Monday, July 2, 2012

The Information Age

What Is Your Dangerous Idea? edited by John Brockman (editor of What We Believe but Cannot Prove) provides us with a series of great scientist's, and thinker's, gut-wrenching hypotheses on our world's past, present and future.

As the book was first published four years ago, it is possible that some of these ideas have, in fact, become truths. A mere four years may not sound like much, but in this day and age, life in general goes way past the speed limit. With everything due by yesterday, it seems that the tools used to create no longer adapt to us, but make us adapt to them. Let's have a look at a brief section from the book:

What Are People Well Informed About in the Information Age?

The following idea is by DAVID GELERNTER, a computer scientist at Yale University, and the author of The Muse in the Machine.

Let's date the information age to 1982, when the Internet went into operation and the PC had just been born. What if people have been growing less informed ever since? What if people have been growing steadily more ignorant ever since the so-called information age began?

  Suppose an average U.S voter, college teacher, fifth-grade teacher, fifth-grade student are each less well informed today than they were in 1995 and less well informed then than in 1985. Suppose, for that matter, they were less well informed in 1985 than in 1965.

  If this is indeed the "information age", what exactly are people well informed about? Video games? Clearly history, literature, philosophy, and scholarship in general are not our specialties. This is some sort of technology age: Are people better informed about science? Not that I can tell. In previous technology ages, there was interest across the population in the era's leading technology.

  In the 1960s, for example, all sorts of people were interested in the space program and rocket technology. Lots of people learned a little about the basics- what a service module or translunar injection was, why a Redstone-Mercury vehicle was different from an Atlas-Mercury. All sorts of grade school students, lawyers, 'housewives', English profs, were up on these topics. Today there is no comparable interest in computers and the Internet- and no comparable knowledge. "TCP/IP", "routers", "Ethernet protocol", "cache hits"- these are topics of no interest whatsoever outside the technical community. The contrast is striking.

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