October 30, 2006

Compute This

I was arguing with one of my kids on the weekend, which in and of itself is hardly news, but the argument we always have is getting rather old. He can only do his homework on the computer, he claims. Every source of information can only come through this portal in the kitchen. When I suggest they go to the library, they look at me like I'm speaking in tongues.

I'm aware that this computer is the source of most of my information, which makes me a hypocrite. I'm aware of that. But I like to pretend I've earned the right to sit on my arse and surf the net. I read a confession on Salon today (I'll link it here; you may have to dive through a site pass to read it all - only takes a second)about a 25-year-old who literally can't go a minute without Googling something. He's been raised in the tech era - and can't tear himself away.

You don't have to be a tech baby to be that way. I email with one guy who uses his blackberry in the supermarket, on the bus, even when he's walking. I know this, because he answers my emails no matter where he is. And it's not because I'm fascinating; he just can't not do it.

The problem with all this access, as I try and tell my kids, is that nobody finishes anything anymore. We buzz around information like a bunch of attention-challenged bees, never alighting anywhere for more than a few seconds. Nobody drinks deeply from any cup of knowledge. Everyone is a little pretend-expert in everything, because they can Google it and instantly have an opinion. That's the part that worries me the most. People aren't even making up their own minds anymore - they're waiting for someone to do it for them.

I've warned the boys about sites that present opinion as fact. I keep buying books and shuttling them to different sources. Back at the library you could tell the difference between reliable sources and junk. But on the Internet, respected journals are listed beside tabloid ones, and to their untrained minds it all looks reputable.

It seems at a time of unmatched information availability, we know less and less. I guess my mom was right - you can have too much of a good thing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing changes—ever! Keats said it a very long time ago: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Drink deep or taste not the Pyrrean spring."

October 31, 2006 10:05 AM  

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