibly frightened them. Of course, this was followed by about 4 more floors worth of uncomfortable silence. Finally, the bravest one couldn’t take it anymore, and asked me…
“What was that word you just said?”
All 10 eyes eagerly awaited my answer.
“Encyclopedia?” I half questioned, half replied.
“Yeah! That one!” he said, and I shit you not, all 5 of them immediately grabbed their phones and Goggled the word encyclopedia.
Shit just got real dumb.
Needless to say, I had to bite my lip VERY hard to keep from losing it, just on general principle. My mind was reeling from the concept that mine might have been the last generation in this country to know how to do anything at all, even look up a topic in an encyclopedia, without a cell phone.
Certainly, I am not blind to the fact that every single American generation since the first has hated and despised the generations that have followed subsequently, at least to some degree. For we can all hearken back to our younger days when grandfathers told tales of 5 mile barefoot walks to school in blizzard conditions, and the like. Spoiler Alert 2! That’s how old folks call young people pussies. Because the implication is that we could not have hacked it before the advent of the modern conveniences we enjoy now. Are our lives easier? Undoubtedly. Are our lives better? Who knows?
But, understand, the irony is not lost on me. I am the kind of person that has a thirst and aptitude for knowledge of any kind… except mathematics. I recall my own parallel experience as a 16 year old student who spent most of his sophomore year of high school with an algebraic boot in his ass. I kept thinking to myself…when or why will I need this? Why would this shit even be necessary to know?
And thus, the parallel…, the irony. My rationale was that if there is a hand held device called a calculator, that I can fit in my pocket and take with me, that will automatically do these complex calculations for me, then I don’t need to waste my time and energy learning this ridiculous nonsense.
Hypocrisy is the truly the greatest luxury.
Extrapolate my previous view of the relationship between learning mathematics and calculators to basically any given manual task. These young folks have GPS to tell them where they are, where they are going. Can any of them read a map? Or, dare I ask, a compass? They have Google and Yahoo to give them answers that they seek. Did any of the Useless Five (as they forever in infamy shall be known) know what an encyclopedia was? Where one was? What to do with it when they found one? Apparently not.
Maybe I’m just reaching that point in my life where I think “the country is going to hell” with every cell in my body, like countless men before me. Maybe every other young generation that came before mine thought they would change the world, and did, and then watched it all taken for granted and trivialized by the subsequent and following generations. Maybe I’m just some very logical dude who thinks if our youth is so technologically dependent that no one knows how to locate and operate a fucking reference book, it could get very ugly very quickly. Perhaps, however, unlike the previous generations, we actually are witnessing the tide turn. Could it be possible that we are living in time when our society has truly been reduced to pre-programmed consumer cattle; not only unable to think for ourselves, but unable to manually find answers even if we wanted to without the help of manufactured devices to do the work for us?
And people said my generation’s baggy pants were bad…
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